ELIZABETHTOWN — The lieutenant governor candidate didn’t like the story about a Bladen County election board chairwoman saying she’d call the law for those that stood to say the Pledge of Allegiance at her meetings.
So he decided to make a statement of his own, inviting all to a Right to Pledge Rally on Tuesday afternoon at the National Guard Armory on Swanzy Street. Attendance was light, with just more than a dozen, and most came showing their red, white and blue.
Greg Gebhardt, a veteran who fought in Iraq, explained beforehand that the pledge to the flag means all that it stands for, including the right to not stand and recite it. He doesn’t like it when that happens, but he respects it and hopes others respects his rights as well.
“We don’t pledge an oath or allegiance to a person or an office,” he said. “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, and the one thing that really resonated with me in this particular situation is a lot of the very same people that defended this woman that said she’d have folks arrested for saying the Pledge of Allegiance and want to somehow silence our First Amendment right to recite the Pledge of Allegiance are by and large the very same people that defended Colin Kaepernick’s right to take a knee during the national anthem. So, you can’t defend Colin Kaepernick and then tell us that we can’t exercise our First Amendment right to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.”
Kaepernick was a quarterback with the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers when he began to make a statement by kneeling during the national anthem. He is no longer playing in the NFL; teams have said publicly it is not because of his kneeling, but many of his supporters say he’s been blackballed.
Chairwoman Louella Thompson is the leader of the Bladen County Board of Elections who in January said she’d request law enforcement to stop people from standing to say the pledge during meetings, a statement she walked back two days later following overwhelming backlash. The board’s first meeting since was an hour after Gebhardt’s rally began.
Gebhardt, listed in campaign filing as from Raleigh but on the program Tuesday as from its suburb of Holly Springs, is among nine Republicans that filed for the lieutenant governor seat. He’s in the primary March 3 with John Ritter of West End, Mark Robinson of Greensboro, Scott Stone of Charlotte, Andy Wells of Hickory, Buddy Bengel of New Bern, Deborah Cochran of Mount Airy, Renee Elmers of Dunn and Mark Johnson of Raleigh.
“I’ve sworn an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States three times, and that includes the Bill of Rights, so we’re here to peacefully assemble, exercise our First Amendment right to stand proud and recite the Pledge of Allegiance to honor the flag,” Gebhardt said.
The program included the national anthem, extended remarks by Gebhardt and Wayne Schaeffer of the Bladen County Republican Party, and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Alan WootenBladen Journal
Alan Wooten can be reached at 910-247-9132 or email@example.com. Twitter: @alanwooten19.