How appropriate that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan asked House Chaplain Father Patrick Conroy to resign. After all, any resemblance of Christianity left the House years ago.

Conroy has three graduate degrees including a Master of Divinity, a Master of Sacred Theology and a law degree. He has been a parish priest as well as a pastor for several Native American reservations. He was chaplain of Georgetown University and Seattle University. Using his skills as an attorney, he advocated for Salvadoran refugees for the Conference of Catholic Bishop's Immigration Office. Conroy does what most good Catholic priests do — they advocate for and serve the poor, exactly what Christ told all of us to do.

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Conroy has been House chaplain since May 25, 2011, and has the honor of being the first of 60 House chaplains to be asked to resign. Conroy has since rescinded his resignation. He and Ryan planned to meet this week to discuss his tenure.

Why did Ryan ask Conroy to resign? It seemed that Conroy's prayers were too Christian for Ryan, a fellow Catholic. He talked too much about the virtues of Jesus Christ and the values of Christianity in his prayers on the House floor. Ryan denies this and says that Conroy was asked to leave because he was not a good pastor to individual members. Conroy and other House members, however, tell a different story.

Here is Conroy's prayer read before the tax bill debate: "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. 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."

After he read the prayer, Conroy said he received a message from a staff member from Ryan's office: "We are upset with this prayer; you are getting too political." This was not the first time Conroy was told by Ryan that his prayers were "too political," according to Conroy. Conroy also shared an incident when Ryan told him, "Padre, you just got to stay out of politics."

Too political? Wasn't Christ nailed to a cross because he was too political? When did caring for the poor become too political and not a basic tenant of Christianity that Ryan and his members say they prescribe? What brand of Catholicism or Christianity does Ryan practice where caring for the poor is too political?

Saying "Merry Christmas" is now encouraged, but praying a Christian prayer on the House floor can get you fired. So much for the freedom of religion theme Republicans talk about. It seems that freedom of religion allows you to discriminate against gay people, but a good Christian prayer has become, as they say, politically incorrect.

Perhaps Conroy was being too honest, something uncommon in Washington today. Honesty is central to Christianity as outlined in the ninth of the Ten Commandments, "You shall not bear false witness." Ryan has never been honest about who will enjoy the biggest benefits of the tax bill; benefits which are certainly not "balanced and shared by all Americans" as Conroy prayed. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida admitted as much recently when he said about the $1.5 trillion tax cuts, "There's no evidence whatsoever that the money's been massively poured back into the American worker."

Evangelicals want the Ten Commandments on display in government buildings, but then support politicians who don't follow them. They support a president who can't seem to tell the truth or follow the Seventh Commandment, "You shall not commit adultery." They can't support the idea that a man can make a lifelong commitment to another man, but they embrace a man who has cheated on all three of his wives, who admits to having paid hush money to at least one porn star, and who has been accused of sexual assault by over a dozen other women. On the bright side, evangelicals are having to learn to be more flexible and less judgmental in their beliefs. I guess anything is for sale, even one's faith.

The current House, with Ryan as their leader, voted over 50 times to remove over 20 million poor and disabled Americans from their health care insurance. I'm not aware of any religion that targets the poor and disabled for harm. I'm not aware of any religion that advocates for more money for the rich over services for the poor.

Stop the charade. Cut the chaplain and the prayer. Give his salary to the poor.



Tom Zirpoli writes from Westminster. He is program coordinator of the human services management graduate program at McDaniel College. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at tzirpoli@mcdaniel.edu.

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