Written by Steve Cannon for USSA News.
A painting of Jesus at the US Merchant Marine Academy in New York has been covered after complaints that the religious image should not be visible in a space that is used for mandatory activities. The painting, which depicts Jesus with his arms outstretched over a lifeboat filled with sailors lost at sea, was located in the “Elliot M. See Room” inside of Wiley Hall, an administrative building at the academy.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) received 18 complaints, including 5 from Jews, requesting that the painting be removed or moved to a more appropriate location, like a chapel. Michael Weinstein, the founder of MRFF, wrote a letter to Vice Admiral Nunan, the academy’s superintendent, demanding the removal of the painting, stating that it is “absolutely antithetical and destructive” to the maintenance of good order, morale, discipline, and unit cohesion at the academy.
Admiral Nunan promptly responded, stating that the painting’s size made it impossible to move, but she would purchase a curtain to be placed in front of the painting, which would block the painting from view but also allow those who wish to view it the opportunity to do so. Additionally, she asked the Director of the American Merchant Marine Museum to prepare a plaque that explains the history of the painting and will be installed near it.
This move has sparked debate on religious freedom and the appropriateness of displaying religious images in public spaces. While some argue that the painting should be removed or covered to respect the diversity of religious beliefs among academy members, others argue that the painting is a symbol of hope and protection for sailors lost at sea and should be allowed to remain visible.
Regardless of one’s stance on the issue, it is clear that the painting has caused division and discomfort among academy members, and the academy’s decision to cover it is a step towards creating a more inclusive and respectful environment for all.