The Southern Baptist Convention's public policy arm says it will investigate claims that the group's president plagiarized controversial remarks about the Trayvon Martin case.
On his weekly radio show recently, Richard Land claimed President Barack Obama, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton had shamefully exploited the case to stir up racial resentment in an attempt to turn out black voters for the presidential election.
Over the weekend, a Baptist blogger revealed that much of Land's commentary was pulled verbatim from a Washington Times editorial.
On Monday, Land apologized for not attributing his remarks to the paper. He called the lack of attribution an oversight and vowed to do better.
Two days later, the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission's executive committee announced the investigation in a statement posted on the website of the Baptist Press.
"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," the statement said.
It also acknowledges that Land's remarks may have harmed the efforts of the nation's largest Protestant denomination to diversify its membership and distance itself from a past that includes support of slavery and segregation.
The killing of the unarmed black teen by a neighborhood watch volunteer has sparked debates about race and self-defense laws nationwide.
"We ... regret any harm that may have been done to race relations within the Southern Baptist Convention," the statement said. It also praised Land's past efforts to further racial equality, such as the key role he played in the 16-million member denomination's 1995 apology for racism.
Land declined requests for comment Thursday. In an interview late last week, Land said he stood by his comments and did not think they hurt the cause of true racial reconciliation within the Nashville-based SBC.
"Part of racial reconciliation is being able to speak the truth in love without being called a racist and without having to bow down to the god of political correctness," he said.
By Monday, he had softened his stance somewhat, issuing an apology for "any hurt or misunderstanding" his comments had caused.
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