Stokes County Commissioners voted 4-1 in opposition to Commissioner Ronda Jones separation of church and state resolution, but it was almost over before it even began.
Minutes into the meeting, Commissioner Jimmy Walker requested the resolution be removed from the regular meeting agenda.
Commissioner Ernest Lankford agreed, citing it had been done in the past.
Jones responded by saying she would ask for the same courtesy she’s given, whether she was in agreeance or not over the years.
“I will reluctantly withdraw my motion,” Walker said. “However, I feel like this board should have the ability to set its own agenda. I don’t know how we’ve got backed into a corner where one commissioner can add an item but three commissioners, the majority, cannot take it off.”
While the commissioners weren’t in favor of Jones resolution, many echoed her same sentiments in the three-minute time slot given in public comments.
North Stokes High School teacher Janis Henderson-Hunsucker said the county needed to embrace diversity and spark entrepreneurship.
“We need a county where my high school seniors can get internships. And we need an economy where my children can get high paying jobs when they grow up. By supporting the Ronda resolution you show the citizens of this county that you’ll focus on important local issues, not state and federal issues that seek to divide us.”
Henderson-Hunsucker urged the commissioners to see the “big picture” problems.
“We have poisoned well water and inadequate school funding. I’m teaching a class on digital photography and we don’t have money for cameras or textbooks. It’s like learning to read and only knowing half the alphabet.”
Local realtor Ellen Peric said she favored the resolution mainly because she deals with a diverse public on a day-to-day basis.
“You have to leave racism and bigotry outside my door. I think you all are in the service industry also. One of the utmost importance. Decisions you make can affect citizen’s life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. You’ve been elected to serve the entire county, not just a segment.”
After six years as a commissioner and a former board chair, Jones believes there’s a distinct divide within the county.
“Politics has become more of a sporting event of winners and losers. All citizens are losing out despite which side they are on. Compromise, healthy debate, real facts seem to be things of the past. We have become a society of intolerance and focused on being right instead of doing what is right,” she said.
Jones feels it’s her responsibility to make citizens aware of the path Stokes County is taking.
“Our community, like most, is diverse with many religions and Christian views. One view of Christianity is being used to promote unfair legislation. As leaders, it is to the best interest of everyone to promote unity; not promote a certain religious doctrine that divides us. All citizens should be afforded the same benefits in terms of government business,” she said. “In other words, politicians are not elected to ‘save souls’. We are constantly reminded how the Christians of the promoted view are being persecuted, however, they seem intent on persecuting those that don’t subscribe to their doctrine, hence, the need for separate church and state.”
While Jones has a strong backing, there are even more quietly urging her on.
“I have seen a huge amount of support from different faiths and political affiliation. Unfortunately, many are too fearful to announce their support in public in fear of backlash. It would be grand if we could put separation of church and state on a ballot relieving citizens of this fear. Regardless of opposing views of history and religion, separation of church is good for both church and state.”
Of course, not everyone agrees. King resident, Thomas Delp and others at Monday’s meeting believe their religious liberties are at risk.
“I’d like remind our community that our nation was founded on God and his Word,” he said. “This resolution is a minor issue, but I firmly believe it is a purposeful desire to continue to remove God from our very society and to remove our religious liberties. I admit that my two little girls will live in a much different America than I was raised in. But I’m confident, more than ever that my God is still on the throne and he will never resign.”
Amanda Dodson can be reached at 336-813-2426 or on Twitter at AmandaTDodson.