County commissioner: 'I would defund the museum today if it was up for a vote'

·7 min read

Two county commissioners say they support County Manager Kim Eagle's decision to remove a photo of men kissing from the Gaston County Museum of Art and History, with one adding that he believes homosexuality is a sin and that he would defund the museum if it was up for a vote.

A photo captured at a Charlotte Pride parade in 2019 was briefly on display at the Gaston County Museum of Art and History but was later removed.
A photo captured at a Charlotte Pride parade in 2019 was briefly on display at the Gaston County Museum of Art and History but was later removed.

Commission Chairman Chad Brown and Commissioner Tracy Philbeck were the only two commissioners to respond to a list of questions The Gazette sent to the seven-member board. The Gazette asked the board whether they support Eagle's decision to remove the photo, and if so, why, and whether they plan to address the issue at their June 28 meeting.

The newspaper also asked why Gaston County has not introduced a proclamation to acknowledge Pride Month, and whether there have been any recent discussions regarding defunding the museum. Brown had brought up the county's funding of the museum in an earlier interview.

Brown, who also emailed other board members and several other county officials when he responded to The Gazette, said in an email that the idea of pulling funding from the museum has been discussed over the course of several years, and it also came up in a hearing about the county budget this year.

Chad Brown speaks during the Ground Breaking Ceremony for The Lighthouse Children’s Advocacy Center on City Church Street Thursday morning, July 22, 2021.
Chad Brown speaks during the Ground Breaking Ceremony for The Lighthouse Children’s Advocacy Center on City Church Street Thursday morning, July 22, 2021.

"These discussions predated this issue and this issue has no bearing on future funding decisions for the museum. It is county government's responsibility to oversee programs and decisions of departments that are funded with taxpayer dollars," Brown said. "If the museum or its board desires the autonomy to have zero county oversight, they are more than welcome to fully fund the museum and make their own decisions."

Brown said that issuing a proclamation for Pride Month is "not a priority for this board at this time."

"Our board has many issues in which we are dealing with. Our board is not reactionary to other local governments," he said.

"Why has the local elected official which condemned the county's actions (in your last article) not taken any steps to pass such a proclamation in their own municipality like the one you have ask me for?" he asked, referring to Gastonia City Council member Robert Kellogg, who tried and failed to introduce a proclamation honoring Pride Month at the June 21 city meeting.

"What other municipalities in Gaston County have passed such resolutions? Any to take such action at this stage would be reactionary and an attempt to gain political favor and not with the right intentions," Brown said, adding that it is the last he intends to speak on the matter.

Commissioner Tracy Philbeck, the other commissioner who responded to The Gazette, said that he also supports Eagle.

Tracy Philbeck
Tracy Philbeck

" I fully support Dr. Eagle and her actions to remove the photo in question and any other photo in the future she deems, not keeping with the county’s mission," he said. "The reason I support this action is the county government's mission is to deliver services for our citizens, not political agendas. Dr. Eagle believed the museum could display its work, keep its intended purpose without one photo."

"I have no need to address this at the next commissioner meeting. Dr. Eagle acted within her authority and in keeping the county’s mission in mind," he added.

Kim Eagle
Kim Eagle

Philbeck said that to support Pride Month is to support a "greater cultural agenda."

"I do not support “Pride Month” nor would I support a proclamations supporting Pride month. Why? Why should there be a month to celebrate people based on their sexual desires and romantic attractions!" Philbeck said. "It is my belief to support Pride month is to support a greater cultural agenda that I believe is harmful to the family unit and tries to turn well established biology on its head. There are two genders: a man and woman. You have to be delusional to believe a man can get pregnant, have a period etc."

"As a Christian my faith teaches homosexuality is a sin. Just like adultery, lying etc. I would not support a resolution supporting those sins either," Philbeck added.

Philbeck said that he believes the museum is a waste of money.

Inside the darkroom at the new Into the Darkroom photography exhibit at the Gaston County Museum in Dallas Thursday afternoon, June 2, 2022.
Inside the darkroom at the new Into the Darkroom photography exhibit at the Gaston County Museum in Dallas Thursday afternoon, June 2, 2022.

"I would defund the museum today if it was up for a vote. Because I believe it is a waste of taxpayer dollars and those dollars could go to much needed capital improvements in our school system," he said. "What other counties and cities do is their prerogative. I am tolerant of their views. Let’s see how this tolerant touting crowd is of mine!"

For the fiscal year 2022, the county spent $642,058 on staffing at the museum, $129,147 on museum operating expenses, and $12,000 on capital expenses, which go toward building upkeep, according to the county budget.

Michael Carpenter, a member of the museum's board of trustees, said that most of the museum's funding comes from the county.

Carpenter said that he feels the county's decision to pull the photo from the museum was wrong.

"As a board member, I'm disappointed that that decision was made. I'm not happy about it at all," he said. "The museum is making moves to become more inclusive and diverse, and this attempt evidently went a little too far for some people, but not to me."

Here are the full, unedited statements from Commissioners Chad Brown and Tracy Philbeck: 

Brown: Yes, I support Dr Eagle and her work in Gaston County Government.

This was an internal matter that only became an issue due to a reactionary newspaper.  They will do anything to sell a paper or subscription.  I don't react or make policy by what THEY think is news.

This idea about letting the museum stand on its on has been talked about for several years.  The topic was also discussed in this year's budget public hearing.  These discussions predated this issue and this issue has no bearing on future funding decisions for the museum.  It is county governments responsibility to oversee programs and decisions of departments that are funded with tax payer dollars.  If the museum or its board desires the autonomy to have zero county oversight, they are more than welcome to fully fund the museum and make their own decisions.

This Proclamation is not a Priority for this board at this time.  Our board has many issues in which we are dealing with.  Our board is not reactionary to other local governments.

Why has the local elected official which condemned the county's actions ( in your last article) not taken any steps to pass such a proclamation in their own municipality like the one you have ask me for?

What other municipalities in Gaston County have passed such resolutions?

Any to take such action at this stage would be reactionary and an attempt to gain political favor and not with the right intentions.

This is the last I intend will speak of this matter

Philbeck: I fully support Dr. Eagle and her actions to remove the photo in question and any other photo in the future she deems, not keeping with the county’s mission. The reason I support this action is the county governments mission is to deliver services for our citizens, not political agendas. Dr. Eagle believed the museum could display it’s work, keep it’s intended purpose without one photo.

I have no need to address this at the next commissioner meeting. Dr. Eagle acted within her authority and in keeping the county’s mission in mind.

I do not support “Pride Month” nor would I support a proclamations supporting pride month. Why? 1. Why should there be a month to celebrate people based on their sexual desires and romantic attractions! 2. It is my belief to support Pride month is to support a greater cultural agenda that I believe is harmful to the family unit and tries to turn well established biology on it’s head. There are two genders a man and woman. You have to be delusional to believe a man can get pregnant, have a period etc. 3. As a Christian my faith teaches homosexuality is a sin. Just like adultery, lying etc. I would not support a resolution supporting those sins either.

I would defund the museum today if it was up for a vote. Because I believe it is a waste of taxpayer dollars and those dollars could go to much needed capital improvements in our school system.

What other counties and cities do is there prerogative. I am tolerant of their views. Let’s see how this tolerant touting crowd is of mine!

Reporter Kara Fohner can be reached at 704-869-1850 or at kfohner@gannett.com. Support local journalism by subscribing here.

This article originally appeared on The Gaston Gazette: Gaston commissioners: Removing Pride photo from museum was right call