Speaker Paul D. Ryan has sparked backlash from Republican and Democratic lawmakers over his decision to fire the House of Representatives chaplain, the Rev. Patrick J. Conroy.
Conroy revealed in a recent interview with The New York Times that Ryan had asked him to resign from his post, and suggested that the reason for the speaker's sudden request was because of the prayer he delivered about the tax overhaul in November.
"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," the priest stated in his prayer, according to The New York Times.
"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," he added.
Democratic lawmakers had reportedly tried to launch an investigation over Conroy's firing, but the attempt had been unsuccessful. Republicans, on the other hand, held a closed-door meeting on Friday to demand an explanation from Ryan about the firing.
During the meeting with House Republicans, Ryan explained that the chaplain was dismissed over complaints related to pastoral care rather than politics or prayer.
A House Democratic aide speaking on the condition of anonymity claimed that Ryan had disclosed to Democratic leader, Re. Nancy Pelosi, that Conroy was fired because the speaker was not pleased about the chaplain's interview with The National Journal.
In the interview, Conroy reportedly spoke about issues such as sexual harassment and how he handles workplace abuse while he was serving as chaplain at the House.
"Think about it: Who are the people that run for office?" the priest reportedly stated, according to The New York Times. "Are they all highly skilled in every endeavor? No! They're not. Many of them, I can tell you, don't know how to say hello in the hallway, let alone work with office people that maybe they don't think they have to listen to," he went on to say.
Pelosi stressed that she disagreed with Ryan's decision and contended that the speaker did not have the authority to fire Conroy.
Conroy, who was assigned to the post by Republican Rep. John Boehner in 2011, was the first ever chaplain to be fired from the House of Representatives, according to Democrat Rep. Joe Crowley, who described the priest's dismissal as "outrageous."
A letter signed by 148 of Congress was sent to Ryan, demanding answers on why the chaplain was dismissed from his post. Out of 148 signatories, only one of them was Republican.