Elizabethtown, NC – A board of elections chairwoman who threatened to have anyone who said the Pledge of Allegiance at meetings arrested has backed down in the face of backlash from the community and her own Democratic Party leadership.
The Bladen County Board of Elections on Jan. 14 voted 3-to-2 along party lines not to add the Pledge of Allegiance to the official agenda of all meetings, WPDE reported.
Several community members in attendance protested the Democratic-held board’s decision, and then stood up and recited the pledge anyway, the Laurinburg Exchange reported.
“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,” Daine Smith told WECT. “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.”
That’s when most of the audience stood with Smith and recited the pledge with their hands over their hearts, infuriating Bladen County Board of Elections Chairwoman Louella Thompson.
Republican elections board member Emery White said he supported putting the Pledge of Allegiance on the agenda officially, the Laurinburg Exchange reported.
“Being in the military, we honor the flag all the time in the military,” White said. “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?”
But Thompson threatened to call the police on anyone who said the Pledge of Allegiance at future meetings, the Laurinburg Exchange reported.
She called the citizens’ impromptu recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance a disruption to the meeting.
Thompson said such disruptions would not be tolerated and that, in the future, she would call in police to remove anyone who said the pledge, according to the Laurinburg Exchanged.
The blowback from the community was swift, but the smackdown delivered by the governor’s office was even more effective, WPDE reported.
“The governor leads the Pledge of Allegiance before every Council of State meeting,” Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s spokeswoman, Sadie Weiner, said. “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.”
Cooper appointed Thompson as chair of the elections board after questions arose about voter fraud in the 9th Congressional District’s 2018 elections, WPDE reported.
Thompson changed her tune shortly after the governor weighed in.
WPDE reported that she released a written statement Jan. 16 that said the board would bring back the Pledge of Allegiance at future meetings.
Thompson said in the statement that she made the decision after talking to community members, legal experts, and fellow members of the Democratic Party.
But the chairwoman’s abrupt about face wasn’t enough to satisfy some of her critics.
Republican State House Speaker Tim Moore has written to Cooper urging the governor to demand Thompson’s resignation from the board, WPDE reported.
“Anything less condones this public disrespect of the United States and its citizens by your appointee in an official capacity,” Moore wrote.
In December of 2018, Thompson and another member of the Bladen County Board of Elections were admonished by the State Board of Elections for social media posts disparaging President Donald Trump, according to WPDE.