May 1, 2018 – House Speaker Paul Ryan fired House Chaplain, Father Pat Conroy. It appears that it was because of the chaplain’s politics that the deed was done. It was because Conroy asked the members of the House to be fair in their deliberations of the 2018 tax bill, that it would be fair to all. His prayer to his Christian god was simple:
May their (Congress’s) efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.
Evidently, according to Ryan, some members of the GOP House felt threatened by this liberal position.
In addition, Conroy asked a Muslim religious leader to give the morning benediction to the Assembly. How blasphemous.
Ryan told lawmakers it was “because the chaplain is not administering to the pastoral needs of the Congress.”
But what if…
What if the real reason for the dismissal of Conroy was the Speaker’s realization that the First Amendment took precedence over the religious needs of the House chamber? What if the Speaker realized that the Constitution was a document the government of the United States needed to adhere to regardless of the religious majority’s pressure?
We are all familiar with the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
Regardless of the historical evidence that a chaplain of one Christian sect or another has given the invocation at the opening of each meeting of the House and Senate since 1789 – and most likely before that – there is no justification for a Christian minister giving the morning prayer. In fact, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and the ACLU have fought and won many a battle on the municipal and county level to permit even atheists to access to the podium for the morning words of encouragement. Preventing municipalities and counties from sanctioning Christianity as an official religion through the presentation of the Ten Commandments on government property. There is even a strong movement to change the national motto, “In God We Trust” to the original, “E Pluribus Unum.” (See chapter 10 of my book, A Christian Nation? An examination of Christian nation theories and proofs.)
The Amendment does not prevent individuals from praying to their god or gods, regardless of their faith. It does not prevent prayer meetings as long as the state is not involved in the process. The courts have stated over and over that everyone has the right to their own religious beliefs, or non-belief, as long as the there is no appearance that the state is sanctioning the religious overture. (There are some exceptions to this “rule,” including the assault of a child under religious pretext.)
What if Speaker Ryan has come to his senses, now that he is leaving the post as Speaker and possibly his seat in Congress? What if he has decided that the truth is better than the superstition of an invisible sky god? If it were not the partisan bickering and the fight to win over the 75 percent of the population that still believe in their Christian god (or gods, depending on how one counts), we may not be hearing from over 150 members of the chamber, some Democrats included, in protest of the firing of Conroy.
Should Ryan have taken this action sooner? Should other Speakers have taken action to dismiss the House Chaplain’s role in the daily operations of the House of Representatives?