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Speaker Ryan forces House chaplain to resign, Dems say tied to tax law prayer

Alex Edelman/Getty Images
Alex Edelman/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — An aide to Speaker Paul Ryan Thursday refused to say exactly why he forced the House chaplain to resign last week but Democrats contend his dismissal is due to a prayer Father Patrick Conroy delivered last year as lawmakers prepared to begin consideration of tax reform – irking Republicans.

While a senior GOP leadership aide maintains that “there was not a specific prayer” that led to Ryan’s decision to request Conroy’s resignation, Democrats point to his prayer November 6, when he warned members to “be mindful” of economic disparities among social classes, and cautioned legislators not to pick “winners and losers under new tax laws.”

“As legislation on taxes continues to be debated this week and next, may all Members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great Nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle,” Conroy prayed in the House chamber. “May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”

A Democratic aide also further asserted that “some of the more conservative evangelical Republicans didn’t like that the Father had invited a Muslim person to give the opening prayer.”

A Ryan aide refused to comment on the specific reasons Ryan demanded Conroy’s resignation.

The story was first reported by Roll Call.

Conroy’s resignation letter, read on the House floor last week, states it was requested by Ryan.

“As you have requested, I hereby offer my resignation as the 60th Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives,” Conroy wrote April 15. “It has been an honor to serve the People’s House for these nearly seven years. After a mutual consideration, it is determined my final day will be 24 May 2018.”

A senior House GOP aide and a senior Pelosi aide say Leader Pelosi was consulted throughout the personnel decision.

“The speaker consulted with the minority leader, but the decision was his,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said. “He remains grateful for Father Conroy’s service.”

A Pelosi aide says she “made it clear to the Speaker that she had only received positive comments about Father Conroy’s service from Members,” and “also made it clear to Speaker Ryan that she disagreed with this decision.”

Conroy, a Jesuit priest, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He was appointed by former House Speaker John Boehner in 2011.

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