Why do we need a chaplain in Congress, anyway?

May 2, 2018

By Rachel K. Laser

Patrick J. Conroy’s forced resignation as chaplain of the House of Representatives — attributed to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) — has opened up a new round of partisan and religious divisions in Congress. But if there’s any upside, it’s this: We now see clearly why it’s time to do away with taxpayer-funded, government-supported congressional chaplains.

The controversy surrounding Conroy’s departure illustrates how chaplains in Congress inevitably sully religion with politics. Some believe that Ryan fired Conroy because Ryan perceived him to have delivered a prayer that was critical of the Republican tax bill. (Ryan has denied this.) Others believe that Conroy was secretly aligned with the Democrats and find proof in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s disagreement with Ryan’s decision to fire Conroy.

The partisan battle over the chaplaincy escalated when Democratic Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.) asked for an investigation into the reason for Conroy’s termination, but Republicans voted it down. Next, in the search for a new chaplain, Republican Rep. Mark Walker (N.C.), a Baptist minister who was on the hiring committee for the new chaplain, announced his preference for a chaplain with children, who he believes could better relate to the experience of most members. Some perceived Walker’s support for this qualification to be a thinly veiled effort to obtain an evangelical Christian chaplain to please one segment of the Republican base.

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4 comments on “Why do we need a chaplain in Congress, anyway?

  • We don’t need a chaplain in Congress and we shouldn’t have one. We have one because too many members of Congress don’t accept that we are supposed to be a secular nation, for good reasons, and continually work to force their religious beliefs into the government and onto the country, for not-so-good reasons.



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  • @OP – The controversy surrounding Conroy’s departure illustrates how
    chaplains in Congress inevitably **sully religion with politics*.

    Surely the reality is, that they (and fellow faith-thinkers) sully secular politics with the divisions of sectarian religion!



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  • I see that having had protests about him leaving, he is now back!
    Of course pretending that he can carry out duties of chaplaincy for all when he is a Catholic clergyman is ridiculous – unless viewed through “faith” blinkers!

    @OP – Republican Rep. Mark Walker (N.C.), a Baptist minister who was on the hiring committee for the new chaplain, announced
    his preference for a chaplain with children,
    who he believes could better relate to the experience of most members.

    Some perceived Walker’s support for this qualification to be
    a thinly veiled effort to obtain an evangelical Christian chaplain
    to please one segment of the Republican base.

    I wonder why faithful Catholics would NOW see this required qualification as biased? 🙂

    Come to think of it:- why not a qualification of family experience with candidates having at least three wives? 🙂



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