Mistakes and Plagiarism

July 16, 2006

Ethics Daily has an insightful piece exposing the errors and false attacks leveled by in a recent column by Mark Tooley. While Tooley attacks Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, he makes major errors that should completely destroy his credibilty on the topic.

Tooley attacked comments Edgar made at a recent event he said was "the 15th anniversary luncheon of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s (CBF) General Assembly on June 23." The problem is that it was the 15th anniversary luncheon for Ethics Daily that was held in conjunction with the CBF meeting but was not officially part of the CBF meeting. Perhaps Tooley should get his facts straight first!

Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics (that runs Ethics Daily) rightly took Tooley's column to task:

BCE always welcomes the opportunity to make the crooked way straight, a Christian virtue apparently unshared by Fox News, Front Page Magazine, the Institute on Religion and Democracy and fundamentalist bloggers.

Had any of these groups bothered to check the facts, they would have readily found that the original news story came from BCE's Web site, Ethicsdaily.com. ... They would not have relied on a secondary story. They would not have labeled Bob Edgar's remarks as an 'attack from the Bully Pulpit.' They would have found that Edgar spoke at a BCE luncheon, not the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. They would have found that Edgar offered a prophetic critique of American politics, not an exclusive attack on the Bush administration.
Misidentifying the luncheon is not the only mistake in the article. Yet, despite all of the mistakes and misrepresentations, Tooley condemns Edgar. Perhaps Tooley should worry about the plank in his own eye and not the speck in his brother's eye!

One problem the Ethics Daily article does not note is that Tooley apparently plagiarized part of the attack column. He lifted nearly word-for-word two paragraphs from a different article, without placing the comments in quotation marks or mentioning the author.

Consider the four paragraphs below. The first two are from a piece by Kathryn Davis and the second two are from Tooley's column. Wording that is exactly identical is bolded. The few words not bolded are barely changed paraphrases.

Edgar was featured at the 15th anniversary luncheon of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s (CBF) General Assembly on June 23. The CBF was founded by “moderate” Southern Baptists as a counterweight to the Southern Baptist Convention’s conservative leadership. About 1800 local churches support CBS out of the Southern Baptist Convention’s over 40,000 congregations.

The CBF churches remain within the Southern Baptist Convention but channel much of their funding through CBF rather than official Southern Baptist ministries. Although professing to be “moderate,” the CBF’s choice of the liberal Edgar might confirm the suspicions of conservative Southern Baptists about the CBF. Edgar himself admitted he was an unusual choice for the “moderate Baptists.”


Edgar cited the supposed threat posed by Fox News while speaking at the 15th anniversary luncheon of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s (CBF) General Assembly on June 23. The CBF was founded by "moderate" Southern Baptists as a counterweight to the Southern Baptist Convention’s conservative leadership. About 1,800 local churches support CBF out of the 40,000+ congregations of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The CBF churches remain within the Southern Baptist Convention but channel much of their funding through CBF rather than official Southern Baptist ministries. Although professing to be "moderate," the CBF’s choice of the left-wing Edgar as a speaker confirms the suspicions of conservative Southern Baptists about the CBF. Edgar himself admitted he was an unusual choice for the "moderate Baptists."
For a man who expresses such moral outrage at his brother in Christ, Tooley sure does have some serious ethical problems in his column. From inaccuracies and misrepresentations to plagiarism, Tooley give a good example at how not to write a column. What happened to Christians setting a higher standard for others to follow? What happened to being truthful, ethical, and Christ-like? Apparently it all got lost in the midst of politically-driven outrage.

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