NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Southern Baptist Convention's ethics chief was reprimanded Friday and his radio show canceled after he made inflammatory comments about the Trayvon Martin case.
Among other things, Richard Land accused President Barack Obama and other black leaders of shamefully exploiting Martin's death for political gain. He also said racial profiling was understandable given the crime statistics for black men.
Land's comments upset many black Southern Baptist leaders, one of whom called for Land's resignation. The controversy got more intense when a blogger revealed that Land's commentary was copied nearly verbatim from an editorial in The Washington Times, although Land did not credit the newspaper on the air.
After an investigation, the trustees board of the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission reprimanded Land for the comments and the plagiarism. Land, who is the commission's president, has previously apologized for both.
The commission takes public stands on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. In his position at the commission's head for nearly 24 years, the outspoken Land has become the Southern Baptist Convention's most visible spokesman.
But his comments on Martin came as the nation's largest Protestant denomination is attempting to distance itself from a past that includes support for slavery and segregation. Faced with declining membership, the Nashville-based SBC is trying to broaden its appeal beyond its traditional white, Southern base — a goal that Land supports.
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