Southern Baptist Convention’s chief “ethicist” Richard Land signed off from his weekly radio broadcast on Saturday without mentioning why he was leaving the show. He simply stated that his program is ending “due to a variety of circumstances” and asked people to pray for a “spiritual reformation” in America. Land lost his show due to his racially-insensitive tirade about the Trayvon Martin shooting, which he vowed to never apologize for until he eventually did, and for plagiarizing commentaries on his show, including part of his remarks about the Martin.
While the SBC trustees reviewing Land’s radio show said that plagiarism was one of the “practices that occur in the radio industry,” even Religious Right talk show host Steve Deace said in an interview with The Tennessean that plagiarism is not common practice on radio shows, contradicting the trustees’ claims:
Trustees claim that Land was following practices that are common in the talk radio industry.
But Steve Deace, a syndicated Christian radio host from Des Moines, Iowa, said that’s not the case.
He said that radio hosts sometimes hear other people’s turns of phrases and repeat them when talking about issues. But they don’t read word for word from other people’s work.
If a host does that, then listeners will eventually catch them at it.
“They are going to know if you are lifting stuff from people,” he said.
Blogger Aaron Weaver, who first caught instances of Land’s plagiarism, pointed out that Land not only didn’t cite the authors of the articles but was actually “adding extra comments and using different adjectives” to pass commentaries off as his own. Indeed, when he initially defended his racially-charged rant regarding the Trayvon Martin shooting, Land never mentioned in his non-apology that he was reading from a Kuhner column.
Weaver and Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics think the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, which Land leads, should have been tougher on Land, especially considering the fact that Land teaches at a university where students who commit plagiarism can be expelled:
Weaver, a graduate student at Baylor University who blogs at thebigdaddyweave.com, said that trustees were wrong when they said the plagiarism was a result of “carelessness and poor judgment.”
“He wasn’t being careless,” he said. “This was intentional.”
Robert Parham of the Nashville-based Baptist Center for Ethics said that Land’s radio show should have been canceled years ago. He said that the show was more about politics than about religion or ethics.
Allowing Land to keep his job, despite the plagiarism, sends the wrong message, said Parham.
Along with being the head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Land also teaches regularly at Baptist seminaries.
“Allowing Land to continue as an SBC official — without even an unpaid leave of absence — will create a banquet of distasteful consequences for the Southern Baptists when it comes to how seminaries deal with students who plagiarize papers and how churches deal with pastors who plagiarize sermons.”