Congress fights over House chaplain’s ouster

WASHINGTON — Fights in Congress are nothing new, but no one can ever recall a dispute over the House chaplain. Congress argues all the time over almost everything. On Friday, it chose to fight about — of all things — the House chaplain.

Just over 10 days ago, Father Pat Conroy abruptly resigned. Conroy said he was forced out by House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The 67-year-old Catholic priest has been chaplain since 2011, delivering the morning prayer before each session. In November, he said this during the debate over tax reform: “May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws but benefits balanced and shared by all.”

Ryan told Republicans on Friday that Conroy’s ouster had nothing to do with a specific prayer, but rather, because he’d heard complaints Conroy was not meeting lawmakers’ spiritual needs.

“I was completely shocked. I was unprepared to learn that he’d been fired,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va.

Connolly is just one of at least 150 members in both parties asking Ryan for a better explanation.

“To be the first House chaplain removed in the history of Congress in the middle of term raises serious question, and I think we deserve more of an explanation as to why,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.

Conroy declined CBS News’ request for an interview, but told The New York Times he wasn’t given a formal explanation for his dismissal. All of this a good reminder that politics and religion don’t mix — especially in Washington.

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