Rep. Jim Banks demands action from Buttigieg after Merchant Marine Academy Jesus artwork covered

FIRST ON FOX: Indiana Republican Rep. Jim Banks demanded action from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg after artwork depicting Jesus was covered at the Merchant Marine Academy.  The academy is overseen by the Maritime Administration within the Department of Transportation.  Banks, who is running for Senate in Indiana, sent a letter to Buttigieg amid reports that the famous “Christ on the Water” painting was covered after a religious objection. The painting depicts Jesus with His arms outstretched in front of a lifeboat of merchant seamen lost at sea during World War II and has hung in the academy since the 1940s. SEN. JD VANCE OF OHIO BACKS REP. JIM BANKS IN INDIANA’S SENATE GOP PRIMARY “Covering this painting isn’t about ‘constitutional concerns,’ it is just the latest example of the Left’s woke agenda,” Banks told Fox News Digital in a statement. In the letter exclusively obtained by Fox News Digital, Banks wrote about his concerns of the reports about the academy covering the painting “to create a ‘welcoming environment.’” “The piece, titled “Christ on the Water,” was designated a heritage asset by the Maritime Administration and has significant historical value,” Banks wrote. “The painting depicts an image of Jesus and merchant seamen adrift in a lifeboat during World War II.” “Between 1939 and 1945, 9,521 merchant mariners lost their lives — a higher number than those killed in any military branch, according to the National World War II Museum,” he continued. “This painting has conveyed hope and inspiration to nearly every class of midshipmen to come through the Academy,” the Indiana Senate candidate added. Banks wrote that in “2019, the Supreme Court ruled that historic displays with religious symbolism are not a violation of the constitution” and that in “this case, the justices defended the preservation of a large cross monument because it was erected nearly a century ago as a memorial to soldiers lost in World War I – very similar to Wood’s painting.” The Indiana congressman also noted that over 4,400 “midshipmen, alumni and community of the United States Merchant Marine Academy have signed a petition asking for the removal of this curtain to allow the original artwork to be viewed and that a plaque describing the historic significance of the painting be placed alongside it.” “I support their request and believe there is ample evidence that previously established legal precedent negates the ‘constitutional concerns’ of an anti-Christian activist who is so extreme that he has described the Wreaths Across America program as ‘the Annual Government Sanctioned Desecration of Non-Christian Veterans,’” Banks wrote. The congressman then called on Buttigieg to “act [to] immediately to correct this.” Meanwhile, before the artwork depicting Jesus was covered up, the Merchant Marine Academy opened a LGBT pride month exhibit at the school. A mother, whose son is a midshipman at the Merchant Marine Academy, told Fox News Digital she believes academy superintendent Joanna Nunan is “controlling” what the students at the academy are “allowed to think.” “They also have a mural that is a gay pride mural that exists in the main causeway, because they started bringing more diversity, equity, inclusion to the school with Nunan,” the mother said. “That mural is in a main causeway where the mids, the midshipmen, have to walk by every day. And so they can see that, but they cannot see this painting,” she continued. “You’re not allowed to see this painting.” The mother told Fox News Digital the man who painted “Christ on the Water,” Hunter Wood, was a merchant marine who fought in World War II and that the “painting was his message to his future classmates, future midshipmen.” “And that message is, ‘You’re going to be going out on the sea in one of the most dangerous fields in the world. You’re going to be in situations of crisis where you’re going to need something higher, a higher power. And you’re going to lose hope. And not to give up, to persevere in those instances. And that painting has been there for 80 years as a message to the mids who would be going out onto the high seas, facing all kinds of situations and perils. And that artist wanted them to know not to lose hope. To keep their faith and to persevere to the end. Not give up.” The mother said that the historic painting in the academy “should be left the way it is.” Additionally, the mother shared an email with Fox News Digital from Nunan sent to students Monday announcing the closure of the room with the painting. “The Elliott See Room is designated as a place of quiet reflection for faculty, staff, Midshipmen, and alumni,” Nunan wrote in the email. “Official business will no longer be conducted in the room until such time as this notice is revoked.” “There is no exception to this policy even if all potential attendees express comfort in meeting in the Elliott See Room,” the email continued. Nunan wrote that official business “includes, but is not limited to” mandatory meetings for administrators, midshipmen, faculty, and staff; executive and honor boards meetings; “Midshipmen Club meetings;” and organized “gatherings of alumni, parents, or other outside parties in which administrators, faculty, staff, and/or Midshipmen attendance is expected.” Recipients are also told to direct any questions “as to whether an intended use not listed above constitutes official business” to the deputy superintendent, academic dean and provost, or the commandant. “This Notice goes into effect immediately, and remains in effect unless otherwise superseded or canceled,” the email ends. Neither the Merchant Marine Academy nor the Department of Transportation immediately responded to Fox News Digital’s requests for comment. “Christ on the Water” was covered after 18 people objected to the Christian painting hanging in a room where mandatory activities were held. The group of 18 asked the Military Religious Freedom Foundation last month to appeal to the academy, which is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation. The foundation asked the academy to move the painting to a different location, such as a chapel, but the painting was too big to be moved. Instead, Nunan chose to cover it with a white curtain. Nunan also ordered a plaque to be placed by the painting explaining its history. The white curtain will be replaced with different curtains that “befit the elegance” of the painting, according to Nunan. The curtains will be kept over the painting during mandatory events in the room.

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