Firing the House Chaplain for Dissing Tax Cuts Is Fine
Suppose Democrats were running the House of Representatives, and before they passed a health-care bill, the House chaplain delivered a prayer asking members to safeguard the free market and the bountiful prosperity it provides. And suppose House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked the chaplain not to insert political comments into his remarks, but the chaplain kept doing it, and Pelosi fired him. Would you be outraged?
I would not, and neither, I suspect, would any liberals. Yet the firing of House Chaplain Patrick Conroy for inserting subtle political messaging into his prayers has set off a small wave of liberal indignation.
... the House chaplain is not like a tenured faculty post at a university, which has some implicit protection for the right to give controversial political remarks. If you have a House chaplain — which I don’t even favor in the first place — you have no obligation to let them use the perch to push their own political values.
... Ryan’s beliefs about taxes may be horrid, but he has no obligation to let the House chaplain deliver subtle rebukes to his ideology.
But in mirror-image circumstances, Nancy Pelosi would be obligated to let the chaplain use the perch to push conservative values, if that's what the chaplain decided to do. If she didn't allow that, she'd be pilloried by the right-wing media as a jackbooted enforcer of liberal orthodoxy and an enemy of the Christian faith. Within days, mainstream-media op-ed columnists would turn on Pelosi, explaining that this hostility to heartland values is why Democrats lose so many elections.
Before we go further, go watch the prayer that caused all the fuss, courtesy of Roll Call. It's not very long. (I'd embed it, but it's auto-play.) Here's a complete transcript:
God of the universe, we give you thanks for giving us another day. Bless the members of this assembly as they set upon the work of these hours, of these days. Help them to make wise decisions in a good manner, and to carry their responsibilities steadily, with high hopes for a better future for our great nation. As legislation on taxes continues to be debated this week and next, 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. May your blessing, O God, be with them and with us all this day and every day to come, and may all we do be done for your greater honor and glory, amen.
If there's politicization, it's a very small part of an otherwise anodyne prayer.
Dismissal of a chaplain by Pelosi in response to one prayer would be treated as an attack on the chaplain's religious faith, because that's what happens every time a Democrat is less than deferential to Christianity. Democrats and liberals are routinely accused of "anti-religious bigotry,"of "Christian shaming," and of "treating people of faith like criminals."Pelosi couldn't possibly fire a chaplain without exposing herself to such accusations.
The dismissal would be a round-the-clock story on Fox for days -- or however long it took for the chaplain to be reinstated -- and even after he got his job back, the incident would be added to the right's permanent collection of grievances. So why shouldn't Democrats express their anger now?