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Posted by on Apr 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

Richard Land The Plagiarist: Top SBC Ethicist Stirs Up Controversy With Someone Else’s Rant UPDATED

Richard Land is the President of the ETHICS & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

A controversy began to brew on April 2 when Associated Baptist Press reported on Richard Land’s comments regarding the Trayvon Martin tragedy – “Land says activists using Trayvon Martin” –  on his Nashville radio program Richard Land Live (3/31 audio here).  Newspapers across the nation began to cover Land’s remarks.  Land’s hometown paper – The Tennessean – ran an article titled “Richard Land’s rant on Trayvon Martin case stings some Southern Baptists.”

That article featured a strong response from Rev. Maxie Miller, an African-American Southern Baptist in Florida and church planting expert.  Miller told The Tennessean:

At no time have I been embarrassed of being a Southern Baptist or a black Southern Baptist,” Miller said. “But I’m embarrassed because of the words that man has stated.

The latest article on this matter came out today (April 14) and is from the Associated Press titled “Baptist leader criticizes Trayvon Martin support.” The AP asked Rev. Fred Luter, who in June is expected to become the first-ever African-American president of the Southern Baptist Convention, about worries that Land’s remarks will hurt the SBC’s effort at achieving ethnic diversity.  Here’s Luter:

It doesn’t help. That’s for sure.

And here’s what another prominent African-American Southern Baptist had to say:

“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.

As this controversy continues over Richard Land’s rant continues to rage, I’d like to introduce a twist that thus far the media hasn’t picked up on.

Richard Land’s rant is not his.  It’s a plagiarized rant.

Many of the words that he uttered during his radio show were taken VERBATIM – yes, WORD-FOR-WORD – from a Washington Times column penned by conservative commentator Jeffrey Kuhner.  Kuhner’s column titled “Obama foments racial division” was published on March 29.

Land stole from Kuhner two days later on his March 31 radio show.

Below is my transcript of Land’s radio show.  I have bolded the parts of Land’s radio rant that are VERBATIM from Kuhner’s Washington Times column.

RICHARD LAND: Welcome back to Richard Land Live.

The um, this this situation is getting out of hand.  And it’s going to be violence.  And when there is violence it’s going to be Jesse Jackson’s fault.  It’s going to be Al Sharpton’s fault It’s going to be Louis Farrakhan’s fault and to a certain degree it is going to be President Obama’s fault.

Um, Rev. Jesse Jackson says “blacks are under attack.” Really?  Louis Farrakhan vows “retaliation.”  The Rev. Al Sharpton has organized massive protests, demanding Mr. Zimmerman be arrested and sent to jail.

Who made Al Sharpton judge, jury and district attorney?

The New Black Panthers have placed a $10,000 bounty for the shooter’s capture. The poster says “Wanted Dead or Alive.”  This is racial demagoguery – pure and simple.

But it was Mr. Obama who turned this tragedy into a national issue. He should have learned from the Cambridge, Massachusetts police incident to stay out of these issues until the facts are clear.  But he urged Americans to engage in “soul searching.”

And then he said, “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin.”  The president’s aides claim he was showing compassion for the victim’s family. In reality, he poured gasoline on the racialist fires. Under pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus, Mr. Obama gave them what they wanted: He put the presidential spotlight on Trayvon Martin’s death – and thereby bolstered the burgeoning protests.

I believe Mr. Obama’s comments were misguided and I think they are harmful.  No one knows what his son would look like.  The statement was meant as a sign of racial solidarity.

Martin is black and by extension Mr. Obama shares the victim’s racial identity.

Also, shootings take place all over the country on a regular basis. If Americans are required to search their souls every time someone is killed we will be meditating ceaselessly.

Here’s what makes this case so different. The answer is simple.  The victim’s skin color and the perpetrator. Race hustlers such as Mr. Jackson, Mr. Sharpton, Mr. Farrakhan have made their careers and lucrative fortunes by fomenting racial grievance and demonizing the “white power structure.”  In their eyes segregation has never been truly repealed it has just become invisible.

They need the Travyon Martin’s to continue perpetuating their central myth: America is a racist and an evil nation.  For them is always Selma Alabama circa 1965. Notice that the Nation has changed.

