Richard Land

Seminary Buys Robot to Study the Ethics of Technology

A humanoid NAO robot (pronounced ‘now’). Photo courtesy of Southern Evangelical Seminary

Seminaries have a reputation for being late adapters when it comes to modern technology.

Southern Evangelical Seminary & Bible College in Matthews, N.C., wants to change that. On Friday it introduced a humanoid NAO robot (pronounced ‘now’).

The 22-year-old Christian apologetics school claims it’s the first in the world to use a robot to study the ethics of emerging technologies.

The white robot with an orange cap from the French company Aldebaran Robotics stands 23 inches high and includes voice and facial recognition and full mobility. It translates text to speech in seven languages. The robot retails for $16,000, but Southern got an end-of-the-year deal at $9,300.

Religious Leaders' Near-Unanimous Support for Immigration Reform

Courtesy Jacob Lupfer

With Rev. Jim Wallis and our Georgetown students outside the #fast4families tent on the National Mall. Courtesy Jacob Lupfer

One of the most meaningful things I get to do in my work as a Ph.D. student in political science is assist Jim Wallis with a course he teaches at Georgetown every fall titled "Faith, Social Justice, and Public Life." Jim is well known as the founder and leader of Sojourners and as a lifelong advocate for social justice. Through lectures, discussions, and guest speakers, our students learn about how and why clergy and lay people of various religious backgrounds advocate for public policies as expressions of their faith commitments. This fall, the push for comprehensive immigration reform was one of the case studies we examined with our students.

I'm no expert in immigration policy. But, as a political scientist, I can offer an informed assessment about when, why, and how the House of Representatives will pass the reform in 2014. This will be the subject of a future post. For now, though, I want to highlight some distinctive features of the debate that I have noticed as an observer of religion in American politics. I do have a layman's interest in the theological justifications being offered in support of (and, perhaps surprisingly, against) comprehensive immigration reform. But for now, I will focus mostly on the politics.

Breaking Personal Pledge, Southern Baptist Leader Land Endorses Romney

Richard Land

Richard Land

Breaking a1e longstanding personal pledge, Southern Baptist leader Richard Land has endorsed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, saying next week's election is the most important since Abraham Lincoln's win in 1860 and he can no longer stay silent.

“America is at a fork in the road and must choose between a President Barack Obama who wants to remake America in the model of a European welfare state and a Governor Mitt Romney who wants to restore a more economically vibrant and traditionally moral America,” Land wrote in an Oct. 26 column in the Christian Post.

Land, who is executive editor of the independent Christian Post and the top public policy spokesman for the SBC, said the “stark and revealing” differences between the Republicans and Democrats on abortion rights and same-sex marriage guided his decision. 

“For Christians of traditional religious faith, there cannot be more fundamental issues than the protection of the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death and the defense of marriage as a divinely-ordained institution between one man and one woman,” he wrote.

Land’s endorsement comes just as Romney's campaign has been trying to cast the candidate in a moderate light by downplaying the Republican’s views on abortion and gay rights and saying voters should not expect him to take significant action on those social issues if he is elected.

Baptist Leader Stands His Political Ground Amidst Akin Furor

ST. LOUIS — Don Hinkle stands out among the serious, conservative men of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Not that Hinkle isn't conservative or serious. He is both. But Hinkle prefers bow ties, which — along with his white, furry mustache and thatch of white hair — give him a sort of plump Mark Twain air.

Late last week, a church-state watchdog group in Washington filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service accusing Hinkle, who is also his organization's director of public policy, with violating federal tax law by intervening in two campaigns for public office.

Those were the Republican primary campaigns of U.S. Rep. Todd Akin for U.S. Senate, and Ed Martin for Missouri attorney general.

The 500,000-member Missouri Baptist Convention is the state arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the country, with about 16 million members.

In his column in the May edition of the Pathway, the state convention's newsjournal, Hinkle wrote that while he did not want an American theocracy, "when it comes to public policy, Southern Baptists must be motivated by love for our fellow citizens, believing that God's way is the best way."

For that reason, Hinkle continued, "I personally support candidates like U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, a Republican who wants to challenge Democrat Claire McCaskill for her U.S. Senate seat, and Republican Ed Martin, the St. Louis attorney who is running for state attorney general."

