The trustees of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission have reprimanded Richard Land twice and have cancelled his radio program “Richard Land Live.” While they did not terminate him, the reprimand is a serious thing and the cancelling of the program was a fairly aggressive step.
- He was reprimanded for the statements about the Trayvon Martin case made on the radio program.
- He was reprimanded for plagiarism on the same radio program.
- The radio program will be cancelled as soon as is contractually permissible.
The trustees noted that while Land’s plagiarism on his radio program was proven, an examination of his writings showed no evidence of any plagiarism. Reading between the lines, they may have seen the problems on the radio program as a departure from normally high ethical standards, and on that basis they simply reprimanded him.
Is this enough?
Many people, the current author included, thought that the charges of plagiarism might cost Land his job. At this point, that is not the case.
Here are my thoughts on the issue.
1) Land’s second and more formal apology is regarded as genuine (it seemed so to me) and that act may well have helped him keep his job. It definitely changed my view of the whole debacle.
2) We have a trustee system and in the absence of evidence to the contrary, we have to commend them for doing their job. They did not sweep this under the rug, but neither did they assemble a firing squad. They appear to have taken a measured and responsible action toward Land.
At some point, as Southern Baptists, we have to trust our trustees. In this case, the trustees looked at all the evidence and made a decision. They had more information than I do. In the absence of clear evidence that they failed in their trust, I am not going to substitute my judgment for theirs.
If they think this is a fair result, I am accepting this as a fair result.
3) Land is going to have some challenges facing him at the ERLC. He is our recognized leader in ethics and he has been reprimanded for ethical lapses. He is supposed to make judgments and take stands and his judgment has been called into question. His ability to do his job at the ERLC may have been compromised by this whole unfortunate episode.
Time will tell if he is able to continue to be effective at his job. It would not surprise me if, after this kerfuffle settles down, Land announces his retirement. He is close to retirement age anyway (born in 1946), and in the compromised position he finds himself, his enthusiasm for his job may wane a little, making retirement a more desirable option.
4) It is time for us to move on. Land apologized for the damage his words did to racial relations in the SBC, and several prominent black pastors have both accepted the apology and affirmed that Land has demonstrated through the years that he is not a racist. Land admitted and apologized for the plagiarism (though I’m not sure he used that term). He has been reprimanded.
We aren’t about exacting a pound of flesh. We are about righteousness and reconciliation. Land made some mistakes and has apologized. His authority, the Trustee board, has acted. He has been reprimanded and disciplined.
For me, this seems like an honorable result.