Painting of Jesus Greeting Seamen at U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Is Covered Up following Complaints

A painting depicting Jesus greeting seamen in a lifeboat that was on display at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in New York has been covered up after complaints.

The painting, Lt. Hunter Wood’s Christ on the Water, was on display in a room formerly used as the academy’s interfaith chapel. The room is now used for official business.

According to CBN News, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, on behalf of a group of USMMA alumni, midshipmen, faculty and staff, complained about the painting, saying its place in the Elliot See Room in the main administration building “sent an improper message of preferred faith,” violating the First Amendment.

USMMA Superintendent Vice Admiral Joanna Nunan requested that the painting be covered with a white curtain until plans could be made to move the it. The academy plans to move the art piece to the current chapel.

Four House Republicans who attended U.S. military academies –  U.S. Reps. Mike Garcia (R-CA), Mark Green (R-TN), August Pfluger (R-TX), and Warren Davidson (R-OH) – wrote a letter to Nunan, saying the display is constitutional. They referred to a 2005 court decision that allowed a display of the Ten Commandments on government property.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz also wrote a letter in support of displaying the painting.

“Under the Supreme Court’s standard for longstanding government displays, the painting is perfectly in keeping with the Establishment Clause. Your decision to move it, and to discontinue use of the conference room it presently is located in, is regrettable and suggests you believe a painting that tens of thousands of Midshipmen, faculty, staff, and visitors have viewed for more than half a century is now suddenly unconstitutional,” Cruz continued.

The painting shows Jesus and merchant seamen adrift in a lifeboat after being attacked in the Indian Ocean in World War II. The piece was originally made to hang in a chapel at USMMA Basic School in San Mateo, California. It commemorates more than 9,000 merchant marines who died in World War II.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Nikolaev

Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and She blogs at The Migraine Runner.

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