Evangelical author Dan Darling has been fired from his role at the National Religious Broadcasters after he violated the organization’s vaccine neutrality policy.
Darling, who served as the senior vice president of communications for the NRB, a “nonpartisan, international association of Christian communicators whose member organizations represent millions of listeners, viewers, and readers,” was fired on Friday, according to a report from Religion News Service.
The Original Jesus author was fired after he refused to sign a document recanting comments he made during an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" where he elaborated on his recent op-ed in USA Today titled, "Why Christians should get the COVID vaccine," and why his Christian beliefs compelled him to get vaccinated.
The NRB has a policy of remaining neutral on vaccines, however.
During the Aug. 18 broadcast, Darling told co-host Joe Scarborough that getting the vaccine fulfills the biblical mandate to “love our neighbors.”
“We are to love our neighbors, and one of the things we do when we get a vaccine is we not only protect ourselves, but we also do our part ... from spreading the virus and hurting our neighbor,” Darling told Scarborough.
In the Aug. 1 op-ed piece, Darling wrote:
"I believe in this vaccine because I don’t want to see anyone else die of COVID. Our family has lost too many close friends and relatives to COVID, including an uncle, a beloved church member and our piano teacher.
"There are not many things in the world today that are worthy of our trust, but I sincerely believe the COVID-19 vaccine is one of them. As a Christian and an American, I was proud to get it."
Leaders at NRB reportedly told Darling his statements violated the organization’s policy regarding vaccines. He was told to either sign a statement admitting he had been insubordinate or be fired. When he refused to sign a statement, Darling was fired, according to RNS.
In a statement reported by Ruth Graham of The New York Times and shared on Twitter, Darling said he was “sad and disappointed that my time at NRB has come to a close,” adding it was an “honor” to work for the organization.
“I am grieved that the issues that divide our country are dividing Christians,” he said in the statement. Darling said he hopes to “build bridges and bring Christians together” while “unifying believers around the truth of the Gospel.”
Some who were stunned by the firing noted that NRB CEO Troy Miller had earlier praised the vaccines' success, stating in an April 13 email to supporters: “We are increasingly encouraged by good news as new vaccination records are set daily and COVID-19 cases continue to fall around the country. Though new variants have emerged, research shows that vaccines are mostly effective against the vast majority of new variants. Overall, the COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be stunningly effective.”
The Christian Post contacted Darling and NRB for comment on this story, but their responses were not received by press time.
Prior to his time at NRB, Darling served as vice president for communications for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant denomination.
On Twitter, Russell Moore, former president of the ERLC, called Darling’s firing “inexcusable” and “insanity.” Phillip Bethancourt, pastor of Central Church in College Station, Texas, called his firing “disappointing” and described Darling as one of the “most high character leaders I know.”
With more than 1,100 members, 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.
A recent NBC News poll asking Americans about their vaccination status found that 59% of white evangelicals were fully vaccinated. It also found that 69% of all adults have been vaccinated. The poll did not disclose the responses of non-white evangelicals.
In February, a Pew survey of 10,121 U.S. adults found that 54% of white evangelicals “definitely or probably” planned on getting vaccinated or already had received at least one dose of the vaccine.