A North Carolina election board voted 3-2 recently to not recite the Pledge of Allegiance at public meetings, the Bladen Journal reported, adding that all three Democrats on the Bladen County Board of Elections voted against saying the pledge while both Republicans on the board voted in favor of saying it.
Elizabethtown resident Daine Smith — an attendee at the Jan. 14 meeting — told those gathered in the room that they could join him in reciting the pledge right then and there if they wanted to, the paper said.
Image source: YouTube screenshot
And join him they did. Video shows what appears to be most of the attendees standing up, placing their hands over their hearts, and reciting the pledge. Appearing to join them were both Republican board members, Michael Aycock and Emery White.
"Being in the military, we honor the flag all the time," White, who motioned for the pledge to be added to meetings, told the Journal. "I just think it should be on the agenda. There is no way we should have a meeting without it. It's like having a prayer. Why do we object to the Pledge of Allegiance?"
'Disruption of the meeting'
Turns out board chairwoman Louella Thompson — one of the members who voted against saying the pledge — didn't much care for the impromptu recitation.
In fact, at the end of the meeting she told attendees that saying the Pledge of Allegiance was a "disruption of the meeting, and ... 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."
Bladen County Board of Elections Chairwoman Louella Thompson (center), a Democrat, speaks to meeting attendees as two Republican members (right) and two other Democrats (left) listen.Image source: YouTube screenshot
Later Thompson issued a statement to WECT-TV that went even further:
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.
'An opportunity here to create a sense of unity'
Smith told the station he couldn't understand Thompson's reluctance to include the pledge.
"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,'" he added to WECT. "Then I just thought while I was standing, we should just say the pledge. So we did."
Smith also told the station that the "passion that the people on both sides of the aisle share is precisely what their passion is: It's for the flag, at it's root, and the pledge" but that the board's reasons for not including the pledge "are just not good reasons."
When the Journal asked why she voted against reciting the pledge, Thompson replied, "That's my right, and I exercise it."
A swift change of heart
Then lo and behold, Thompson changed course days later after backlash hit and said the pledge could be recited at meetings after all, WPDE-TV reported.
She said she had a change of heart after speaking with community members, legal experts, and the local and state Democratic Party, the station said, citing news outlets, The board hasn't recited the pledge since members were seated last spring, the station said.
Turns out one of Thompson's critics regarding her previous pledge position is Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who appointed Thompson to the board as chairwoman, WPDE said.
"The governor leads the Pledge of Allegiance before every Council of State meeting," Cooper spokeswoman Sadie Weiner told the station. "He doesn't agree with the action taken and he thinks it's a good practice to say it before a board of elections meeting."
The State Board of Elections last month admonished the Bladen County Board of Elections over social media posts from Thompson and another Democratic member that the local Republican Party leader said disparaged President Donald Trump, WPDE reported.
Here's video of the Jan. 14 meeting. The impromptu Pledge of Allegiance takes place after the 15-minute mark, and Thompson's threat to call police if it happens again takes place after the 42-minute mark:
(H/T: Blue Lives Matter)