Ryan Makes First Public Comments on Chaplain Firing

‘This is not about politics or prayers. It was about pastoral services,’ speaker says

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., said his decision to fire House Chaplain Patrick J. Conroy was not about politics or prayers. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Speaker Paul D. Ryan on Monday made his first public comments on his decision to fire House Chaplain Patrick J. Conroy, repeating the rationale he provided in a closed-door House Republican Conference meeting Friday

“Father Conroy is a good man and I am grateful for his many years of service to the House,” the Wisconsin Republican said at the Weekly Standard’s Midwest Conservative Summit in Milwaukee. “This is not about politics or prayers. It was about pastoral services. And a number of our members felt like the pastoral services were not being adequately served or offered.”

Ryan said one of his responsibilities as speaker is to be “a guardian of the institution” and that sometimes involves making decisions that may not be politically popular. He said his decision to request Conroy’s resignation was made on behalf of the House and was something he had been contemplating for some time.

“It’s based on feedback I’ve been getting for quite a while from members,” the speaker said. “And again as a person who stands up for the institution I just wanted to make sure that we have pastoral services that are being adequately offered on a go forward basis for all of our members.”

Ryan’s decision was effectively backed by a majority of House Republicans who on Friday voted to table a Democratic resolution to form a select committee to look into the circumstances surrounding Conroy’s ouster.

Only two Republicans, Reps. Tom Reed of New York and Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania, voted with Democrats against the motion to table the resolution. The vote was Meehan’s last before he announced his resignation, effective that day

Democrats said they plan to continue looking into the matter and might pursue further legislative or procedural actions when the House returns next week. Congress is in recess this week.

Ryan’s decision to fire Conroy has led some members to ask questions about religious freedom and whether Ryan was being pressured by evangelical Republicans whose views may not align with the Conroy’s Jesuit beliefs. 

Those religious tensions are likely to persist during the process to select the next chaplain. Ryan said the process will be bipartisan. 

Reps. Doug Collins, R-Ga., and Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., are leading the selection committee. 

Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said they will have more to share on the bipartisan panel that will be recommending the next chaplain in the near future, noting they are awaiting Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's selections for the Democratic members of the panel.

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