Lawmakers demand answers on chaplain firing

Lawmakers demand answers on chaplain firing
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is demanding answers from Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDems unveil slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia National Dems make play in Ohio special election Trump vows to hold second meeting with Putin MORE (R-Wis.) about why he forced House Chaplain Patrick Conroy to resign.

The group, led by Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyTrump EPA eases standards for coal ash disposal Overnight Energy: Fewer than half of school districts test for lead | Dems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act | FEMA avoids climate change when discussing plan for future storms Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog won’t drop Pruitt probes | Exxon leaves conservative advocacy group | Lawmakers offer changes to Endangered Species Act MORE (D-Va.), is planning to send a letter to Ryan to ask for a “description of the process followed to arrive at the decision and a justification for that decision.”

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“We believe that, absent such details, questions will inevitably arise about the politicization of the process for hiring and dismissing a House chaplain,” the lawmakers wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Hill. “Not revealing such details could also risk resurrecting prior questions of religious bias.”

“Absent transparency, we are also concerned about the implicit damage done to the reputation of the House chaplain personally,” the lawmakers add. “Continued silence on this matter could allow unfair and utterly unfounded inferences to be made about his character and the evenhandedness of the House on dealing in matters of faith.”

Reps. Walter JonesWalter Beaman JonesDems unveil slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia GOP rep refutes Trump's account of Sanford attacks: 'People were disgusted' Trump claims Sanford remarks booed by lawmakers were well-received MORE (R-N.C.), Marcy KapturMarcia (Marcy) Carolyn KapturOvernight Energy: Two top Pruitt aides quit | Trump offers support for Pruitt | EPA spokesman calls reporter 'a piece of trash' | Pruitt praises Chick-Fil-A as 'franchise of faith' Dems put squeeze on Ryan over chaplain controversy House chaplain rescinds resignation MORE (D-Ohio), and Carol Shea-PorterCarol Shea-PorterOvernight Defense: Top general defends Afghan war progress | VA shuffles leadership | Pacific Command gets new leader, name | Pentagon sued over HIV policy Lawmakers demand answers on chaplain firing Sanders expresses pride, but says his son will run his own campaign in New Hampshire MORE (D-N.H.) are also spearheading the effort; the letter is currently being circulated to other colleagues to collect more signatures.

The effort comes after The Hill reported on Thursday that Conroy’s retirement — announced by the Speaker’s office last week — was not voluntary, as lawmakers had initially believed.

Republican and Democratic sources say that Conroy, who has been in the role since 2011, was forced out by Ryan.

Catholic members on both sides of the aisle were furious to learn that Conroy was pushed out against his will, according to multiple sources, including one Republican lawmaker and one Democratic member.

It’s unclear exactly what led to the chaplain’s dismissal.

A Democratic lawmaker, as well as a Democratic aide, said that Conroy was ousted because he offered a prayer on the House floor that could have been perceived as being critical of the GOP tax-cut bill. 

A senior GOP aide said Conroy’s exit “was not because of any particular prayer."

Ryan, who is also Catholic, has appointed Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), an Air Force Reserve chaplain, as well as Reps. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) and Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), both former pastors, to lead the search effort to find a replacement.