Bladen Board of Elections votes down adding Pledge of Allegiance to regular meetings

Updated: Jan. 15, 2020 at 3:58 PM EST
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BLADEN COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) -A Bladen County Board of Elections motion to add the Pledge of Allegiance to each meeting’s official agenda failed to pass after it didn’t garner enough votes. Tuesday night’s meeting ended with board members threatening to call law enforcement after a community member led the crowd in an impromptu reciting of the pledge to protest the decision.

Board member Emory White proposed the measure to have the Pledge of Allegiance added to the agenda. While the proposal was seconded by Michael Aycock, chairwoman Louella Thompson, Patricia Sheppard and Deborah Belle voted against it.

When chairwoman Thompson opened public comment on the matter, several spoke up, opposing their decision.

When asked why they voted against it, Thompson defended her vote.

“That’s my right and I exercise it,” she said.

Daine Smith, a long-time Bladen County resident, was one of the people who spoke up at Tuesday night’s meeting.

“When I spoke to the chairperson I said, ‘You have an opportunity here to create a sense of unity and it’s easy to do; just add it to the agenda. If you don’t want to recite it or stand for it, you don’t have to. But the folks who do want to do that, have the opportunity to do so.’ Then I just thought while I was standing, we should just say the pledge. So we did,” Smith said.

According to video shot by Bladen Online, most of the people in the room stood for the impromptu pledge, led by Smith. The members who did not vote to add the pledge earlier in the meeting did not participate.

“The passion that the people on both sides of the aisle share is precisely what their passion is," said Smith "It’s for the flag, at it’s root, and the pledge. It’s [the flag] caught in the middle of this thing and all of the reasons for not doing that have been presented by the board are just not good reasons.”

Chairwoman Thompson confirms the board discussed what had happened with the pledge in closed session Tuesday night.

“In closed session, we discussed personnel issues and there is a position that we will be advertising for,” said Thompson. "Also we discussed the issue with the disruption of the meeting and the next meeting, if that happens again, law enforcement will be called. Because it is against the law to disrupt a meeting that is going on. And that is what happened today with the reciting of the pledge. So, be prepared for that.”

“I don’t feel I was out of order and I don’t think anyone would be out of order to do the same thing," said Smith. "It’s on the agenda for individuals wishing to address the board so I don’t think it’s inappropriate to say the pledge during it.”

WECT confirms it is well within Thompson’s right to “possess full power to maintain order, and to enforce obedience to its lawful commands.” That’s according to the law.

Thompson released a statement Wednesday on the issue.

“The Bladen County Board of Elections received a request to add the pledge of allegiance to the agenda of our business meeting. After a period of public comment the board voted 3 to 2 to deny the request. A few individuals present refused to accept the decision of the board and disrupted the meeting to protest the vote by standing and reciting the pledge. That disruption violated the law NC GS 143.318.17 Disruption of official meeting. Those present were made aware of the violation and told that any future disruption would result in arrest.”

Louella Thompson, Bladen County Board of Elections Chairwoman

WECT reached out to Sheppard and she declined to respond. Belle has not yet responded to WECT’s request for comment.

The next meeting is scheduled for February 11 at 5 p.m.

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