By Steve Woodward
Even Moore County, a once reliable Republican foothold, can not escape the long shadow of political correctness in 2022.
A no-brainer proposal to proceed with a plan to erect three Charters of Freedom monuments on Moore public land has been challenged repeatedly and, if and when it is built and unveiled, ultimately will be an attraction its founding organization did not envision.
North Carolinians Vance and Mary Jo Patterson visited Washington, D.C., in 2011 for an immersion into the founding of the United States. They were inspired by seeing the original documents that chartered our freedoms as a nation — the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. The following year, the Pattersons put into action an idea that followed them home from Washington. They formed Foundation Forward to bring the founding documents to communities across the nation based on the premise that far too few adults and children ever would have an opportunity to visit the Nation’s Capital.
Thus was born Charters of Freedom and its uncomplicated mission: “Create an educational non-profit that installs life-size replicas of the United States’ Charters of Freedom: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights in communities across America. Teach and preserve American history and civics, so all will know how our government is meant to serve and protect We the People.”
In the years to come 30 Charters displays would be erected in nine states. Less than two years ago, a volunteer with the Moore County Republican Party became aware that Charters displays had popped up in numerous counties across North Carolina. “What are we waiting for?” she asked.
Fast forward to Spring 2022. The Moore County Charters site only recently was approved by the Board of Commissioners, and its chairman, Frank Quis. This is the same board that has placed false barriers in the path of the project every step of the way. The same board that lost its will to do the right thing when confronted by opponents of the project from the local NAACP and its fellow apologists, demeaning America’s evolution from experiment to global beacon.
The 18th century underpinnings of America are not sufficient, they insisted, because the documents do not reflect a country founded by racists slaveholders. Why stop with the Bill of Rights, the original 10 amendments to the Constitution enshrined in 1791? Expand the project, they said. Let our children know that ours was a nation deeply flawed at inception. And, thus, the Commissioners entertained a revised plan to add another brick-and-glass enclosed monument to contain the “Civil Rights” amendments of the post-Civil War era, the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments abolishing slavery in the mid-19th century.
Not good enough, the critics retorted. You must display the 19th Amendment granting the right to vote to women in the early 20th century (1919), and the 24th Amendment of 1964 that made poll taxes illegal. A writer of a letter to the editor in The Pilot went further, demanding a bright light be cast on the 25th Amendment that makes provisions for the removal of a U.S. president from office (an amendment popularized by Trump haters after Donald Trump was elected in 2016).
Meanwhile, Moore GOP volunteers who had invested time and effort to bring the project to fruition broke ranks with the Commissioners when chair Quis said he was handing off the Charters to another board member. At the same time, two prospective sites were shot down.
But here we are. Quis returned to the fray after our dear friend Louis Gregory was compromised by health issues. Quis suddenly was a proponent. As early as May 2022, the Moore County Charters display is expected to break ground near the county courthouse in Carthage, the least accessible location of any others considered. The executive director of Charters of Freedom tells us that adding the amendments is “not something we do under the scope of our work.” In other words, of the Charters sites across our state from Murphy to Bolivia (western mountains to eastern shore), none have grappled with concerns about the validity of the nation’s founding documents.
Finally, the Commissioners have yet to provide construction cost projections. The Pilot dutifully has reported that the project will be built on public land using private funds. This raises one of many questions. Will those funds pay for the expanded scope of the project? We do not know. And some big ones: Will local schools be interested in organizing field trips near the courthouse, where bus access and pedestrian gathering space is limited? Will the many tourists who visit Moore County ever find their way to the heart of Carthage, far removed from Pinehurst’s golf and Southern Pines’ vibrant shopping district?
Will our Moore citizens ever be willing to forgive the division and mistrust sowed by these Commissioners? We shall find out in November.