Residents given ‘right to pledge’ at Board of Elections meeting

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BLADEN COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — The Bladen County Board of Elections met for the first time since a major controversy over reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Leading up to the meeting, people rallied for what’s being called their “right to pledge.” The rally was held at the National Guard Armory in Elizabethtown.

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Greg Gebhardt, who organized the rally, says the pledge of allegiance represents what our country is built on.

“I think it’s important to a lot of Americans because that’s how we grew up,” Gebhardt said. “We don’t pledge an oath or allegiance to a person or an office. We pledge allegiance to the flag. We swear an oath to the constitution. These are symbols of our republic that have made this country great. That will keep this country great.”

The rally is in response to an issue at the Board of Elections meeting in January.

Someone at the meeting requested to add the pledge to the agenda.

Board members denied the request in a 3-2 vote.

At the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting, Chairwoman Louella Thompson said they offered time for the pledge and prayer for those who wanted it.

“We were advised by legal counsel and our board attorney that since it was such an issue that the pledge could be said before the start of our regular meetings and also the prayer, so that’s what happened this afternoon,” Thompson said.

After talking to legal counsel, Thompson says since the board is an appointed counsel, they are not required to have a meeting agenda. Therefore, she says they will no longer have an agenda for meetings, but they will allow time for the pledge and a prayer at the beginning of every meeting.

On Friday, the state Board of Elections will hear complaints filed against two board members regarding how they handled last month’s discussion on whether to include the Pledge of Allegiance on the agenda.

“We’re going to continue doing the work of the Board of Elections that we were appointed to do, and that is to take care of elections in Bladen County — to make sure that they are done fair and proper and that is our purpose,” Thompson said. “And that’s what we’re going to concentrate on, and I hope everyone else will think about that and realize what is necessary for us as a Board of Elections.”