Paul Ryan’s ostensible support for religious liberty was exposed as a façade when he forced the House chaplain to resign. Now, Christian pastors are reproaching him for trying “to silence the Word of God.”
Ryan reportedly threatened Father Patrick Conroy with firing if he didn’t step down on his own. The impetus appeared to be Conroy’s denouncement of the GOP tax bill during a daily prayer last November.
Indeed, as one senior Democratic aide told Shareblue Media, “We believe he was pushed out because he was praying for justice and fairness.”
Such an act would seem to be in direct opposition of the religious ideals Ryan touts. And two Christian pastors are taking him to task for it.
In a letter to Ryan posted at Medium, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II of Repairers of the Breach and Minister Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove of School for Conversion labeled Ryan’s forced ouster of Conroy as nothing less than a “true attack on religious liberty.”
Conroy told The New York Times Ryan admonished him after his prayer for the poor, telling him, “Padre, you just got to stay out of politics.”
But Barber and Wilson-Hartgrove say it’s difficult to see “how you can read the Bible and stay out of politics.”
They quote Isaiah 10: “Woe unto you who legislate evil and rob the poor, making widows and orphans your prey.” The men also remind Ryan of Jeremiah 22, when God told him, “Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed.”
They highlight Jesus’ questions from the gospel of Matthew: “When I was hungry, did you feed me? When I was thirsty, did you give me something to drink?” And the epistle of James is even clearer: “The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you.”
Indeed, Barber and Wilson-Hartgrove point to “over 2,000 verses in the Bible” demanding justice for the poor. And they note the long history of religious involvement in social justice movements.
“If preachers had stayed out of politics, we wouldn’t have had the abolition movement to end slavery and win the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments. We wouldn’t have women’s suffrage, civil rights protections, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.”
But today, Ryan and his Republican colleagues — who blocked an investigation into Conroy’s firing — have shunted that history to the side in favor of cruel partisanship.
“Speaker Ryan, who claims to champion religious liberty, has acted to silence the moral truth of Scripture,” the pastors declare. And if Conroy had to go, so too would “Moses and Isaiah, Deborah and Jesus, Frederick Douglass and Francis Perkins, Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King.”
But Ryan’s attempt to silence Conroy didn’t work on Barber and Wilson-Hartgrove, nor on their organizations.
“As preachers we cannot remain silent while those with political power try to silence the Word of God.”
It’s not the first time Ryan’s antagonism to the values he claims to uphold has been challenged by religious authorities. And the condemnation is well deserved, considering the dearth of compassionand empathy evident in his politics.
Perhaps in retirement, Ryan will have some time to review the Scripture that Barber and Wilson-Hartgrove put forth — since he seems to have forgotten it.