One week after abruptly terminating their top spokesman over his pro-vaccination comments on MSNBC, an executive committee of the National Religious Broadcasters’ board of directors said Friday it “affirms in every detail” the August 27 firing of pastor Daniel Darling.
The statement backed the actions of Troy A. Miller, the group’s chief executive officer in firing the NRB’s senior vice president of communications. Mr. Darling’s firing generated national headlines and again raised questions about the image of evangelical Christianity in the United States, a movement rocked by numerous scandals over the past 18 months.
A statement released Sept. 3 by the District-based evangelical group said the executive committee “unanimously” backed a resolution supporting the firing “in every particular.’”
The statement did not specify how the ten-member executive committee, a subset of the organization’s much larger board of directors, met, or provide details of the deliberations. The most prominent members of the executive committee are former NRB CEO Frank Wright, who is now president and CEO of Coral Ridge Ministries Media, and Mike Farris, president, CEO and general counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious liberty-focused law firm.
Although the publicly released text of the statement did not include Mr. Darling’s name, his identity as “the dismissed employee” has been widely disclosed following an initial report by Religion News Service and in subsequent reporting by The Washington Times and other news outlets.
According to the NRB statement, “The committee considers 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.” The statement offered no specific rebuttal to the “runaway media narrative” it criticized.
Friday’s statement said the executive committee “generally does not discuss employment matters in public forums,” but noted that “the recent public controversy” surrounding Mr. Darling’s dismissal prompted “a thorough investigation” by the panel.
The group stressed that it “has no policy or official position on vaccinations,” the statement noted, adding, “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.”
At the same time, the statement indicated, “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.”
While the Supreme Court has ruled in several cases against state-ordered restrictions on in-person worship at churches and synagogues, the high court has not struck down any vaccine mandates as yet. On August 12, associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett refused to block a vaccine mandate imposed on students at Indiana University.
Speaking to The Washington Times on August 30, Mr. Miller asserted “The dismissal [was] Mr. Darling’s choice.” He said the now-former spokesman “was given the option for another position within the organization that would have afforded him [a] salary, full benefits, and to continue working for NRB. And he chose not to take that position.”
A source close to Mr. Darling who has knowledge of the situation said the new job would have required signing a statement acknowledging “insubordination” and accepting a $50,000 pay cut.
Asked to confirm these details, Mr. Miller said “It was clearly an issue of subordination that was removing him from his position as senior vice president. And yes, he was going to a lower position.”
Some 1,100 organizations are members of the NRB, a 77-year-old trade group, including many of the country’s leading evangelical broadcast ministries, as well as the radio, television, and cable/streaming outlets that feature their programming.