April 27 (UPI) — Lawmakers are seeking answers from House Speaker Paul Ryan, as to why he dispatched the lower chamber’s chaplain — which was the first time the House’s top spiritual figure has ever been fired.
In House Chaplain Patrick Conroy’s resignation statement, he said Ryan had asked him to leave.
“As you have requested, I hereby offer my resignation as the 60th Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives,” the April 15 letter to Ryan said. Conroy had served as House chaplain since 2011.
Ryan, of Wisconsin, has not yet given a reason for the chaplain’s departure.
Some Democrats believe he was ousted over a prayer he’d given last year as lawmakers prepared to work toward the Republicans’ sweeping tax reform package.
In the Nov. 6 prayer, Conroy asked lawmakers to be “mindful” of economic disparities when considering the overhaul.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
The chaplain’s dismissal has been heavily criticized, particularly by Democrats.
“As someone who is a personal friend of Father Pat’s, as a lot of Democrats and Republicans are, I find it outrageous that he would be fired,” Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., told NBC News, adding Conroy was the first House chaplain in U.S. history to be dispatched.
North Carolina Republican Rep. Walter Jones said Conroy’s ouster is a “sad commentary” on the House. Virginia Democrat Gerry Connolly petitioned lawmakers to demand Ryan explain why he’d made the move. Connolly said he expects Ryan to receive the petition Friday.
“Speaker Ryan fires House Chaplain? Is nothing sacred?” he tweeted Thursday.
Ryan has appointed GOP Reps. Doug Collins of Georgia, Mark Walker of North Carolina and Tim Walberg of Michigan to find the next House chaplain.