|USA||ANTI-CATHOLIC PREJUDICE FALLOUT WORRIES REPUBLICANS|
Republican leaders who snubbed a Catholic priest in the choice for a new chaplain for the House of Congress have been accused of anti-Catholic bias that could have political repercussions.
The nominee for the position, Rev. Charles Wright, a Presbyterian minister, was selected by Republican leaders over Fr Timothy O'Brien, a Catholic priest and the top choice of a bipartisan committee of lawmakers.
Now the party's leaders are worried that the controversy could hurt its candidates, with Catholicism being the country's largest religious denomination.
Many Catholics are crying foul, and Democrats have refused to invite Wright to their retreat this weekend.
"It has a stink to it," said William Donahue, president of the 350,000-member Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. "What they want to do is keep the chaplain post in Protestant hands. There is a residue of anti-Catholicism embedded in the evangelical community. It shows up more often than some people want to admit."
The nation's founders made provisions during the First Continental Congress in 1774 to have a chaplain. The House has never had a Catholic chaplain.
AP 12:45am 2/2/00