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Paul Ryan raises hackles by forcing out House chaplain

April 27, 2018 GMT

Paul Ryan raises hackles by forcing out House chaplain

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Lawmakers are demanding answers after learning U.S. House chaplain Father Pat Conroy resigned earlier this month under pressure from Speaker Paul Ryan.

The Jesuit priest submitted his resignation letter on April 15, NBC News reports.

“As you have requested, I hereby offer my resignation as the 60th Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives,” the letter reads. “The position is one which I did not seek nor strive to assume, but I have seen it as a blessing and I have considered it one of the great privileges of my life.”

A Democratic aide tells The Hill that Ryan and other Republicans believe Conroy “was aligned with Democrats.”

NBC News says a prayer Conroy delivered in November before the House voted on the GOP tax bill might have upset Ryan and other Republicans.

“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 said in the prayer. “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.”

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But lawmakers from both parties say they’re upset with the news of Conroy’s departure. Legislators are drafting a bipartisan letter to send to Ryan seeking an explanation, CNN reports.

“It is just a sad commentary on America in the House that is supposed to be the House of the people — if we want to protect freedom of speech, a prayer here, then where are we going to protect it?” Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., tells NBC News.

AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Ryan, denies to CNN that Conroy was forced out for something he said or did, but did not offer a reason.

She said Ryan consulted with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and that she did not object to dismissing Conroy. A Pelosi spokesperson says Pelosi opposes the decision.

Conroy was nominated in 2011 by former Republican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio.