Douglas Wilson apologizes for plagiarized work

Books | Co-author Randy Booth takes responsibility for the book's mistakes
by Emily Belz
Posted 12/14/15, 10:26 am

UPDATE: Douglas Wilson released a more-detailed statement on Saturday in response to his publisher pulling a book co-authored by him and Randy Booth because of plagiarism.

“I want to take full responsibility for having my name on the cover of a book containing plagiarized sections, and where the contributions from the authors were undifferentiated,” he wrote, adding that he planned to write letters of apology to the authors whose books were plagiarized in A Justice Primer.

Canon Press also released another statement on Saturday, saying the segments of the book written by Wilson were run “through two separate plagiarism detection software programs,” which “found his work to be original and plagiarism-free.”

OUR EARLIER REPORT (Dec. 11, 4:55 p.m.): Canon Press has pulled from shelves A Justice Primer, a book by evangelical pastors Douglas Wilson and Randy Booth, after acknowledging significant plagiarism. Blogger Rachel Miller first discovered and documented the passages lifted without citation. This is the second time one of Wilson’s books has faced plagiarism charges.

“Canon Press has investigated the charges of plagiarism and improper citation in A Justice Primer, and it is abundantly clear that the editor and co-author, Randy Booth, plagiarized material in multiple instances from a number of different sources,” the publisher said in a statement.

Wilson—known for his advocacy for classical education, his national debates with atheist Christopher Hitchens, and his provocative punditry on all topics—founded and heads the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC). He pastors Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho. Booth is a CREC pastor at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Nacogdoches, Texas. Canon Press was originally an arm of Christ Church, but the church sold the publishing company in 2012. Wilson’s son, N.D. Wilson, is now one of the owners.

Booth, in a statement from Canon, took full blame for the plagiarism.

“As best I can tell, all the problems are mine and not Doug’s,” Booth stated. “As a pastor, I was drawing on a wide range of materials and notes that I had collected over a number of years to use in sermons or lessons with no intention of publishing that material, thus citations were often missing in my old notes. … While this was not intentional plagiarism on my part, nevertheless I clearly did use their words without proper citation and for this I publicly confess.”

Wilson did not admit any wrongdoing in his statement.

“I was disappointed to find out today that there are serious citation problems in A Justice Primer,” he said. “In light of this, I am completely supportive of Canon Press withdrawing the book from circulation. For further details on what happened and how, I would refer you to the statements by Canon Press and Randy Booth.”

Wilson is already dealing with another controversy about his and the CREC’s handling of two sex abuse cases in his church. This fall, the CREC announced its leadership would do its own investigation into the matter.

Booth was in charge of the investigating committee after Wilson recused himself. Some had expressed concern that Wilson’s co-author could lead a fair inquiry. But the same day that Canon Press pulled the book, Booth resigned from the committee, according to Canon CEO Aaron Rench. 

In 2013, Wilson wrote a blog post in response to plagiarism accusations against Mark Driscoll, the former pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle: “[T]he person whose name is on the cover of the book is responsible to put things completely right if a problem surfaces. He may not be guilty, but he is always responsible—as basic covenant theology teaches us.”

He continued: “It is quite easy for me to envision a situation where an author is responsible for plagiarism, misquotation, or a screwed up citation, but not be guilty of it. It is always proper to hold the author responsible, but if in the heat of controversy people are demanding that he acknowledge his personal guilt, as though [he] did it himself on purpose, his refusal to do so might not evidence a lack of integrity, but rather the opposite.”

Wilson faced accusations of plagiarism over a 1996 booklet he co-authored with Steve Wilkins titled Southern Slavery: As It Was. He later wrote about the accusations: “I won’t go into how it happened, but the end result was that some passages from a book that should have been cited weren’t cited (Time on the Cross), and it was entirely and completely accidental. It was an embarrassing editorial screw-up, not plagiarism.”

This article has been edited to note that Randy Booth resigned from the CREC committee investigating the handling of two sexual abuse cases at the church Douglas Wilson pastors.

Emily Belz

Emily reports for WORLD Magazine from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emlybelz.

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