The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) in Kings Point, New York, has covered up a large painting of Jesus Christ in one of its buildings following a complaint from an advocacy group.
After receiving a complaint from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, whose founder and president Michael Weinstein fired off a letter to Vice Adm. Joanna M. Nunan on Jan. 10, the school unfurled a white curtain over the large image of Jesus walking on water toward a boat of men lost at sea.
“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,” Weinstein wrote to Nunan in the letter, which called for the painting to be moved to a religious setting such as the academy’s chapel.
The letter was also sent to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg because the USMMA is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation (DOT), which did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment regarding whether it was involved with the decision.
Weinstein, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, said in comments provided to Fox News Digital that the 18 “aggrieved USMMA clients” of various faiths whom he represents “quite correctly believe that the display of that ‘Jesus painting’ is totally violative of the clear time, place and manner requirements of the No Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”
Nunan, who became the first female superintendent of the USMMA in December, reportedly replied to Weinstein’s letter promptly to inform him that she “had already identified similar concerns with this painting, and I am taking steps to address it.”
Nunan explained in her response that she had asked her staff to place the painting under a curtain to “completely block the painting from view, but also allow those who wish to view it the opportunity to do so.”
Noting the painting was too large to move to a different location on campus, she also said she had commissioned the director of the American Merchant Marine Museum “to prepare a plaque that explains the history of the painting, which will be installed near it.”
The superintendent – whose USMMA biography notes she “helped spearhead efforts to expand diversity and inclusion in the Coast Guard” – urged patience and expressed gratitude to the foundation for voicing its concerns.
Weinstein told Fox News Digital that while his foundation “would have certainly preferred that the painting be removed to a location where its display would better comport with the time, place and manner requirements of the U.S. Constitution, we are satisfied with the response by Vice Admiral Nunan at USMMA.”
“Further, 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 continued.
Given the mandatory gatherings that take place in Wiley Hall, Weinstein claimed the painting of Jesus “clearly projects the sectarian supremacy of Jesus Christ in some sort of obvious ocean rescue scenario for what appears to be distressed mariners in an open boat.”
Weinstein likened the prominent placement of the Jesus painting to the USMMA “screaming that ‘Jesus Christ is the only approved solution to all of life’s difficulties!’”
“We’re not seeing Allah, Buddha, Vishnu, Satan or any of the other multitudes of the deities of other faith or non-faith traditions being even remotely shown there under similar circumstances,” he added.
The USMMA did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment by time of publication.