Sean Braisted, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry’s press secretary, politicized his response to Christian activist Jay Chamness when he signed an email explaining why Chamness had been denied access to a Muslim event at which the mayor spoke by signing it with the unprofessional religiously themed salutation “Peace Be Unto You.”
|Below is the full text of Braisted’s response to Jay Chamness:
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,
Braisted admitted to The Tennessee Star that he has never used that salutation – which has Muslim, Christian, and Jewish origins – before in any official communication to anyone.
“I’m not aware of Mayor Barry using that phrase, nor do I have any examples where I’ve used it in the past,” Braisted told The Star when asked if he had ever used the salutation “Peace Be Unto You” in any official communication to anyone in his capacity as Mayor Barry’s press secretary.
“As a professed Christian, I thought Mr. Chamness might appreciate it,” the former left-wing blogger and liberal activist told The Star.
A 2013 graduate of Tennessee State University with a degree in Urban Studies, Braisted was a blog producer at Nashville21.com from 2006 to 2012, was the new media manager for the Tennessee Democratic Party in 2012, and served as the press secretary for the House Democratic Caucus until 2014 when he joined the Megan Barry for Mayor campaign.
Braisted has served as Mayor Barry’s press secretary since 2015.
In his response to The Star, Braisted cited a verse from the Gospel of John in the King James version of the Bible to justify his use of the salutation:
It is actually a phrase used by Jesus Christ: Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. (https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/John-20-19/)
However, the phrase is also a common greeting among Muslims in the United States and around the world. The site Muslim Voices, a project of Indiana University, for instance, describes the phrase “Peace Be Unto You” as a “standard Muslim greeting.”
In America, the phrase “Peace Be Unto You” is seen in social media postings on sites associated with the Nation of Islam.
For example, in this blog post on the Nation of Islam’s Buffalo, New York chapter’s website, their welcome statement reads:
As-Salaam-Alaikum! (Peace be unto you)
Muhammad Mosque No.23 thanks you for visiting our site. May Allah (God) continue to bless you and your family with success, health and the acquisition of knowledge. Enjoy your day and please stay and Learn More.
In the Nation of Islam’s Toronto chapter, an invitation to join ‘Muhammad’s Study Group’ begins:
As-Salaam Alaikum! (Peace be unto you!)
The Nation of Islam (or N.O.I. for short) literally means a “Nation of peace and righteousness through submission to God”.
And the greeting appears at the top of the Nation of Islam Press Release and Announcements area, also:
In contrast, Christians today primarily use the phrase in the context of worship services and say it as “Peace Be With You.”
The New International Version (NIV) of the Bible, more commonly used today by Christians than the King James Version, which was published more than four centuries ago in 1611, translates the phrase as used in John 20:19 to read “Peace be with you!”
Jesus Appears to His Disciples
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
Ami Mizell-Flint, a Jewish woman involved with the Peace Ambassadors of West Texas, explained the history of the saying last year in an opinion piece she wrote for the San Angelo-Standard Times:
Some of the words and phrases used by each of the three Abrahamic faiths are similar:
The Hebrew word for peace is, “Shalom.” The Arabic word for peace is, “Salaam.”
Jews use the Hebrew phrase, “Shalom aleichem,” to say “Peace be unto you,” while Muslims use the Arabic phrase, “Salaam aleikum,” to say, “Peace be unto you.”
Christians, in English, say “Peace be unto you.”
The comparable phrase “Peace Be Upon You” is the title of a 2008 book by Zachary Karabell. The book highlights supposed periods of cooperation between followers of Christianity, Judaism and Islam and is critical of accounts of Islam spreading through violent aggression.
The phrase “Peace Be Unto You” or “Peace Be Upon You” should not be confused with “Peace Be Upon Him” which Muslims use when writing about their prophet Mohammed. It is often abbreviated as PBUH.