A top Southern Baptist official, whose racially charged comments over the Trayvon Martin killing provoked calls for his resignation, will lose his weekly call-in radio show, Southern Baptist leaders said Friday.
According to Baptist Press news, the trustee executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) rebuked Richard Land for explosive comments he made during a March 31 broadcast.
Land, president of the ERLC since 1988, on his radio show "Richard Land Live!" defended George Zimmerman, who fatally shot the unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in February while accusing President Barack Obama and black civil rights leaders such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson of shamefully exploiting Martin's murder as a political tool to boost the president’s re-election chances.
“This is being done to try to gin up the black vote for an African-American president who is in deep, deep, deep trouble for re-election and who knows that he cannot win re-election without getting the 95 percent of blacks who voted for him in 2008 to come back out and show they are going to vote for him again,” said Land, Religion News Service reported.
“Rather than holding rallies on these issues," Land noted, "the civil rights leadership focuses on racially polarizing cases to generate media attention and to mobilize black voter turnout."
Land said they should not have been so quick to rush to judgment since a black man is “statistically more likely to do you harm than a white man.”
Land also stated: "Instead of letting the legal process take its independent course, race mongers are anointing themselves judge, jury and executioners. The rule of law is being assaulted by racial demagogues, and it's disgusting, and it should stop."
Obama himself weighed in on the case, saying that "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon.”
Land pounced: “The president’s aides claimed he was showing compassion for the victim’s family. In reality he poured gasoline on the racialist fires.”
Surely, gasoline was poured on racialist fires, but critics said the source was the speaker, himself.
Maxie Miller, a church-planting expert in the Florida Baptist Convention, told The Tennessean he was “incredulous” after hearing about the comments.
“I think the [SBC] is doing a great job with diversity … but Land’s comments definitely will make my work harder—encouraging African Americans to be a part of Southern Baptist Convention life,” he told The Tennessean.
Land’s remarks, first reported Monday (April 2) by the Associated Baptist Press, quickly spread to other venues including the Huffington Post, Digital Journal and other media.
As a result, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission trustee executive committee, where Land served as president, found themselves having to perform the tough job of investigating their own leader.
Based on their findings, the team reprimanded "Dr. Land for his hurtful, irresponsible, insensitive, and racially charged words on March 31, 2012 regarding the Trayvon Martin tragedy," a press release published on the denomination's official media outlet, Baptist Press said.
As for the radio program, trustees stated "we have carefully considered the content and purpose of the Richard Land Live! broadcast. We find that they are not congruent with the mission of the ERLC. We also find that the controversy that erupted as a result of the March 31 broadcast, and related matters, requires the termination of that program."
For his part, in a statement issued to Baptist Press, Land said the review “was conducted in a Christian manner by Christian gentlemen” and he said he looked forward to continuing with his work as ERLC head.
Founded in support of slavery before the Civil War, RNS news reports, the Southern Baptist Convention has 16 million members and is the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. But its growth has stalled in recent years and church leaders are trying to broaden the SBC’s appeal beyond its predominantly white, Southern base.