If guilty, Mr.  Zimmerman should be held fully accountable. But here’s some things you don’t know about Mr. Zimmerman unless you dig.  This narrative of white on black violence circa the Klansmen of 1965 has major problems. First of all, Mr. Zimmerman is Hispanic.  He has black relatives and close friends. He is a registered Democrat. That’s right, George Michael Zimmerman born October 5th 1983 registered as a Democrat in Seminole county Florida in August 2002.

And this idea that he’s a white Hispanic. I still want to know what a white Hispanic is. Um, in addition to the fact that he registered as a democrat, we don’t whether he voted for Mr. Obama, or not, um, his mother has alleged Zimmerman…. has acted as a mentor to a black single mother and her two children and he has helped them raise money for their all black church.

Now does that sound like a racial bigot to you? Sound like some proto-klansman to you? Of course not. If he is guilty he should be held fully accountable. But this mob mentality and rush to judgment from the President on down is disgraceful.

And the way in which the media has been largely silent about it and has aided and abetted it is also disgraceful. We do not know the full circumstances regarding the shooting. No one does. This has not prevented Mr. Zimmerman from being smeared as a murderer, racist, vigilante.

Floridas governor has appointed a special prosecutor to look into the caseFBI and Justice Department lawyers have been assigned as well. Instead of letting the legal process take its independent course racemongers are anointing theselves judge, jury, and executioner. The rule of law is being assaulted by racial demagogues and it is disgusting and  should stop.


At no time during this segment does Land reference Jeffrey Kuhner.  Plain and simple, Land stole from Kuhner.  He passed off Kuhner’s words as his own.

Folks, that’s fraud.


According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, to “plagiarize” means

  • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own
  • to commit literary theft
  • to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.

In closing, let’s remember that Richard Land is the president of the ETHICS & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

**UPDATE (4/14): Land links to the Kuhner column under “show notes” on his radio show website Richard Land Live!  Again, Land made no mention of Kuhner during the segment transcribed above.  Listeners did not know that he was quoting Jeffrey Kuhner word-for-word.  Even in the show notes, Land does not indicate that much of his commentary drawn from Kuhner’s column, word-for-word.  To readers, the show notes will be understood to be “sources consulted” or “additional resources.”

Clearly, Land’s intent was to pass off Kuhner’s words as his own.  That’s the definition of plagiarism.  As you can see, Land attempted to make Kuhner’s words his own by adding extra comments and using different adjectives.

As an author and student,  I can’t write a 500-word essay, pull 250-300 words verbatim or nearly verbatim from someone else and simply include a short footnote at the bottom.  That’s still plagiarism.  Jeffrey Kuhner as a Washinton Times columnist can’t do that either.  Nor should Richard Land, the ethicist, get away with it.

Several of Land’s comments from this particular segment of his radio show have been quoted in media outlets across the nation from The Huffington Post to The Tennessean.  When asked about his remarks, Land told media outlets including the SBC’s Baptist Press that he stood by his words.  He didn’t say those words were actually someone else’s.  Land – the SBC’s chief ethicist – stood by his words, his plagiarized words, words that he made his own in an extremely deceptive and thoroughly unethical way.

***UPDATE (4/15):  Another instance of plagiarism has been discovered.  During what appears to have been the third-hour of Land’s March 31st broadcast on the Trayvon Martin tragedy, Land passes off as his own an editorial in the Investor’s Business Daily.  The editorial is titled “Trayvon Shooting Facts Vs. Left-Wing Racism Storyline.”

Land does provide a link (without explanation) on the Richard Land Live! website under “Full Show Notes.”

However, at no point during the segment did Land mention that these words were not his own.  At no point did he mention that this commentary was published on March 27th by the editorial board of the Investor’s Business Daily.

Below is the transcript of Land’s radio show.  I have bolded the parts from Land’s commentary that are VERBATIM from the IBD editorial.  See the radio audio here and read the IBD editorial here.

Welcome back to Richard Land Live.

Today, we’re talking about the Trayvon Martin tragedy.

At first blush, this shooting certainly appears troubling. A 17-year-old African American carrying nothing but a bag of skittles and a bottle of iced tea is shot by a Hispanic Neighborhood Watch volunteer.

That was enough for the likes of Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, most of the mainstream press and even President Obama to jump on the story as fresh evidence of ongoing racism in the U.S.

Sharpton charged that “Trayvon represents a reckless disregard for our lives that we’ve seen too long.” Jackson said Martin was “murdered and martyred,” adding for good measure that “blacks are under attack. … Killing us is big business.” MSNBC political analyst Karen Finney charged that GOP-fed stereotypes about blacks “had lethal consequences.” Obama volunteered that if he had a son, “he’d look like Trayvon.”

