April 27 (UPI) -- House Speaker Paul Ryan said Friday he dismissed House Chaplain Patrick Conroy, the lower chamber's top spiritual figure, after complaints from other lawmakers.
In his resignation statement, Conroy said Ryan had asked him to leave.
"As you have requested, I hereby offer my resignation as the 60th Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives," he wrote in a letter to Ryan last week.
Conroy had served as House chaplain since 2011.
Ryan, of Wisconsin, told House Republicans Friday he dismissed Conroy because some lawmakers felt their "pastoral needs" were not being met.
Ryan said the lawmakers told him they needed a chaplain who offers more "spiritual counseling," and that it was just "time for a change."
Some Democrats, however, believe he was ousted over a prayer he'd given last year amid House Republicans' sweeping tax reform efforts.
In the Nov. 6 prayer, Conroy asked lawmakers to be "mindful" of economic disparities when considering the overhaul.
"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," he said.
"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."
Ryan said Friday the decision had nothing to do with politics, any policy conflict or the prayer.
Conroy's dismissal has been criticized by lawmakers, particularly Democrats.
"As someone who is a personal friend of Father Pat's, as a lot of Democrats and Republicans are, I find it outrageous that he would be fired," Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., told NBC News, adding Conroy was the first House chaplain in U.S. history to be dispatched.
North Carolina Republican Rep. Walter Jones said Conroy's ouster is a "sad commentary" on the House. Virginia Democrat Gerry Connolly petitioned lawmakers to demand Ryan explain why he'd made the move. Connolly said he expects Ryan to receive the petition Friday.
"Speaker Ryan fires House Chaplain? Is nothing sacred?" he tweeted Thursday.