By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
January 17, 2020
Bladen County’s “Pledge to the Flag” debacle started back in August of last year, when Bladen County Board of Elections Chairperson, Louella Thompson, was asked why the Board didn’t pledge allegiance to the flag at the start of its meetings. Thompson and fellow Board member Patsy Shepherd reportedly asserted that there was no need for it.
That didn’t sit well with the public and other members of the Board, resulting in quite a stew over the matter. By the time the Board held their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday of this week, citizens wanted the question directly addressed, prompting Board member Emory White to ask that the pledge be added to the agenda. The motion failed by a 3-2 margin, with Democrats Thompson, Sheppard and Deborah Belle voting against it and Michael Aycock and Emory White, both Republicans, voting for it.
Bladen County resident and business owner, Daine Smith, then announced that despite the decision not to include the pledge, he would do it anyway. Smith’s impromptu citing of the pledge resulted in the majority of the audience standing with him and reciting it. Thompson, Sheppard and Belle remained seated while Aycock and White also rose and said the pledge.
At the end of the Board’s meeting, Thompson said that Smith’s action and those who participated with him was a disruption of the Board’s proceedings and would not be tolerated again. She promised that law enforcement would be brought in if anyone stood to repeat The Pledge of Allegiance again.
Thompson’s promise to have arrested anyone who said The Pledge of Allegiance at the next meeting sparked community outrage.
According to BladenJournal.com, the counties only newspaper, their news story on what happened during the meeting “generated benchmark activity” on their comments section and their Facebook page.
U.S. Representative Dan Bishop (R) released a statement, saying: “I was appalled that the Chairwoman of the Bladen County Board of Elections will prevent board members – on threat of arrest – from reciting The Pledge of Allegiance. It shows a twisted moral code to oppress the right to honor a flag that stands for freedom from oppression. I stand with the Board members who continue to revere and respect our flag and those who lost their lives defending it.”
Even Governor Roy Cooper, who appointed Thompson to the Bladen Board of Elections, opposed her action. After the Bladen Journal called upon the Governor’s office to weigh in on the subject, the Governor’s spokesperson, Sadie Weiner, replied in an email: “The Governor leads the Pledge of Allegiance before every Council of State meeting. He doesn’t agree with the action taken, and he thinks it’s a good practice to say before a Board of Elections meeting.”
Since Tuesday’s meeting, Thompson has reversed course on the pledge. According to the Bladen Journal, she issued a news release promising that it would be recited at the Board’s February meeting.
“I’ve had the opportunity to speak with others, including community members, legal experts, and the state and the local Democratic Party,” said Thompson. “As a result of those conversations, I’ve decided the Bladen County Board of Elections will include the Pledge of Allegiance in its agenda for regular meetings starting in February.”
But in a press release on Thursday, NC House Speaker Tim Moore indicated that it wasn’t that simple. Moore’s statement reports that he sent a letter to the Governor demanding Thompson’s resignation.
In the letter to the Governor, Moore says:
“When selecting appointments to lead public boards and commissions in North Carolina, love for our country, reverence for our flag, and respect for the citizens we serve are baseline expectations. Your appointee to lead the elections Board in Bladen County, N.C., egregiously failed to meet these standards. …As Governor, you repeatedly filed lawsuits demanding additional control over appointments to such local elections boards. With that control comes accountability. Our State, and in particular Bladen County, which is reeling from a re-done election in the Ninth Congressional District, demand better than the quality of appointments you have made to these Board of Elections. You must demand Louella Thompson’s resignation, for anything less condones this public disrespect of the United States and its citizens by your appointee in an official capacity. Her actions demean our democracy and its guarantees of freedom, liberty, and justice for all.”
Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said that resistance by individual members of the Bladen Board of Elections might be based on views that the flag is racist. He said it seems a plausible cause and though he could not confirm it, his sources in Bladen County tell him that local students were saying the flag is racist and Thompson is an admired educator.
“It’s so tragic that blacks and other minorities are getting this message from influential sources such as football star Colin Kaepernick, who refuses to stand but takes a knee at the hearing of the national anthem. And then there’s Nike’s hasty decision not to release a shoe featuring the Betsy Ross flag, allegedly because racist groups have tried to claim the Betsy Ross flag as their own. Many impressionable young people and adults aren’t prepared to process this information, and they have been led down a path of lies which causes them to disrespect and dishonor their heritage as American citizens,” said Creech. “There will always be people who turn sacred and respected symbols such as our flag, the Cross of Jesus Christ, and the rainbow into heinous things, but we cannot concede to their perverted uses. If we accede to their tainting of these symbols, we’re consenting to the spread of their toxins. We can’t let the people who desecrate sacred symbols and traditions have the final say over what they actually mean, lest they tear down pillars that bear-up our national spirit and destroy necessary focal points of unity.”
The Pledge of Allegiance received official Congressional recognition in 1942 when it was included in the U.S. Flag Code. Congress added the phrase “under God” in 1954.