The investigation into Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) leader Richard Land's racially charged radio commentary and plagiarism concluded today with two official reprimands and the cancellation of his weekly radio program.
Land, the longtime president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) who has been a key proponent of racial reconciliation in the SBC, has already apologized twice for his commentary on the controversial shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida. His comments provoked demands by some black Southern Baptist leaders for censure of Land by the SBC; today many, including Fred Luter who is expected to become the denomination's first African American president this month, have accepted the apologies.
The ERLC trustee committee, whose chairman resigned during the investigation, said today that "damage was done to the state of race relations in the Southern Baptist Convention" by Land's comments. The scandal broke as the SBC prepares to install its first black president, prompting observers to disagree on how much clout Luter will actually have in a denomination closely identified with high-profile figures such as Land.
"We must now redouble our efforts to regain lost ground, to heal re-opened wounds, and to realize the dream of a Southern Baptist Convention that is just as diverse as the population of our great Nation," said the trustee statement.
Regarding the radio program, trustees stated "we have carefully considered the content and purpose of the Richard Land Live! broadcast. We find that they are not congruent with the mission of the ERLC. We also find that the controversy that erupted as a result of the March 31 broadcast, and related matters, requires the termination of that program."
Below the jump is the full text of the June 1 reprimands by the ERLC trustee executive committee:
The Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees
of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
of the Southern Baptist Convention, Nashville, Tennessee
June 1, 2012
On March 31, 2012, Dr. Richard Land, President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission ("ERLC") made statements during the Richard Land Live! (RLL) broadcast which were very hurtful and offensive to the Trayvon Martin family and to many in the African-American community, including hundreds of thousands of African-American Southern Baptists. Damage was done to the state of race relations in the Southern Baptist Convention. We announced our regret for those remarks, and we also commissioned an Ad Hoc Investigation Committee to address allegations of plagiarism that were made related to those same remarks and to commentary made in another RLL broadcast. The investigation proceeded with diligence. Dr. Land exhibited a very compliant spirit and was fully cooperative during the investigation. We thank Dr. Land for that.
The Ad Hoc Investigation Committee has completed its work and reported its findings to the Executive Committee. On May 29, 2012, the Executive Committee of the ERLC met in Nashville, Tennessee to consider the findings of the Ad Hoc Committee, as well as other related matters, and to review those findings with Dr. Land. The Executive Committee unanimously agreed to, and hereby undertakes, the following actions:
We reprimand Dr. Land for his hurtful, irresponsible, insensitive, and racially charged words on March 31, 2012 regarding the Trayvon Martin tragedy. It was appropriate for Dr. Land to issue the apology he made on May 9, 2012 and we are pleased he did so. We also convey our own deepest sympathies to the family of Trayvon Martin for the loss they have suffered. We, too, express our sorrow, regret, and apologies to them for Dr. Land's remarks. We are particularly disappointed in Dr. Land's words because they do not accurately reflect the body of his work over a long career at the ERLC toward racial reconciliation in the Southern Baptist Convention and American life. We must now redouble our efforts to regain lost ground, to heal re-opened wounds, and to realize the dream of a Southern Baptist Convention that is just as diverse as the population of our great Nation.
We further reprimand Dr. Land for quoting material without giving attribution on the Richard Land Live! (RLL) radio show, thereby unwisely accepting practices that occur in the radio industry, and we acknowledge that instances of plagiarism occurred because of his carelessness and poor judgment. We examined Dr. Land's written work during the investigation, and we found no instances of plagiarism in any of Dr. Land's written work. As a Christian, a minister of the Gospel of our Lord, and as President of the ERLC, Dr. Land should have conformed to a higher standard. We expect all future work of the ERLC to be above reproach in that regard.
Finally, we have carefully considered the content and purpose of the Richard Land Live! broadcast. We find that they are not congruent with the mission of the ERLC. We also find that the controversy that erupted as a result of the March 31 broadcast, and related matters, requires the termination of that program. We hereby announce that the Richard Land Live! radio program will end as soon as possible within the bounds of our contracts with the Salem Radio Network.