Congressional chaplain's ouster after prayer over tax law generates controversy on Capitol Hill

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A congressional chaplain who was forced to resign last week by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., reportedly ran into trouble with Republican lawmakers in part because of a prayer he gave last fall while Congress was deliberating over the tax reform law.

House Chaplain Patrick Conroy’s dismissal has led to controversy in recent days after The Hill released a letter from him Thursday claiming his resignation came at Ryan’s request. The reason is still unclear, but according to published reports in the Huffington Post and the Washington Post, some GOP lawmakers were still upset about the prayer Conroy offered last November saying he hoped the tax legislation would have no “winners and losers.”

“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 reportedly 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.”

After the prayer, Conroy said Ryan told him, “Padre, you just got to stay out of politics.”

Democrats claimed they heard from several Republicans that they objected to the prayer, but Ryan has reportedly denied it played a role in Conroy’s ouster. Others believe the dismissal stemmed from a clash between the Catholic chaplain's religious beliefs and those of evangelical GOP lawmakers who complained he wasn't meeting their pastoral needs. Rep. Joseph Conroy, D-N.Y., read a resolution Friday supported by dozens of other Democrats calling for a six-member committee to investigate the “motivations and actions” of Ryan for demanding Conroy’s resignation. But the proposal was rejected by a vote of 215 to 171, according to the Huffington Post, even though two Republicans voted to support it.

It would be the first time a congressional chaplain has been forced to resign. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., pointed out that Conroy was only a few months away from completing his term, but it will now be over on May 24.

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