All of this was before anyone knew much about the people involved or the facts of the case at hand.

It turns out that alleged shooter George Zimmerman is hardly some kind of white supremacist. He’s Hispanic on his mother’s side. His mother is Peruvian. He has black family members. He has mentored black children and is a registered Democrat.

And Martin isn’t exactly a saint.  He’d been suspended three times for vandalism, truancy and carrying a baggie with pot residue.

The real problem for all those hoping to exploit this case for their own political ends are the details surfacing about what happened that night.

An Orlando Sentinel story on Monday revealed that after Zimmerman followed Martin around the neighborhood, Martin reportedly attackedZimmerman, punching him to the ground and slamming his head against the sidewalk. The Sentinel added that much of Zimmerman’s account “has been corroborated by witnesses.” A 911 tape may yet confirm that it was Zimmerman, not Martin, who was crying for help.

As CBS News politely put it, this “new information is putting a twist on the Trayvon Martin case.”

Not that the facts matter to people like Al Sharpton. Even if it turns out that Zimmerman really did act out of fear for his safety, and not racial animosity, don’t expect anyone stoking the racial fires to start issuing mea culpas.

They’ll be too busy looking for next racial ambulance to chase because they’re race hustlers who’ve made their careers and made their fortunes exploiting racism in the United States.

We’re going to go to Roy now in Richmond, Virginia.  Roy, what is your question or comment?

Note that Land again adds his own comments and own adjectives.  He takes the IBD editorial and tries to make it his own.  Is this a common practice with Richard Land?

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  1. Great job if you were the one to catch this.

    So, are ordinary Southern Baptists as disturbed by Land’s comments as other Christians? This is not the first time he has made reprehensible remarks. How does he stay in power at the SBC? Has there ever been any campaign for him to step down?

    Although I’m just a former Southern Baptist, I’m still a Christian and don’t want to see white Christians remain in leadership positions after such behavior.

  2. Plagiarism is not only theft of someone’s work, it is also an out and out lie, that the material presented is one’s own. So you have documented a double sin by this mouthpiece for the radical right portion of the SBC. Given the tendencies of the far right to use falsehoods to tar anyone of moderate sensibilities, Land is in good company for this type of screed.

  3. My sense is that younger Southern Baptist pastors/seminarians are generally turned off by Land’s rhetoric and the role he plays in the public square as essentially a Republican strategist.

    That younger generation doesn’t call the shots though. I suspect Dwight McKissic’s resolution to repudiate Land will fail.

    Interestingly, most of Land’s critics within the SBC over the last decade have attacked him from the right. Most recently, Land was pressured into withdrawing from an interfaith coalition led by Abe Foxman to defend the free exercise rights of Muslims. And Land has been repeatedly criticized for his support of comprehensive immigration reform (even though he was standing with President Bush).

    Land is 66. I suspect he’ll retire in a few years. But I don’t see a campaign to force him out. He’s been the president of the ERLC for 20 years now. I’m sure he’s surrounded himself with trustees who support him.

    • I have taken you to task just a little at same time I congratulate you on gettin picked up by the Huffinton Post.
      At Same time I think the bigger point is the one I raise in Baptist History site of and in the comment stream at
      Hope you will pursue with Chandler Davidson and Bill Moyers soon

  4. ‘Conservative’ is not what it used to be, I’m afraid. The media ‘conservatives of today are sounding far more radical than I can support.

    I would have wanted a major Christian leader to react far differently to the tragedy of Tray’s death at Zimmerman’s hand.
    I am disappointed, but also puzzled as to why someone like Land feels the need to play to the right in this way . . . which upsets me far more than the actually cheating of plagiarism which is quite shocking in the extent to which whole sections were actually taken from someone else’s work.

    Is Land in good health? His photographs make him look like he may be ill. Perhaps he is not well, and this recent episode was a matter of poor judgement in the midst of exhaustion and illness?
    Perhaps. Can’t think why he did it otherwise. Doesn’t make sense.

    • one word for richard land keep the president name out of your mouth you dont know it but you are not fit to walk in his shoes and rev. al sharpton and rev. jessy jackson are doing what activist do try to get justice when law enforcement try to cover up for for what ever reason remrmber there is a higher power than all of us so watch out for the tornado;

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