Land Reprimanded

June 01, 2012

As promised, the trustees of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) today released the report from their investigation into ERLC head Richard Land's controversial and plagiarized comments regarding the killing of Trayvon Martin (for background on controversy, see post here). The ERLC trustees issued two "reprimands" (which appear to be equivalent to saying "bad boy") and canceled his radio program "Richard Land Live!" Despite the fairly light action taken against Land, the report does include some harsh language that adds to Land's fall from political grace. The trustees wrote that because of Land's remarks, "[d]amage was done to the state of race relations in the Southern Baptist Convention." They added that they "express our sorrow, regret, and apologies" for Land's "hurtful, irresponsible, insensitive, and racially charged words." The trustees also wrote that they "acknowledge that instances of plagiarism occurred because of his carelessness and poor judgment." Although they did admit that what he did was plagiarism, they still attempted to downplay it by suggesting radio talk show hosts frequently engage in plagiarism--but they have never documented that claim. In announcing the cancellation of Land's radio program, the trustees declared the show to be "not congruent with the mission of the ERLC." This statement is clearly correct as many of Land's controversial and unChristian remarks that I have reported on over the years were made on his show. It often seemed that while on his show, Land was less of the nonpartisan ethics leader for the SBC (that he is supposed to be) and more of a partisan imitation of Glenn Beck. Soon after the report was issued, a top African American Southern Baptist expressed disappointment that the trustees did not take stronger action against Land. James Dixon Jr., President of the SBC's National African American Fellowship, suggested he did "not totally agree with the outcome and feel as if it didn't go far enough," but urged Southern Baptists to now move forward together for racial reconciliation. It will be interesting to see what other responses emerge in the next few days.