A Nashville area man says he was turned away at a public event at a mosque on Saturday because he is a Christian, but city officials say they had a right to deny him entry because it was private property and he was there to protest.
Jay Chamness tried to attend a luncheon Saturday at the Islamic Center of Tennessee in Antioch, where Nashville Mayor Megan Barry spoke. He told The Tennessee Star that he arrived wearing a Jesus t-shirt and sporting a Christian flag atop his truck. He also had a sign that on one side said “Veterans Before Refugees” and on the other side said “Truth Sounds Like Hate To Those Who Hate The Truth.”
Chamness, a 51-year-old Southern Baptist, told The Star that he is politically involved and upset by Barry’s “disdain for white Christian males in Nashville.”
(Note: There is at least one other person with the same name in the Nashville area, a well-known attorney. This Jay Chamness is not the attorney.)
At Saturday’s event, he was first approached by several Muslim men who asked him to leave. Chamness left but returned later closer to the time when Barry was set to speak. He was then asked to leave by an officer with the Metro Nashville Police Department. MNPD spokeswoman Kris Mumford confirmed to The Star that Chamness was asked to leave because he made the men uncomfortable, but added that he was welcome to protest across the street, where Chamness said a few other protesters had gathered earlier for a short time.
Chamness said he left willingly.
“I’m not going to argue with Metro police,” he said. “I respect the police.”
Still, Chamness, who lives in Brentwood in Davidson County and is originally from Paris in West Tennessee, wanted to know why he couldn’t attend the event since it was advertised as being open to the public. He contacted city officials about what happened and in an email response, Barry spokesman Sean Braisted said that it was “a privately held event that was open to members of the public at the discretion of the sponsors of the event” and that the right to protest “does not extend to being permitted on private property to disrupt or protest a peaceful event.”
Nashville attorney and Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips told The Star that the property owner does have the final say in cases like this. Similarly, a Christian group could exclude someone from their property if they believed the person would be disruptive, Phillips said.
Below is the full text of Braisted’s response:
I understand you have contacted a number of members of the Mayor’s Office staff regarding your efforts to attend an event at the Islamic Center of Tennessee on Saturday, May 6.
This event was a privately held event that was open to members of the public at the discretion of the sponsors of the event. There were Christians at the event, including the Mayor, so it would seem that if you were denied entry, it was likely not based on your religious beliefs, rather your actions and apparent opposition to the community sponsoring the event.
Mayor Megan Barry, along with a majority of Nashvillians, believes that Nashville is stronger because we are an inclusive city that respects people of all faiths, cultures, and ethnicities. While she respects your constitutional right to protest, that right does not extend to being permitted on private property to disrupt or protest a peaceful event.
We are also in receipt of your request to review Mayor Barry’s remarks from the Standing up for Justice & Muslim Community Day. Understand that Mayor Barry often does not read directly from the prepared remarks, and will speak extemporaneously at events such as this. I’ve attached these prepared remarks as well as the language from the proclamation Mayor Barry presented at the event.
I hope this answers your questions and satisfies your requests.
Peace Be Unto You,Sean BraistedPress SecretaryOffice of Mayor Megan Barry