NRB defends Dan Darling firing over vaccine comments, calls media narrative 'inaccurate, incomplete'

Dan Darling is vice president for communications at the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Dan Darling is vice president for communications at the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Following the controversial dismissal of its spokesman, Dan Darling, the National Religious Broadcasters clarified its stance on vaccines and denounced the media narrative surrounding the incident as “inaccurate, incomplete, and almost incomprehensible.”

One week after Darling was fired from his role as NRB Senior Vice President of Communications after publicly weighing in on why Christians should not hesitate to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the association’s board of directors issued a statement deeming the recent management actions "appropriate." 

“NRB only takes public policy positions on issues of direct interest to the work of its members, as well as on matters impacting the free exercise of religion, free speech and the freedom of the press. Accordingly, NRB has no policy or official position on vaccinations,” the board said in a statement made available to The Christian Post Friday.

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NRB has more than 1,100 members working in Christian radio, TV and other media. On its website, NRB says it seeks to advocate for the “free speech rights of our members.”

“While individual NRB members have wide-ranging views on the subject, the association has not weighed in on the question of the personal choices being made with respect to vaccines, because this is outside the scope of NRB’s public policy engagement," the board's statement continues. 

The board clarified that NRB’s neutrality on vaccines and other COVID-19-related mandates “should not be interpreted as neutrality” or a “lack of concern” about their impact on religious liberty. 

“We have seen, and the Supreme Court has confirmed, that many Covid-19 mandates have treated religious people and institutions in an unequal manner,” the statement reads. 

The board said it affirmed, “in every particular,” the actions of NRB CEO Troy Miller, who terminated Darling after TheOriginal Jesus author refused to sign a document saying that his comments during an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on vaccines were an act of insubordination.

During the segment, Darling expanded on an op-ed he wrote that was published by USA Today titled, "Why Christians should get the COVID vaccine." 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 said.

NRB leaders reportedly told Darling his statements violated the organization’s directive to remain neutral on COVID-19 vaccines. He was reportedly told to either sign a statement admitting he had been insubordinate or be fired. When he refused to sign a statement, Darling was fired.

Miller later explained on Twitter that the organization does not have an official policy on vaccines passed through an executive committee or board of directors as a resolution. 

Miller detailed he had issued a directive advising staff that “this is not an issue that NRB is called to advocate for one way or another.” He stressed that “from here out NRB stays neutral.” 

The CEO stated that “No NRB employee has ever been fired for their views on this subject.”

Darling’s dismissal sparked a media frenzy, with many condemning NRB’s actions. In its Friday statement, the NRB board said it considered the “runaway media narrative that developed in the aftermath of the dismissal” to have been “inaccurate, incomplete, and almost incomprehensible given the objective facts of the situation.”

Darling, a father of four who formerly worked with the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote in an Aug. 30 USA Today op-ed that he does not believe he violated an NRB policy on vaccines. He assured he harbors “no animosity toward my former employer, who are my brothers and sisters in Christ.”

“It was an honor to serve Christian communicators who work every day to share the Gospel around the world,” Darling wrote.

He issued a call to unity in a “very polarized nation,” adding: “There are perverse incentives against unity among Christians, to fail to give the benefit of the doubt, to rush to judgment, to make a name for ourselves by hurting our fellow brothers and sisters.”

“We don’t have to participate in cancel culture, because of the one who canceled our sin and gave us salvation," Darling added. 

The NRB board concluded its statement by vowing to “vigorously defend the First Amendment freedoms of its members, especially their right to speak out on issues regardless of their position” and “move forward speaking with one voice on issues related to Christian communicators’ ability to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ through every medium available.”

Critics of the firing noted online that Miller had earlier praised the vaccines' success.

In an April 13 email to supporters promoting NRB's annual Christian Media Convention, Miller is quoted as saying: “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.”

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