After Complaint, US Merchant Academy Covers Painting of Jesus Protecting Sailors Lost at Sea

Published On: January 22, 2023|Categories: MRFF's Inbox|2 Comments|

From: (name withheld)
Subject: After Complaint, US Merchant Marine Academy Covers Painting of Jesus Protecting Sailors Lost at Sea
January 21, 2023 at 10:54:26 AM MST




(name withheld)

Response from MRFF Board Member John Compere

On Jan 22, 2023, at 11:02 AM, John Compere wrote:

Your foul-mouthed attack against a fellow American you do not even know reflects only on yourself & reveals only the brainless belligerence of one who does not have the intelligence or integrity to communicate in a civil manner.

Self-righteous sectarians such as yourself do not seem to realize your hypocritical hatemail only encourages the Military Religious Freedom Foundation to work harder to protect the religious freedom of our military men & women as well as increases our support among Americans of all faiths & beliefs who support their religious freedom.

“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out God hates all the same people you do.” – Ann Lamott (award winning American author)

Brigadier General John Compere, US Army (Retired)
Disabled American Veteran (Vietnam Era)
Board Member, Military Religious Freedom Foundation (composed of 85% Christians)

Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Mike Farrell

(name withheld), you are a fool.

Your fake address shows you’re confused and cowardly as well, but at the root of it all, you’re a fool.

Mike Farrell
(MRFF Board of Advisors)

From: (name withheld)
Subject: RE: Painting of Jesus Protecting Sailors Lost at Sea
Date: January 22, 2023 at 4:10:26 PM MST

Luke 23:34 

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” 
Have you no shame??May God forgive you.-

(name withheld)

Response from MRFF Supporter

From: MRFF Supporter
Date: Sun, Jan 22, 2023 at 5:32 PM
Subject: Re: Painting of Jesus Protecting Sailors Lost at Sea
(name withheld)

Dear (name withheld),

God’s work is performed by those who seek to protect others from having religion forced upon them.

(name withheld)

Response from MRFF Board Member John Compere

On Jan 22, 2023, at 6:26 PM, John Compere wrote:

(name withheld),

Please be advised that the United States Constitution 1st Amendment (effective December 15, 1791) prohibits the government (which includes the Merchant Marine Academy) from establishing, enforcing or endorsing a religion & requires government neutrality regarding religion (neither pro-religion nor anti-religion but religion-neutral). American religious freedom is a shield of protection for the right of all Americans (including Merchant Marines) to determine, enjoy & practice their own beliefs free from government favor or disfavor & never a sword of privilege to impose religion on fellow Americans. It is unlawful for our government to purchase & place a large painting of Jesus in a secular government facility to proselytize Christianity.

When any human group decides they can define God, the outcome is always predicable. The ‘true faith’…must then be forced upon all people…” – John Shelby Spong (Retired Episcopal Bishop, best selling author & international lecturer)

Brigadier General John Compere, US Army (Retired)
Disabled American Veteran (Vietnam Era)
Board Member, Military Religious Freedom Foundation (composed of over 80% Christians)

From: (name withheld)
Date: January 22, 2023 at 4:47:14 PM MST
Subject: Re: Painting of Jesus Protecting Sailors Lost at Sea

The painting depicts the love of Jesus protecting and comforting the lost and hopeless at sea. Why is that considered to be offensive to the point of CENSORSHIP?!

Instead of following the complaints of the few who are obviously easily offended, why not ask for a VOTE for all involved instead? I am curious as to how long the painting has been there?

I appreciate your time and response,

Thank You,

(name withheld)

Response from MRFF Supporter Rabbi Joel Schwartzman

On Jan 23, 2023, at 11:06 AM, Rabbi Joel Schwartzman wrote:

Dear (name withheld):

In response to your email: the painting of “Jesus protecting the Sailors” that, until recently, hung in the Merchant Marine Academy does not technically ‘offend’ anyone.  The problem is that it ‘excludes’ anyone who is not a Christian and that includes a whole rath of people.  For this reason alone, it should not hang in a federal facility.  It violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution’s Establishment Clause wherein the Constitution informs us that Congress shall make no law which establishes one religion over another.  By extension, this painting violates not only the spirit but also the letter of that amendment.

There are those who believe that the United States is a Christian nation.  Legally and in many other ways, this is a false claim.  That people should argue the appropriateness of this painting’s place in the Merchant Marine Academy is a narrow and extremely particularistic take which, as stated above, excludes the rights and sensitivities of many other Americans.  It ought not be allowed and, in fact, has been successfully and rightfully challenged by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF).

