A North Carolina board of elections chairwoman threatened to call the police Tuesday if anyone were to attempt to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the next board meeting.
The threat came at the end of a contentious Bladen County Board of Elections meeting in which audience members voiced their displeasure with the board's defeat of a measure adding the Pledge of Allegiance to its official agenda. Two of the board members and a significant portion of the audience rose to recite the pledge in defiance of the board's vote, which Chairwoman Louella Thompson described as "out of order."
At the conclusion of the meeting, Thompson threatened to call the police if attendees attempted to recite the pledge again at the next meeting.
"The next meeting, 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," she said.
Board member Emory White introduced the measure that would have added the Pledge of Allegiance to the agenda, according to a report from Bladen Online. Three board members voted against the measure, two voted for it.
Gov. Roy Cooper (D.), who appointed Thomas, voiced disagreement with the decision not to recite the pledge.
"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 it before a Board of Elections meeting," a spokeswoman for the governor told the Bladen Journal.
At Tuesday's meeting, audience members pushed back on the board's decision.
"I don't care that other boards throughout the state, the county, wherever, don't do this. There's nothing wrong with setting an example, and it's in fact a good example," one audience member said. "I support it, and I believe there's a lot of other Republicans on board ... probably Democrats as well that support the idea of expressing our loyalty to our constitutional republic and to the flag for which all of that stands."
Charlotte Smith, the reporter for Bladen Online filming the meeting, asked Thompson why she voted against the measure to add the pledge.
"That's my right, and I exercise it," Thompson responded.
After the audience members voiced their disagreement, one rose and began reciting the pledge. He was joined by the two board members who voted for the measure and a significant portion of the crowd.
"I think that was quite out of order," Thompson said after the pledge was recited. The board took a brief recess where they discussed the incident, according to the chairwoman's statement at the end of the meeting.
Rep. Dan Bishop (R., N.C.) issued a press release in which he criticized the chairwoman for the threat to involve law enforcement.
"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," he said. "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."