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Speaker Paul Ryan forced out the Jesuit priest who had served as House chaplain since 2011 because he said in a prayer during deliberations on tax cuts that lawmakers should be “fair to all Americans,” a new report said Thursday.
The Rev. Patrick Conroy’s letter of resignation, a copy of which was obtained by The Hill, said that he was stepping down because of a request from the Wisconsin Republican, who is also a Catholic.
“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.
Four sources — two from each party — told the website that Conroy was told that he must retire or that he would be canned.
Some of the sources said Ryan thought Conroy favored Democrats in the House, and cited the prayer and the priest’s invite to a Muslim to offer a prayer before the chambers as the reasons behind the chaplain’s demise.
Democrats believe that Ryan pushed Conroy out “because Republicans thought he was aligned with Democrats,” according to a senior Democratic aide familiar with the discussion.
One Democratic lawmaker said Ryan objected to the prayer on the House floor that Republicans viewed as critical of the GOP tax-cut bill.
A second Democratic aide told The Hill that Conroy’s ouster was “largely driven by a speech on the tax bill that the Speaker didn’t like,” and also offered the second explanation.
“Some of the more conservative evangelical Republicans didn’t like that the Father had invited a Muslim person to give the opening prayer,” the source said.
But a senior GOP aide said Conroy’s exit “was not because of any particular prayer.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California brought up the forced resignation during the Democrats’ whip meeting in the Capitol Thursday morning.
Ashlee Strong, a spokesman for Ryan, said it was the Speaker’s decision, but offered no explanation for the move, adding that Pelosi and her office “were fully read in and did not object.”
Pelosi’s office disputed that she didn’t object.
“Leader Pelosi was given advance notice by Speaker Ryan,” said a Pelosi spokesman, but she “also made it clear to Speaker Ryan that she disagreed with this decision.”
Ryan, who is also Catholic, has appointed Reps. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) and Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), both former pastors, to lead the search effort to find a new chaplain for when Conroy leaves at the end of May.
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