Statement from ERLC trustee Executive Committee


April 18,2012


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.

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