I trust that my explanation and response to your email will have the desired effect of bringing you to an understanding of recent events and the reasons for their coming about.

Rabbi Joel R. Schwartzman Ch, Col (Ret), USAF

Response from MRFF Founder and President Mikey Weinstein

On Sun, Jan 22, 2023, 6:15 PM Mikey Weinstein wrote:

..sorry, but have not idea why I should have any “shame” here, sport?…maybe you’d like to specify?!…..Mikey W./MRFF

Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Mike Farrell

On Jan 23, 2023, at 1:40 PM, Mike wrote:

Dear (name withheld),

You might think again about casting shame. And you’d do well to know more about the laws and policies of this country before accusing anyone of censorship.

You are free to believe as you choose in America, as is everyone else, because the Founders had the foresight to build a wall between church and state. Our government (the ‘state’) cannot prefer, promote, support or in any way express a preference for one religion, faith or belief system (the ‘church’) over the others. For that reason, laws and regulations have been established in all parts of our government, and that includes the military, to ensure that everyone is free to believe as she or he chooses, without having our government implicitly or explicitly showing preference or support for one in particular.

So, you see, the painting “that depicts the love of Jesus protecting and comforting the lost and hopeless at sea,” as you describe it, lovely and reassuring as it might be for you, belongs in a church or a chapel, not in a military facility wherein attendance of all is required.

I hope that helps you better understand the situation that so apparently inflamed your passions.

Mike Farrell

(MRFF Board of Advisors)

Response from MRFF Supporter Fr Steve Dundas

On Jan 23, 2023, at 7:05 PM, Steve wrote:

Dear (name withheld)

I am a retired Christian senior Navy Chaplain and historian, responding to your incredibly ignorant and arrogant emails to Mr. Weinstein. I ask what Jesus would do when I see emails as preposterous as yours, likewise, I wonder what our founders would say when they see Christian theocrats who want to establish Christianity as the State religion say. But I digress, I think that Jesus would give your the face palm, and the founders, shake their heads. 

The issue is twofold. First, the painting has nothing to do with the history or mission of the United States Merchant Marine Academy. The Academy is a military academy whose students are in the military and will in addition to being commissioned officers in the Merchant Marine, are also commissioned as Ensigns in the US Navy Reserve. The painting was placed prominently in a non-religious facility that is used for required meetings that faculty, staff, students, and guests must attend regardless of their religious beliefs. The placement of this paining, in which it is had to anything other than Jesus, in such a place can only be interpreted as the Academy’s and therefore the government’s endorsement of Christianity as an official religion, in complete defiance of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. That law knows no majority, it was designed to protect those not in the majority from more powerful denominations from using the government to enforce their religion on others.

Since you appear not to be very well versed in this matter and the history behind it, I will take you to school so to speak.

Back when Madison penned the First Amendment there were Christian people who wanted their denominations to be the State Religion, and who  had no tolerance for what then were small denominations, like the Baptists, Methodists, Quakers, and dare I say, Roman Catholics, not to mention the even smaller number of Jews and Muslims. These people wanted to have established churches in every state, except Rhode Island. Of precedence Madison had the Virginia Statute on Religious Liberty. That was written because Virginia Anglicans were pushing to establish their faith as the state religion of Virginia.

To help their cause they went around breaking up meetings of other groups, and in the case of Baptists, broke of their meetings, broke their noses, and took them to the nearest body of water to water board or “re-baptize” them. The leader of Virginia Baptists was a man named John Leland. Back in those days the Baptists believed in the absolute separation of Church and State because of how they were treated in England, by the Church of England, which in addition to being a Church worked with the government to persecute religious minorities. Separation of church and state was one of the five basic beliefs of Baptists, until the 1970s. If you want I can tell you of the other four, but won’t bore you.

Now, let us clear up one thing about the United States being a “Christian nation,” a myth that you have obviously swelled hook line and sinker. There is only one thing I true despise is myth masquerading as history being shoved down the throats of others by pseudo-historians masquerading as Christian leaders and politicians. But I can’t forget Christians that suffer from the Christian persecutors suffering from false persecution syndrome, sometimes called being upset at other people having the same rights as them. The fact that you don’t get the idea that this painting was in a room where meetings of people who are not Christians have to meet, as opposed to a strictly denominational Chapel facility, where if it were a Christian facility it would be fine, shows that you don’t care about anyone’s rights but your brand of Christians. 

