richard_land_2_web.jpgNASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Southern Baptist Convention's public policy arm said it will
investigate claims that the group's president plagiarized controversial remarks about the Trayvon Martin case.

On his weekly radio show recently, Richard Land claimed President Barack Obama, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton had shamefully exploited the case to stir up racial resentment in an attempt to turn out black voters for the presidential election.

That weekend, a Baptist blogger revealed that much of Land's commentary was pulled verbatim from a Washington Times editorial.

Land apologized for not attributing his remarks to the paper. He called the lack of attribution an oversight and vowed to do better.

Two days later, the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission's executive committee announced the investigation in a statement posted on the website of the Baptist Press.

It also acknowledged that Land's remarks may have harmed the efforts of the nation's largest Protestant de-nomination to diversify its membership and distance itself from a past that includes support of slavery and segregation.

The killing of the unarmed Miami Gardens teen in Sanford by a neighborhood watch volunteer has sparked debates about race and self-defense laws nationwide.

“We … regret any harm that may have been done to race relations within the Southern Baptist Convention,'' the statement said. It also praised Land's past efforts to further racial equality, such as the key role he played in the 16-million member deno-mination's 1995 apology for racism.

Land has since softened his stance somewhat, issuing an apology for “any hurt or misunderstanding” his comments had caused.

Richard Land