Richard Land faces Firestorm over Trayvon Martin comments, Caught Plagiarizing

Richard Land, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s political arm, earlier this month claimed that President Obama “poured gasoline on the racialist fires” by commenting on the Trayvon Martin shooting as part of an attempt by the media and black leaders “to gin up the black vote for an African-American president.” Now it appears that Land was plagiarizing his tirade from a Washington Times column by far-right writer Jeffrey Kuhner, the Baptist Center for Ethics reports:

Aaron Weaver, a doctoral student at Baylor University, posted a partial transcript of Land’s March 31 radio show in which Land quoted liberally from a March 29 Washington Times column written by Jeffrey Kuhner without attributing the quotes to him.

Land used Kuhner’s material about Trayvon Martin, the media and racism on his radio show – Richard Land Live! – often quoting entire paragraphs without attribution.

Weaver discovered that in Land’s approximately 700-word segment on Trayvon Martin, nearly 400 of the words came verbatim from the Kuhner article. Land did not credit Kuhner or even mention his name or the name of the newspaper.

On the radio show’s website, Land linked to a “show notes” page that includes a link to Kuhner’s column.

At no point in the segment or the radio show was an explanation offered as to the relationship between Kuhner’s column and Land’s segment.

“Perhaps this will provide an opportunity for Southern Baptists to reflect on why their chief ethics spokesman day-in and day-out sounds much more like a GOP strategist than an actual Christian ethicist,” Weaver said.

Besides the plagiarism claims, Black leaders in the SBC, which has a long history of anti-black racism, including the convention’s incoming president and the fervently anti-gay pastor Dwight McKissic have been angered by Land’s remarks:

The comments come as the Southern Baptist Convention is trying hard to diversify its membership and distance itself from a past that includes support of slavery and segregation.

Last year, the denomination for the first time elected a black pastor to its No. 2 position of first vice president, and the Rev. Fred Luter is expected to become the first black president of the Southern Baptist Convention at this year’s annual meeting in June.

When asked about the concern that Land’s comments hurt the effort to attract non-white members, Luter said, “It doesn’t help. That’s for sure.”

While SBC presidents are elected for one-year terms, as the head of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for 23 years, the outspoken Land is arguably the most powerful person in the denomination and certainly its most visible spokesman.

“I think his (Land’s) statements will reverse any gains from the rightful election of Fred Luter,” said the Rev. Dwight McKissic, a black pastor at the SBC-affiliated Cornerstone Baptist Church is Arlington, Texas.

McKissic said he plans to submit a resolution at the SBC’s annual meeting asking the convention to repudiate Land’s remarks.

“If they don’t, we’re back to where we were 50 years ago,” he said.

Land, for his part, is twisting the words of his detractors and claims that he is being unfairly reprimanded for “criticizing this rush to judgment,” and Saturday on his radio show claimed that he is being “mugged” by the press.