The United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) in New York has been forced to cover up a massive painting of Jesus with a white curtain after complaints from an advocacy group, The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). The Foundation’s mission is “ensuring that all members of the United States Armed Forces fully receive the Constitutional guarantees of religious freedom to which they and all Americans are entitled by virtue of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.” The MRFF’s founder, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, sent a letter to the USMMA’s Vice Admiral Joanna M. Noonan on January 10 in regards to the painting, stating he was representing 17 complainants of various faith and secular backgrounds and wrote, “I come to you this day to demand that the USMMA, which you currently command as its Superintendent, expeditiously remove a massive, sectarian painting illustrating the supremacy of Jesus Christ from the so-called “Elliot M. See Room” located inside of Wiley Hall, which serves as an administrative building at USMMA.” He added, “Admiral Nunan, I don’t want to belabor the brutally obvious point that this extremely large painting of Jesus is absolutely antithetical and destructive, as it is currently displayed, to the maintenance of good order, morale, discipline, and unit cohesion at USMMA, especially to non-Christians under your command.” Weinstein also drew upon Noonan’s experience in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) to plead her understanding of the need to remove the painting.
The painting in question, according to a statement by the USMMA, is a 10’x19’ artwork entitled “Jesus on the Water,” painted in 1944 by marine Lt. Hunter Wood, USMS. It displays a lifeboat of midshipmen adrift on the seas with Jesus walking on water nearby. The chapel originally hung in a basic training school chapel in California before being moved to the USMMA in New York. The room it is currently in had formerly been an interfaith chapel until 1961. One of Weinstein’s main objections to the painting was that the room is now used for various meetings and disciplinary councils and that the painting “clearly projects the sectarian supremacy of Jesus Christ.”
Vice Admiral Noonan was quick to respond to Weinstein’s request, stating she “had already identified similar concerns with this painting.” Although Weinstein asked for the painting to be moved to a more appropriate location, she stated it was too large to be moved anywhere else and that the painting would be covered with a curtain and a plaque would be made to discuss the painting’s historical significance. Weinstein told the Christian Post that he is satisfied with the result. “We feel that the use of the curtain covering the painting will serve to create even more positive teachable moments when observers inevitably ask why it is there at all and what is underneath,” he said.
Not everyone is pleased with the decision. A USMMA alum identified as Peter Lynch has started a petition to have the painting uncovered. “The decision to cover the painting was made with no opportunity for discussion,” Lynch wrote. He also noted the historicity of the painting, writing, “The painting is part of the legacy of the institution and has been present in Wiley Hall undisturbed since 1944.” He also added that the covering of a historical item that includes religious imagery is a violation of a Supreme Court precedent. As of this writing, the petition has over 3500 signatures.
Cecilia Buchanan is first a follower of Christ, wife to her wonderful husband, and blessed mother of three beautiful girls. She is an avid Inklings nerd and would spend all day reading if she could. She has a passion for writing about Christian living and culture, homeschooling, and adoption.
* Article from: Belief Net