(LifeSiteNews) — The United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) has covered with curtains a painting depicting Jesus Christ overlooking seamen adrift in a lifeboat after an anti-Christian activist demanded that the painting be removed.
The 1944 painting titled “Christ on the Water,” which portrays seamen adrift “presumably after being torpedoed in the Indian Ocean during World War II,” according to the USMMA, is hung in a conference room of the Academy’s main administration building, a spokesperson for the Maritime Administration (MARAD) told Fox News Digital.
Military Religious Freedom Foundation founder Mikey Weinstein, who has essentially made it his life’s mission to remove all traces of Christianity and faith in God from the military, submitted a complaint to USSMA Superintendent Vice Admiral Joanna Nunan, demanding that she “expeditiously remove a massive, sectarian painting illustrating the supremacy of Jesus Christ” from Wiley Hall.
Weinstein said his complaint represents 18 academy midshipmen, faculty, and graduates, who he said “quite correctly believe that the display of the ‘Jesus painting’ is totally violative of the clear time, place and manner requirements of the No Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”
“It’s as though USMMA is screaming that ‘Jesus Christ is the only approved solution to all of life’s difficulties,'” he added.
In response, the academy decided to “cover the painting with curtains, and … also install a plaque describing its history.”
The USMMA explained in a statement, “When deciding on a solution to the concerns raised, the Academy explored multiple options to comply with the law while seeking to balance the interests of everyone in our community. Our priority is to ensure the Academy is a welcoming environment for all and that it respects all religions without endorsing one over any others.”
USMMA alum Peter Lynch has launched a petition in an effort to overturn the academy’s decision, which has collected over 4,500 signatures.
The petition states that the “historic painting … has conveyed hope and inspiration to nearly every class of midshipmen to come through the Academy,” and is “part of the legacy of the institution.”
The petition also noted that the decision to cover the painting “is against legal precedent set by the Supreme Court for historic displays which include religious symbolism.”
In a letter calling for Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to “act immediately to correct” USMMA’s decision, since the academy falls under Buttigieg’s department, Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana likewise pointed out that in 2019 the Supreme Court ruled that historic displays with religious symbolism are not a violation of the constitution.
The ruling denied a challenge to “a 40-foot, government-maintained Christian cross erected in memorial to Christian soldiers lost in the First World War,” Blaze Media noted.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the court opinion that the removal of the cross “would be seen by many not as a neutral act but as the manifestation of ‘a hostility toward religion that has no place in our Establishment Clause traditions.”
While Weinstein cites the Constitution’s prohibition of laws “establishing” a religion, historians attribute the origin of the amendment to the founding fathers’ desire to avoid an official federally supported church, like the Church of England, not a desire to suppress religious expression in public life.
Banks has observed that Weinstein is “so extreme that he has described the Wreaths Across America program as a ‘desecration of non-Christian Veterans.'” The practice, which Weinstein further refers to as “vile” and a “travesty,” involves placing Christmas wreaths on veterans’ gravesites all across the U.S.