“I am grieved that the issues that divide our country are dividing Christians,” he said in the statement, adding that he intended to devote himself to “unifying believers around the truth of the Gospel.”
The spokesman for the National Religious Broadcasters, @dandarling, urged his fellow Christians to get vaccinated. Today, he was fired for violating its "policy of remaining neutral about COVID-19 vaccines." https://t.co/HA3t0gPHcn
— Ruth Graham (@publicroad) August 27, 2021
While on “Morning Joe,” Darling said his Christian faith played a key role in his decision to be vaccinated — saying the Bible’s command to love our neighbors informed that decision. The vaccine, he said, helps protect our neighbors from the spread of COVID-19.
Darling also expressed sympathy for those who are hesitant to be vaccinated, seeing it as part of a larger breakdown of trust in American culture.
“When trust goes down,” he said on the show, “belief in conspiracies goes up.”
White evangelical Christians and Hispanic Protestants are among the faith groups most likely to be hesitant or refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccines, according to a recent survey from the Public Religion Research Institute. That study found vaccine hesitancy dropped among many faith groups from March 2021 to June 2021.
Still, 1 in 4 white evangelicals said they refuse to get a vaccine, while an additional 1 in 5 was hesitant, according to PRRI.
Darling criticized those who try to shame people who are vaccine-hesitant or who rejoice when someone who was unvaccinated becomes ill with COVID. Neither of those approaches is helpful, he said on the show.
He also encouraged his fellow evangelicals to consider following his example.
“I do encourage folks to talk to their doctor and really consider it, just because we just don’t want to see anyone else unnecessarily die of this lethal virus,” he said.
In a statement posted on social media, Miller stated that no employee at NRB had ever been terminated for their views on COVID-19 vaccines and that staff had been directed that NRB “stays neutral” about vaccines.
Miller also denied Darling had been fired. Instead, Miller said in his statement that Darling had been offered “a path to another position that would have provided a significant salary and full benefits.”
“He turned that offer down and chose to depart NRB,” Miller said the statement.
However, RNS has confirmed that the letter detailing Darling’s firing specifically cited his appearance on “Morning Joe” and Darling’s statements about vaccines as violations of the “stay neutral” directive.
“The employee is being terminated for willful insubordination,” the letter stated.
Founded in 1944, the NRB “works to protect the free speech rights of our members by advocating those rights in governmental, corporate, and media sectors, and works to foster excellence, integrity, and accountability in our membership by providing networking, educational, ministry, and relational opportunities,” according to its website.
The organization recently emerged from a period of fiscal distress, after operating with a series of significant budget deficits from 2012 to 2018, according to financial disclosures filed with the Internal Revenue Service. In the fiscal year 2018, the NRB had nearly $300,000 more in liabilities than assets. In 2019 and 2020, the organization had more revenue than expenses.
In the past, NRB’s CEO Miller has touted the benefits of vaccines in emails promoting the NRB’s annual convention, which draws thousands of attendees and features a massive exhibition space.
In December 2020, Miller announced that the dates for the convention, originally set for March 2020 in Grapevine, Texas, had been pushed back three months due to the ongoing pandemic. The change in dates, he said, was prompted in part by vaccines, which would help make it possible for the convention to be a “valuable and safe experience for all who attend.