But, I will mention a few words from Madison, Leland, and a few others which you can Google to check the veracity. I don’t expect you to believe me so look them up yourself, if you dare.

Leland, a Christian, noted:

“The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever. … Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.”

And this: 

“Is conformity of sentiments in matters of religion essential to the happiness of civil government? Not at all. Government has no more to do with the religious opinions of men than it has with the principles of mathematics. Let every man speak freely without fear–maintain the principles that he believes–worship according to his own faith, either one God, three Gods, no God, or twenty Gods; and let government protect him in so doing, i.e., see that he meets with no personal abuse or loss of property for his religious opinions. Instead of discouraging him with proscriptions, fines, confiscation or death, let him be encouraged, as a free man, to bring forth his arguments and maintain his points with all boldness; then if his doctrine is false it will be confuted, and if it is true (though ever so novel) let others credit it. When every man has this liberty what can he wish for more? A liberal man asks for nothing more of government.”

Thomas Paine, the author of that little book Common Sense which was such a favorite of the founders wrote:

“Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law.”

Madison noted:

“Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”

Robert Ingersoll, a prominent skeptic who served as a Union Army officer in the Civil War noted:

“They knew that to put God in the constitution was to put man out. They knew that the recognition of a Deity would be seized upon by fanatics and zealots as a pretext for destroying the liberty of thought. They knew the terrible history of the church too well to place in her keeping or in the keeping of her God the sacred rights of man. They intended that all should have the right to worship or not to worship that our laws should make no distinction on account of creed. They intended to found and frame a government for man and for man alone. They wished to preserve the individuality of all to prevent the few from governing the many and the many from persecuting and destroying the few.”

Samuel Huntington wrote in The Clash of Civilizations:

“Whatever universalist goals they may have, religions give people identity by positing a basic distinction between believers and non-believers, between a superior in-group and a different and inferior out-group.”

The great Southern Baptist pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, and President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, George Truett, noted:

“Constantine, the Emperor, saw something in the religion of Christ’s people which awakened his interest, and now we see him uniting religion to the state and marching up the marble steps of the Emperor’s palace, with the church robed in purple. Thus and there was begun the most baneful misalliance that ever fettered and cursed a suffering world…. When … Constantine crowned the union of church and state, the church was stamped with the spirit of the Caesars…. The long blighting record of the medieval ages is simply the working out of that idea.”

Thomas Jefferson was scathing about the dangers of the church, writing to Horatio Spafford in March 1814, “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.

Jefferson wrote David Hume in 1813, “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.”

Back to our friend John Leland: Experience…has informed us that the fondness of magistrates to foster Christianity has done it more harm than all the persecutions ever did.”

Madison wrote F. L. Schaeffer in 1821: Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects? The experience of the United States is a happy disproof of the error so long rooted in the unenlightened minds of well-meaning Christians, as well as in the corrupt hearts of persecuting usurpers, that without a legal incorporation of religious and civil polity, neither could be supported. A mutual independence is found most friendly to practical Religion, to social harmony, and to political prosperity.

He addressed the Virginia General Assembly in 1785 saying: “Experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.”

I must get ready to close, but despite the fact that most Americans were Christians at the time the Constitution and Bill of Rights were written, the Founders insisted that the government was not Christian. John Adams wrote in the Treaty of Algiers, the first treaty ever negotiated by the United States with a foreign power: As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, — as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen, — and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

Those are the facts, and the placement of the Jesus painting, was an act of endorsing a religion. Removing it, as much as you think that it is censorship, was not that at all, in fact it was following the law, and not subject to a majority vote.

As a military chaplain I have defended the religious freedoms of Americans from every point on the religious spectrum, and protected those freedoms from those who wanted to impose their religion on others. I did this for the most conservative Christians to atheists and everyone of all beliefs and faiths in between. Had I been the Chaplain at the Merchant Marine Academy I would have worked with the Judge Advocate to have that painting removed, or covered when the room is in use, as was the final decision. 

One last thing. Your use of the words of Jesus against Mr. Weinstein in your second email was blasphemous. Jesus was not being harmed, and Jesus does not need the help of the United States government. If he does then he has been reduced to an idol and that portrait would be a graven image, no better that Romans offering incense to statues of Caesar.

If that is your understanding of the Christian faith, and your understanding of the Constitution then I both pity you and fear you. As the great American philosopher Eric Hofer wrote: “The impression somehow prevails that the true believer, particularly the religious individual, is a humble person. The truth is the surrendering and humbling of the self breed pride and arrogance. The true believer is apt to see himself as one of the chosen, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a prince disguised in meekness, who is destined to inherit the earth and the kingdom of heaven too. He who is not of his faith is evil; he who will not listen will perish.”


