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Francis CollinsAlex Wong / Getty Images

(LifeSiteNews) – Throughout the national debate over the federal government’s response to COVID-19, advocates of masking and new vaccines have benefited from a chorus of prominent evangelical figures making the case that compliance with federal recommendations was not only prudent, but a moral imperative under Biblical principles.

That chorus, as detailed in a report this week by the Daily Wire’s Megan Basham, appears to have been largely the result of outreach efforts by former National Institutes of Health (NIH) director Francis Collins.

Previously the head of the Human Genome Project, for years Collins was widely respected as a proponent for the compatibility of science and faith, which was the subject of the organization he founded in 2007, the BioLogos Foundation. But in the years following his 2009 appointment by President Barack Obama to head NIH, Collins established that his values were much more secular in practice, from the use of aborted fetal tissue and embryo-destructive research to LGBT “pride” and “allyship.”

So it came as little surprise that, following the advent of COVID-19, Collins would echo the establishment line on shots for the virus, masking, lockdowns, and “consequences” for “misinformation.” Yet despite his various positions at odds with Christian principles, Collins found a receptive audience among influential evangelicals for his COVID messaging.

Basham collects numerous examples of evangelical leaders and influencers who have given Collins a platform, such as Wheaton College dean and Billy Graham Center executive director Ed Stetzer, on whose podcast Collins implored pastors to “try to use your credibility with your flock to put forward the public health measures that we know can work,” including COVID vaccines and even masking children, despite masks’ ineffectiveness, the virus’s miniscule threat to children, and the negative psycho-social effects of preventing small children from seeing other human faces.

The Billy Graham Center even formally partnered with the NIH and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) to publish a website promoting the injections to evangelicals, complete with Biden administration talking points and interviews with Collins and other health officials.

Other examples of evangelical leaders and organizations that gave Collins platforms to promote his claims unchallenged include the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), Saddleback Church and its pastor Rick Warren, theologian N.T. Wright, and Redeemer Presbyterian Church founder Timothy Keller, who agreed with Collins that churches refusing to suspend in-person worship services was “bad and ugly.”

Stetzer and others, including Christianity Today and the Gospel Coalition, also promoted Collins’ dismissals of the possibility that COVID-19 leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a view that has not only been supported by additional evidence since then, but which Collins and others were privately warned about yet wanted to suppress in the name of “science and international harmony.”

Others evangelical figures to publicly endorse Collins include ERLC’s Russel Moore, attorney and former National Review pundit David French, and Michael Gerson, speechwriter for former President George W. Bush.

“The Daily Wire reached out to Stetzer, Keller, Wright, Warren, Moore, and French to ask if they have changed their views on Collins given recent revelations” about Collins’ role in suppressing the lab-leak theory and funding gain-of-function research in China, Basham says. “None responded.”

“Francis Collins has been an especially successful envoy for the Biden administration, delivering messages to a mostly-Republican Christian populace who would otherwise be reluctant to hear them,” she continues. “In their presentation of Collins’ expertise, these pastors and leaders suggested that questioning his explanations as to the origins of the virus or the efficacy of masks was not simply a point of disagreement but sinful. This was a charge likely to have a great deal of impact on churchgoers who strive to live lives in accordance with godly standards. Perhaps no other argument could’ve been more persuasive to this demographic.”

“This does not mean these leaders necessarily knew that the information they were conveying to the broader Christian public could be false, but it does highlight the danger religious leaders face when they’re willing to become mouth organs of the government,” Basham warns.