Bladen BOE says no to pledge at meetings

By: Alan Wooten - Bladen Journal

ELIZABETHTOWN — Chairwoman Louella Thompson said she’ll have law enforcement present to take action if anyone stands to say the Pledge of Allegiance at the next meeting of the Bladen County Board of Elections.

Her comments were delivered at the end of a one-hour meeting that included an impromptu pledge from the majority of the audience after the board voted along party lines not to include it in the meeting’s agenda. She said the action by the audience was a disruption of the meeting, and would not be tolerated in the future, adding lawmen would be brought in.

Republicans Emery White and Michael Aycock were for it, and Thompson and fellow Democrats Deborah Belle and Patsy Sheppard each voted against.

“Being in the military, we honor the flag all the time in the military,” said White, who motioned for the pledge to be added. “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?”

Aycock seconded the motion.

After some passionate words from multiple members of the audience about adding it, and one voice against it, Daine Smith told the group if they wanted to join him he was going to lead it.

More than half the room stood with him, including Board of Elections Director Chris Williams. Among those not standing was Commissioner Arthur Bullock, who when asked did stand and offer a prayer at the start of the meeting, with everyone in the room standing and bowing their heads with him.

Asked for an explanation on her vote against, Thompson said, “That’s my right, and I exercise it.”

Since being seated last spring, this board has not included the pledge at its meetings. A flag has not been present but was on Tuesday, placed directly behind Thompson’s seat at the middle of the head table. According to accepted flag etiquette, it should have been to the right of the speaker.

Following a short recess, the board did attend to business.

One-stop workers were approved with one exception, and training dates for them were set on Jan. 28 at 6 p.m. and Feb. 6 at 10 a.m. Election day workers were approved with only a couple of exceptions noted.

Williams, in the director’s update, said seven total absentee ballots have been sent out for the March 3 primary. Six were absentee by mail, and one was military.

The board will not move up its 5 p.m. meeting on the day of the primary, based on the number of absentee ballot requests to date.

Alan Wooten

Bladen Journal