Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, issued an apology on Monday for plagiarism during his radio show – Richard Land Live! – after a news story appeared on EthicsDaily.com based on research by a Baylor University doctoral student.
Richard Land, head of Southern Baptists' Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said he did not intend to deceive anyone and pointed to the posting of links for each of the articles referenced during the show.
On his March 31 radio program, Land used material about Trayvon Martin, race, the media and President Obama that came from a Washington Times column by Jeffrey Kuhner without attribution.
Baptist blogger and Baylor doctoral student Aaron Weaver spotted the plagiarism and posted a partial transcript of the plagiarized material on his own blog, TheBigDaddyWeave.com.
After finding the first example, Weaver dug deeper and discovered two more examples, one in the third hour of the March 31 show that came from Investor's Business Daily, and one in the Feb. 4 show that came from a Washington Examiner editorial titled "Obamacare regulation tramples on religious freedom."
Land released an official statement about his plagiarism on April 16.
"On occasion I have failed to provide appropriate verbal attributions on my radio broadcast, Richard Land Live!, and for that I sincerely apologize," said Land. "I regret if anyone feels they were deceived or misled. That was not my intent nor has it ever been."
In the statement, Land said he did not intend to deceive anyone and pointed to the posting of links for each of the articles he referenced during the show.
"Clearly there has been no attempt to deceive the public," Land wrote, "or we would not have posted the articles that are used on the air. Richard Land Live! is a live radio show. While I do not use a script, listeners familiar with the program know that both the audio of the program and material I reference during the program are posted on the program's Web site during or immediately following the broadcast. During the program I encourage listeners to share these links and content among their circle of influence."
Weaver said Land did not mention the article at all during his March 31 show, but the Feb. 4 program seems to be even more egregious.
On the blog, Weaver detailed how Land again linked to the article in question on the Obamacare program notes, but he failed to mention the article during the program. On the very same program, he also linked to articles by E.J. Dionne, Michael Gerson and Peggy Noonan.
Weaver wrote, "In fact, during this segment Land cites both Gerson and Noonan. At one point, he even reads aloud a lengthy quote from Noonan's column. He clearly identifies those words as Peggy Noonan's."
In his statement, Land called the practice "standard operating practice" since the program began in 2002.
He concluded: "I am grateful this oversight was brought to my attention. One can always do better and I certainly pledge to do so."
Tony Cartledge, professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, N.C., called Land's statement a "weak admission of guilt."
"He failed to address a larger pattern, and acted as if this were a single incident," Cartledge said. "He should call it what it is. I'm sure it's difficult to put on a three hour radio show, but anytime you take someone's words and present them as your own, it's plagiarism."
Cartledge, who blogs regularly for Baptists Today, addressed the academic implications of Land's plagiarism: "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."
Robert Parham, executive editor of EthicsDaily.com, said, "While Richard Land never used the word plagiarism, acknowledged that he had 'failed to provide appropriate verbal attributions' and expressed regret that anyone would feel 'deceived,' he quickly moved to change the subject from his misuse of words to how his radio show works."
Parham added, "His apology would have been transformative if he would have promised to address the issue of plagiarism on his next radio show, explaining why it is an ethical problem."
Weaver told EthicsDaily.com, "It is very appropriate that Richard Land has apologized. I hope Rev. Land does make good on his promise to do better. Certainly anyone with 'ethics' in their job title should."
Greg Horton is a freelance writer and adjunct professor of philosophy and humanities. He lives in Oklahoma City.