Fr. Steve Dundas
Commander, Chaplain Corps, U.S. Navy (Ret.)

From: (name withheld)
Sent: Monday, January 23, 2023 5:20 PM
To: Rabbi Joel Schwartzman
Subject: Re: The Painting

Hello Rabbi Schwartzman,

Thank You very much for responding in a calm, respectful and intelligent manner (unlike Mikey Weinstein – I will not engage him again).  I absolutely agree with you that we are not an official Christian nation. I believe in the US Constitution and we are one nation under God with many beliefs. And these Liberties must be upheld. It is however the truth that our nation was founded on Judeo Christian values -which serves us all (upholding civility) no matter what religion each of us choose to follow (or none at all). Presently, a massive percentage of good, law-abiding Americans see our founding values which once united us together, disintegrating at an alarming rate. It is undeniably true our American values are under attack. Crime is on the rise, people are struggling and suffering, children are being sexually groomed and exploited, free speech is threatened, government corruption is rampant, people are being brainwashed to believe exterminating babies including to the point of birth is acceptable! The powerful corrupt are teaching our youth to label, divide and hate each other because of our differences rather than embrace each other with love, unity and understanding. The family unit is breaking down. Addiction is everywhere, popular cancel culture and the elite mock and attack Jesus and Christians. They turn their backs to God and claim THEY are God. I could go on. We are no doubt in the fight of our lives of good vs evil. Will you fight to remove ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’ next? I STILL haven’t received an answer yet by the many of you in your circle who have written me – HOW LONG has the painting been there? WHY IS THIS HAPPENING NOW? The timing is truly eerie. The MRFF got their technical ‘win’ –but at what cost? Only God knows and time will tell.

May God Bless You and America


(name withheld)

Response from MRFF Supporter Rabbi Joel Schwartzman

On Jan 23, 2023, at 7:17 PM, Rabbi Joel Schwartzman wrote:

Hi again (name withheld):

I fear you may be watching too much nightly news.  If you have a chance, Google “Nice News.”  I think that this email service will help to reduce and relieve some of your anxieties about our country.  There are still many good people out there in America, as you said.  So, I haven’t given up on the country and its citizens.  But if I allow myself to watch too much of the national media, I get mired in its persistent negativity, down on the country, and fall victim to resonating more with matters as you describe them.  However, I recall a posting of which your email somewhat reminded me.  It decried the disunity, moral collapse, threats from within and without, a devastated populace, discontented and adrift.  It was written by none other than Adolf Hitler!

I do not think that you reflect anything akin to Hitler’s fascism.  However, I believe that there are those demagogues in America who would play upon our fears such that by endorsing their agendas, we would sacrifice our freedoms.  They seek to divide and turn us against each other.  Their rhetoric is inherently racist and their proposals smack of an attempted supremacy that is nothing that American ought to be pedaling, especially in the realms of politics and religion.  Their victim include TRUTH and one of their first targets in the free press which they accuse of pedaling “false facts.”

You state that our founding fathers drew upon our “Judeo-Christian” values.  However, I would point out that the founders, among whom was James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, worked from a distinct fear of mixing religion and government.  To each they gave its rightful place in society, but they did all they could to keep the two separated from each other.  Madison, in particular, wrote a very succinct treatise (4 pages of tight verbiage) about preventing the use of government funds to pay for the religious institutions of his day.  Do read closely his arguments in the document: “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments.”

Since I do not know the correct title of the painting at issue at the Merchant Marine Academy, I would refer you to that institution for the timing of its appearance.  I think that you’ll get a far quicker answer about its origins and history from that institution than I could provide.  My concern is that it excludes rather than unites…and given any organization dedicated to any mission, the very last thing we should want to see are items that cause disharmony and exclusion.  Where there is resentment with a team, there tends to be rancor…and that destroys morale and the will to accomplish the mission. For that reason alone, but along with the Constitutional reason I previously cited, the painting needs to find a different home.


Rabbi Joel


(name withheld)

Response from MRFF Supporter Fr Steve Dundas

On Jan 23, 2023, at 9:05 PM, Steve wrote:

I just gave the facts. Other than saying that you were ignorant I said nothing about you! Nor was I aggressive. You have pretty thin skin. Want me commenting on your website? I won’t, but your about page is just waiting for some smart ass to do it. I won’t even give the web address out, even though you have it as your email address. That’s a promise. Here’s a helpful hint. Never use your work email when trolling people. It’s really dumb. Try to enjoy life, being a troll is not much of a life. Again, that’s just a helpful hint. 

