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Southern Baptists reprimand top official over Trayvon Martin remarks

Trayvon Martin

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN

(CNN) –The country’s largest evangelical Christian denomination on Friday announced it is reprimanding one of its top officials over comments he made regarding the Trayvon Martin case, pledging to cancel the official’s national radio show.

The trustee committee of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission announced two reprimands on Friday for Richard Land, who leads public policy efforts for the Southern Baptists, according to the official press arm.

The first reprimand was for remarks Land — one of the country’s most powerful evangelical leaders — made about the Martin case. The second was because Land lifted some remarks from another source on his radio show without using attribution.

The commission will move to terminate Land’s radio program, “Richard Land Live!” because of the controversy, the Baptist Press reported.

In March, Land spoke of African-American activists and the Rev. Al Sharpton as “racial ambulance chasers” in the Martin case, in which the 17-year-old was shot to death in Florida by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.

“When there is violence it’s going to be Jesse Jackson’s fault,” Land said on his show, according to the Religion News Service. “It’s going to be Al Sharpton’s fault. It’s going to be Louis Farrakhan’s fault, and to a certain degree it’s going to be President Obama’s fault.”

On Friday, the trustee executive committee said in a statement that Land’s comments were “very hurtful and offensive to the Trayvon Martin family and too many in the African-American community, including hundreds of thousands of African-American Southern Baptists.”

“Damage was done to the state of race relations in the Southern Baptist Convention,” the statement said.

The Religion News Service reported that many of Land’s remarks about the Martin case were lifted from a March column in the Washington Times.

“As a Christian, a minister of the Gospel of our Lord, and as President of the ERLC, Dr. Land should have conformed to a higher standard,” the statement from the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission said.

The statement went on to say that “plagiarism occurred because of Land’s carelessness and poor judgment.”

In announcing the planned termination of Land’s radio program, the committee said “the content and purpose” of the program are “not congruent with the mission of the ERLC.”

In a statement to the Baptist Press, Land — who earlier apologized for his comments — said he believes in “trustee oversight and governance” and that “this whole process was conducted in a Christian manner by Christian gentlemen.”

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