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House chaplain maintains post despite controversy in previous Congress

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Posted at 6:04 AM, Jan 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-04 06:04:06-05

The House voted Thursday night to keep Rev. Pat Conroy as House Chaplain less than a year after he was ousted in a controversial move by then-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and then returned to the job weeks later.

Conroy was approved by a voice vote in the House alongside several other officials, despite Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, the party’s newly elected conference chair, motioning for a separate vote for Conroy.

Last April, after seven years of service to the House, Conroy claims he was pushed to resign by Ryan, who requested he step down from his post — but speculation swirled regarding Ryan’s motivations for asking for the resignation of the man whose job is to pray at the outset of each congressional session.

Conroy claimed at the time that it was because he was Catholic, and also claimed he was told by Ryan’s chief of staff that “maybe it’s time that we had a Chaplain that wasn’t a Catholic.” Jonathon Burks, Ryan’s chief of staff, strongly disagreed with Conroy’s recollection of the conversation.

More than two weeks after tendering his resignation to Ryan, Conroy rescinded his resignation.

“At that point, I thought that I had little choice but to resign, as my assumption was that you had the absolute prerogative and authority to end my term as House chaplain,” he wrote in his letter. Ryan ultimately accepted Conroy’s letter reversing his decision, and Conroy served his full term.

Several members of the House jumped to Conroy’s defense through the controversy, including newly elected Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

“Speaker Ryan’s decision to accept Father Conroy’s decision to rescind his resignation and finish his term is welcome news,” Pelosi said last year. “However, many distressing questions must still be answered about the motivations behind Father Conroy’s unwarranted and unjust dismissal.”