Southern Baptist Leader Richard Land Announces Retirement

Richard Land

Richard Land

Richard Land, the man who became the public face of the Southern Baptist Convention on ethical and political issues for nearly 25 years, has announced plans to retire in 2013 after a rough-and-tumble spring.

The decision comes months after Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, made controversial comments about the Trayvon Martin case that resulted in a reprimand and the loss of his radio talk show for the racial tension they caused.

Land, 65, said in a Tuesday letter announcing his retirement that he has no intention of ending his role as a culture warrior.

“I believe the ‘culture war’ is a titanic spiritual struggle for our nation’s soul and as a minister of Christ’s Gospel, I have no right to retire from that struggle,” Land wrote in a two-page letter to the acting chairman of his commission.

Evangelical Leaders Announce Immigration Table Launch

Photo by Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners

Evangelical leaders close in prayer at the Evangelical Immigration Table launch. Photo by Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners

Church leaders today gathered in Washington, D.C., to announce the launch of the Evangelical Immigration Table – a broad coalition of organizations, churches and pastors from across the political and religious spectrum coming together to advance a cohesive immigration reform message.

The Immigration Table was launched at a press conference, with speakers including Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis, Dr. Richard Land, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Gabriel Salguero, President of the National Association of Latino Evangelicals and Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family, setting out a common set of principles reflecting the common ground that all members of the Table have found on the issue of immigration.

Read on to view photos from the press conference.

LIVE STREAM: Evangelical Leaders Unite on Principles for Immigration Reform

Evangelical leaders from across the political and religious spectrum meet today to call for immigration reform based on a set of five principles: 

  • Respects the God-given dignity of every person
  • Protects the unity of the immediate family
  • Respects the rule of law
  • Guarantees secure national borders
  • Ensures fairness to taxpayers
  • Establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents

Watch the live stream from Capitol Hill, beginning at 11:30 EDT HERE:


Southern Baptists’ Richard Land Loses Show, Keeps Job

Dr. Richard Land testifying in 2010. Photo By Douglas Graham/Roll Call via Getty Images

A top Southern Baptist official who was accused of plagiarism in a radio segment that claimed civil rights leaders and President Obama used the Trayvon Martin case to stir racial tensions will lose his weekly call-in program but can keep his main job, a church panel announced Friday.

Richard Land, the influential head of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the denomination’s top policy spokesman, was rebuked for racial insensitivity and for not attributing the source of his radio commentaries after a review by ERLC trustees.

The controversy over Land’s explosive remarks in a March 31 radio program was especially awkward as Southern Baptists are expected to elect an African-American pastor, the Rev. Fred Luter, as the denomination's first black president later this month.

The investigators chided Land for “his hurtful, irresponsible, insensitive, and racially charged words” in a broadcast of the “Richard Land Live!” show in which Land accused Obama and black civil rights activists of using the Trayvon Martin shooting to foment racial strife and boost the president’s re-election chances.

Uncertain Future for Southern Baptist Convention's Richard Land

Richard Land. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Richard Land. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

For the past 24 years, Richard Land has used his folksy charm and fiery rhetoric to become one of the leading voices of the religious right and the public face of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant group.

Now Land's future is in doubt amid an investigation over his remarks about the Trayvon Martin shooting and for alleged plagiarism.

A church committee is scheduled to issue its report by Friday (June 1), and there's a possibility that Land could lose his job as president of the Southern Baptists' Nashville-based Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

After Meeting with Black Southern Baptists, Richard Land Apologizes (Again)

Richard Land. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Richard Land. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Southern Baptist leader Richard Land has issued a lengthy public apology for his racially charged comments about the Trayvon Martin case, and said he has sent a personal letter to President Obama seeking forgiveness.  

Land, who leads the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, issued the two-page apology Wednesday (May 9), a week after a five-hour meeting with African-American leaders and other Southern Baptist officials.  

Because of that meeting, "I have come to understand in sharper relief how damaging my words were," he wrote in the statement released through his denomination's news service.  

Land had previously apologized for his comments, which charged Democrats and civil rights leaders with exploiting the killing of the unarmed Florida teen. He also has apologized for failing to attribute the material he used when discussing the case on his radio show.