I’m keeping this short in hopes that readers will go immediately to this eye-opening post by Aaron Weaver, who has done careful work in demonstrating that Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention‘s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and a frequent spokesman for Southern Baptist views, is not above blatant plagiarism.
Land recently stirred up considerable controversy with some very harsh and politically charged remarks about the Trayvon Martin case during his radio show, but it turns out that much of his commentary was lifted directly from a column by Jeffrey Kuhner in the Washington Times. And another big swath of radio commentary was taken verbatim from a column in the Investor’s Business Daily.
Land gave no on-air credit to either source, speaking as if the words were his own. The columns are briefly referenced in notes on his website, but never mentioned in the broadcast. While you can’t use quotation marks and footnotes on a radio show, it’s easy enough to say “According to Jeffrey Kuhner in the Washington Post …” to indicate which words were taken directly (entire paragraphs) as opposed to serving as background food for thought.
Failure to credit the source is plagiarism. Pure and simple. Was Land conscious of his actions, or possibly reading from a script or talking notes prepared by a lazy research staffer? Either way, he’s responsible, and should own up to it.
Where I teach, plagiarism on this level earns an automatic zero for the assignment and the possibility of failing the course. Unrepentant students who continue the practice are subject to being removed from the program.
Will the SBC’s most outspoken political wag and purported ethicist admit to his demonstrated lack of ethics on this point, or will hubris carry the day? Will there be consequences relative to his job, or will ERLC trustees, happy with Land’s political conservatism, sit back and hope it blows over?
Time will tell, but I doubt it will tell much.
Updates: Land issued a semi-apology on April 16, admitting that “On occasion I have failed to provide appropriate verbal attributions on my radio broadcast,” but denying that there was any attempt to deceive.
Weaver, meanwhile, has found more, and even more egregious examples of Land’s quoting other’s work at length on his radio show, without any indication that the words were not his own. The Washington Post published a story about the matter, and other stories are bound to follow.
[Image from Land’s biography page at erlc.com.]
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.