April 18, 2014
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Land's comments on Trayvon Martin shooting meet with commission's regret, investigation
Posted on Apr 19, 2012 | by Art Toalston

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EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was first posted the evening of April 18 and updated April 19 with the addition of the 15th paragraph below.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- Comments by Richard Land about the Trayvon Martin killing "have angered many and opened wounds from the past," the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission's executive committee said in a statement released April 18.

The executive committee also registered concern that Land, the ERLC's president, had used sources from other media without proper attribution for some of his comments in his weekly radio call-in show.

An ad hoc committee has been formed "to investigate the allegations of plagiarism and recommend appropriate action," the ERLC executive committee reported in its statement.

"The [ERLC] Executive Committee is very saddened that this controversy has erupted, and is very concerned about how these events may damage the work of the ERLC in support of Southern Baptists and in furtherance of the Kingdom of our Lord," the six-member committee said.

Land, in a statement after the executive committee released its concerns, said:

"I serve at the will of the trustees. I believe fervently in the trustee system of oversight. I am under their authority. That is why I initiated the conference call that led to this statement. I look forward to continuing to work with and under the oversight of my trustees, who have been elected by the Southern Baptist Convention."

Land issued an open letter of apology the evening of April 16 for comments he voiced on his "Richard Land Live!" radio broadcast March 31 about the infusion of politics into the Trayvon Martin case; see Baptist Press story at www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=37620 . Earlier on April 16, Land issued an apology for material he failed to attribute on the radio show to a Washington Times columnist; see BP story at www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=37619.

The ERLC executive committee includes the commmission's three trustee officers and the chairmen of its three trustee subcommittees. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has 34 trustees representing churches from across the country elected by messengers at the SBC's annual meetings.

The chairman of the ERLC executive committee is Stephen Faith of Indiana, a retired pastor and Baptist association director of missions.

The executive committee statement included expressions of regret alongside reminders of the race relations work by Land and the Southern Baptist entity he has led since 1988.

The executive committee stated its regret for "any harm that may have been done to race relations within the Southern Baptist Convention. The ERLC has worked very hard over many years to heal the wounds and scars of racism in our country and to realize the dream of complete equality among all races in the Southern Baptist Convention and in our nation.

"It should be noted that Dr. Land himself has contributed materially to progress in the area of racial equality," the ERLC executive committee continued. "Among other things, he was a primary driver of the Convention's 1995 apology for its past positions on race issues. We therefore disclaim and repudiate any suggestion that Dr. Land, the ERLC, or the Southern Baptist Convention harbors racism in any form. We recognize that there is more work to do before the members of Southern Baptist congregations are as diverse as the citizens of our great nation. We and Dr. Land remain dedicated to that cause."

Regarding the charge of plagiarism that circulated through the media in mid-April, the ERLC executive committee stated, "We expect Dr. Land and the ERLC to embody the highest moral and ethical standards, as befitting a group of people devoted to following Jesus Christ. Though the source citation standards prevailing among talk radio shows are different from those applicable to journalistic work or to scholarly work in the academic setting, we nevertheless agree with Dr. Land that he could, and should, do a better job in this area. We therefore support Dr. Land’s commitment to improve his practices in giving credit to authors he quotes."

The ERLC executive committee, in forming the ad hoc committee, said it was doing so "to ensure no stone is left unturned." The group acknowledged, "We understand that additional instances of this kind in connection with the Richard Land Live! program may come to light."

The ERLC executive committee declined to release the names of the ad hoc committee members, explaining in an April 19 statement: "The members of the ad hoc committee have been chosen by the Chairman to perform an internal investigation on behalf of the ERLC Executive Committee. They will bring their findings to the full Executive Committee. The Executive Committee will review the information presented and decide the next course of action, including whether any statement or report is to be made to the public. Because the ad hoc committee does not carry any independent authority, and any ultimate action will be taken by the Executive Committee, whose names are already in the public domain, the Chairman feels it is best not to publicly release the names of those performing the investigation at this time, as it could serve as a distraction from the very important task at hand."

In addition to Stephen Faith, other members of the ERLC executive committee are Richard D. Piles, an Arkansas pastor; Donald L. Mason, a Georgia layman; Stephen W. Long, a director of missions in Ohio; Christopher L. Slaughter, a West Virginia layman; and Stephen G. Veteto, a Colorado seminary educator.

The full text of the ERLC trustee executive committee statement follows:

FROM THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES
OF THE ETHICS AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY COMMISSION
OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION

On Monday, April 16, 2012, Dr. Richard Land informed the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission that he had become embroiled in a controversy involving his criticism of the actions of certain community and political leaders in the wake of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman. He requested a meeting with the Executive Committee to inform us of the controversy and answer any questions we might have. Dr. Land has been very candid and forthcoming with us, and he has apologized to us and to the entire Board of Trustees for creating this controversy.

We recognize that Dr. Land's comments, substantively, have angered many and opened wounds from the past. Moreover, Dr. Land has admitted that he quoted sections of articles related to the Trayvon Martin matter in his Richard Land Live! radio broadcast without giving clear and proper credit to the authors of those articles. We understand that additional instances of this kind in connection with the Richard Land Live! program may come to light.

The Executive Committee is very saddened that this controversy has erupted, and is very concerned about how these events may damage the work of the ERLC in support of Southern Baptists and in furtherance of the Kingdom of our Lord.

We also regret any harm that may have been done to race relations within the Southern Baptist Convention. The ERLC has worked very hard over many years to heal the wounds and scars of racism in our country and to realize the dream of complete equality among all races in the Southern Baptist Convention and in our nation. It should be noted that Dr. Land himself has contributed materially to progress in the area of racial equality. Among other things, he was a primary driver of the Convention's 1995 apology for its past positions on race issues. We therefore disclaim and repudiate any suggestion that Dr. Land, the ERLC, or the Southern Baptist Convention harbors racism in any form. We recognize that there is more work to do before the members of Southern Baptist congregations are as diverse as the citizens of our great nation. We and Dr. Land remain dedicated to that cause.

We expect Dr. Land and the ERLC to embody the highest moral and ethical standards, as befitting a group of people devoted to following Jesus Christ. Though the source citation standards prevailing among talk radio shows are different from those applicable to journalistic work or to scholarly work in the academic setting, we nevertheless agree with Dr. Land that he could, and should, do a better job in this area. We therefore support Dr. Land's commitment to improve his practices in giving credit to authors he quotes.

We would be remiss if we did not recognize the invaluable contributions Dr. Land has made in the areas of religious freedom, theological scholarship, ministry, Southern Baptist denominational leadership, engaging the culture and our political leaders on matters of religious conviction, and in being a force for the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention, our seminaries, and what is now the ERLC. Dr. Land is uniquely and richly gifted for the many roles he has occupied. He has been steadfast in his dedication to the ERLC and to Southern Baptists. These things must also weigh in the balance.

Finally, we are reverently mindful of our obligations to the ERLC, Southern Baptists, and, most importantly, to our Lord Jesus Christ, to ensure no stone is left unturned in addressing this controversy. Accordingly, the Chairman has appointed an ad hoc committee to investigate the allegations of plagiarism and recommend appropriate action to the Executive Committee. We, of course, expect full cooperation with this investigation from all of our staff and we pledge to take all necessary action to address any wrongdoing that may be discovered.

We covet the prayers of our fellow Southern Baptists and other members of the Christian Church as we and Dr. Land work through these very important and challenging issues.
--30--
Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com).
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