Fr Steve Dundas


On Mon, Jan 23, 2023 at 5:10 PM (name withheld) wrote

Hello Mr. Farrell,

It appears Mikey is the one with the inflamed passions. I saw his whole story, letters and all in the news.

It is incredible he had to tell so many of you to “educate” me. He’s pretty rude and condescending as well. Perhaps he should feel shameful about that. I am not here to start arguments. I along with many other Americans have great concerns with what is happening in our country today including cancel culture, the undeniable attack on Christianity and censorship. You have all made your separate arguments, I get it (did from the beginning) and I have respectfully brought some strong points to light as well.. It’s obvious you are all sharing emails so I encourage you all to read them thoroughly. Since no one else has, are you able to tell me how many years the painting has been hanging in the military facility? Why was it being demanded to be removed now instead of years ago? I am curious as to why the long wait?

Thank You

Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Mike Farrell

On Jan 24, 2023, at 5:19 PM, Mike wrote:

Hello again, (name withheld),

Mikey, as the founder of and primary spokesperson for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, is both the target for and recipient of a great deal of abuse. Said abuse, which includes a non-stop torrent of virulent, obscene, death-threatening mail, email and phone messages, drive-bys, shots fired and more, much of which is specifically and intentionally antisemitic and includes his wife and family. That may, at least in part, explain what you perceive as rudeness and condescension and is not in any way something for which he should be expected to feel shame.

Because Mikey’s time and attention are called upon by many in need and many others who want help simply being heard or accessing their rights, I and others who understand and support Mikey’s work, lend ourselves to helping respond when we can. If you’ve received more responses than expected or appreciated it’s because some of us respond spontaneously.

The sources of those violent and ugly assaults on Mikey and the MRFF more often than not identify themselves in one way or another as Christians, as lovers and followers of Jesus. I, for one, find that both astonishing and deeply tragic.

Those who are less specific as to their own belief systems simply manage to express their hatred of Jews, communists and the Left. And yet others, like you, express deep concern over “what is happening in our country today including cancel culture, the undeniable attack on Christianity and censorship” and somehow want to blame us for it.

The MRFF can’t help you with ‘cancel culture’, whatever that is, nor does it participate in or even recognize what you apparently perceive as “an undeniable attack on Christianity.” We do not practice censorship, but we demand that the rights of those in the military be respected and that the U.S. Government does not, either actively or passively, promote one particular belief system over others.

As said, the MRFF exists only to defend the separation of church and state and to protect the right of the women and men in the military to the freedom of their religious or non-religious choice.

As to the number of years the painting has adorned the walls of the military facility, I’m not sure. I’ve seen a number and it’s probably 10 or 15 years or so, maybe more. I don’t remember, because the number doesn’t matter. The reason it is being covered now is that a number of those required to attend events in that facility felt its presence inappropriate, contacted the MRFF and asked for help in seeing that it be removed.

The way things like this often happen is that one or two or many feel that something is wrong but don’t feel strong or important enough to object. Eventually someone develops the courage to speak and goes to those in command and asks that the situation be rectified. Under the right kind of leadership things are made right and the problem goes away. Under the wrong kind of leadership their requests are blown off or refused and they’re told to tough it out. At some point the frustrated ones reach out to the MRFF and, as in this case, the situation is resolved.

Regarding your question of “…why the long wait?” Sometimes it takes a while for young members of the military to realize they and their personal beliefs matter.

Mike Farrell
(MRFF Board of Advisors)

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  1. Jeff January 25, 2023 at 5:50 pm

    Amazing. Name Withheld begins by stating “FUCK OFF AND DIE!” Then he complains about others being rude to him. They certainly responded with the truth in calling him ignorant of facts about which he is clearly ignorant.

    The country was not founded on Judeo-Christian values. It was explicitly founded on the values of Enlightenment philosophers popular with many founders – such as Locke, Rousseau and others. The word God isn’t even in the constitution. At the constitutional convention, took votes on associating the country formally with particular religious beliefs – those proposals were voted down every time.

  2. Ironmoped January 26, 2023 at 5:25 am

    Oh my! He went straight to the Jesus closet in his head and pulled out some vitriol. He keeps it in his “Jesus” file!

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