Who is Reverend Richard Land?

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

On November 28, Reverend Richard Land appeared as a panelist on NBC's Meet the Press. In addition to joining fellow panelist Reverend Jerry Falwell in comparing pro-choice advocates to 1860s-era "slave owners" (as he has done previously), Land also misstated the state-by-state legal status of abortion. Prior to the election, Land played a major role in organizing voter turnout for longtime political ally President George W. Bush and forwarded a conservative political agenda on social and foreign policy as a radio host, author, and president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

During his Meet the Press appearance, Land falsely claimed that if the Roe v. Wade court decision were to be overturned, 46 states would revert to "very restrictive abortion laws." In fact, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America, 31 states and the District of Columbia currently have laws on the books banning abortion or abortion procedures that are "unconstitutional and unenforceable" due to Roe. (The total of 31 is reached by combining data from two NARAL Pro-Choice America charts, here and here).

Since the November 2 presidential election, in addition to his Meet the Press appearance, Land has appeared on MSNBC's Deborah Norville Tonight on November 8 and MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews on November 19.

On June 16, 1999, in his annual report to the Southern Baptist Convention, Land said, "CNN, if you're listening, I have a message for you, and I want you to hear it ... CNN is slanting the news. CNN is trying to beat up on Southern Baptists. And we're not going to stand for it silently anymore," according to an article by the Associated Baptist Press news service. According to Land, CNN failed to include him in a "program on Southern Baptists featuring Americans United [for Separation of Church and State] Executive Director Barry Lynn and California Baptist pastor and conservative activist Wiley Drake." In the five and a half years since Land made that remark, he has appeared as a guest on the major networks and cables (ABC, NBC, CBS, CNBC, MSNBC, FOX News Channel, and CNN) on at least 20 separate occasions -- including five times on CNN -- according to a search of transcripts available on Nexis. Land appeared just seven times on the same networks between 1990 and 1999. Five of those appearances were on CNN.

Land is the host of two nationally syndicated radio programs, For Faith & Family (a 30-minute weekday show) and For Faith & Family's Insights (a daily radio commentary), through the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; a weekly call-in radio show, Richard Land Live!, is syndicated through the Salem Radio Network (which syndicates other conservative radio hosts such as Janet Parshall, Mike Gallagher, and William J. Bennett).

Land is also an author, most recently of Real Homeland Security: The America God Will Bless (Broadman & Holman Publishers, June 2004). One of Land's previous books (co-authored with Frank D. York), Send a Message to Mickey: The ABC's of Making Your Voice Heard at Disney (Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), outlined the two major reasons behind the Southern Baptist Convention's boycott of the Walt Disney Company beginning in 1996: "the appearance of Gay Days at Disney theme parks each year," and the "granting of domestic partner insurance benefits to homosexual lovers." (An excerpt from the book is here.)

Land has connections to both President Bush and the Republican Party. As Land's online biography notes, "President George W. Bush appointed Dr. Land to two terms on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (September 2001 to September 2004)." In its post-election roundup of the election's winners and losers, TIME magazine noted on November 15: "As director of the political arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, Richard Land has enjoyed a long and close relationship with the born-again Bush. And when the President was forming his position on stem-cell research, Land helped convince the President to prohibit new embryos from being used in the research." The Miami Herald noted in a October 24, 2002, article that Land was a key supporter of Bush's decision to invade Iraq, drafting a letter to Bush in 2002 stating that "we believe that your stated policies concerning Saddam Hussein ... are prudent and fall well within the time-honored criteria of just war theory."

Land rallied support for Bush in the 2004 presidential election through the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission's "I Vote Values" Christian voter registration program; while officially nonpartisan, the program planned to register significantly more Republicans than Democrats, according to Land himself in an article in the June 18 edition of The New York Times (reprinted here). However, Land opposed a more direct link to the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign, claiming to be "appalled" by a Bush-Cheney effort to seek possession of the membership directory of churches according to a Reuters article. Nonetheless, Baptist Press, a news service operated by the Southern Baptist Convention, reported on October 11 that Land openly favored Bush over his presidential opponent: Following the second presidential debate, Land said Senator John Kerry's "deliberate segregation of his religious belief from his public policy positions on moral issues is functional atheism and would give people of no religious faith veto power over public policy positions in his administration."

As the Associated Press reported on March 16, 2002, Land has been working in Republican politics to promote anti-abortion causes for many years: "Land earned a reputation as a leader among abortion opponents and in 1987 became an administrative assistant to then-Texas Gov. Bill Clements, who fought for laws to restrict a woman's right to abortion." Baptist Press reported that on the July 6, 2002, edition of Richard Land Live!, Land lamented that "[a]n unhatched sea turtle in Florida, an unhatched spotted owl in Oregon and an unhatched snail darter fish in Tennessee have more legal protection under the law than a partially born human being in the United States of America."

People for the American Way has documented that the Southern Baptist Convention has "received a good deal of press as it has encouraged its members to try to convert followers of other religions -- such as Jews, Muslims, and Hindus -- to Christianity." The Southern Baptist Convention has more than 16 million members and 42,000 affiliated churches in the United States.

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