Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 15, 1953

"Any Thing Can Happen"

J. M. Powell, Franklin, Tennessee

In a recent edition of the Southside Bulletin, Mt. Pleasant, Texas, Charles A. Holt, Jr., had a rather lengthy article under the above caption. He wrote in part:

"Tennessee churches are like Texas churches — anything can happen in them! In Franklin Tennessee, Brother Kenneth Fielder preaches for the West End church. Recently there has been a big liquor election in that county and Brother Fielder took a very active part in fighting the legalizing of this 'rot' and the liquor interests. He was opposed severely and the battle waxed hot. Brother Fielder stood his ground and the enemies of the morality and right (the liquor crowd) felt the effects of his scathing exposures. Threats of violence were sent him. Now as a final attempt to ruin him, the liquor crowd is suing him for over $15,000.00. The disgraceful thing about it is, the leader of the suit against Fielder is a member of the church. He is an 'active and faithful member' of the other congregation in Franklin — so reports the preacher for this congregation. Now isn't this a fine mess. Can you imagine a church tolerating in her midst a ringleader for the liquor crowd, to say nothing of his bringing a law suit against a fellow Christian? This soft, worldly, ungodly spirit manifested by this congregation and her preacher is a shame and disgrace... Brother Fielder will win the suit to be sure, but not without tremendous cost (lawyer fees, $1,500.00). Thank God, the good congregation where he preaches is solidly behind him and has not deserted him in the midst of a fight for right. So many do 'sell out' when the battle is raging. Elders are spineless and lacking in conviction in too many places. They are afraid of a fight — afraid of trouble. There will always be trouble between truth and error, right and wrong, unless the people of God compromise and thus surrender to the enemy. May God bless Brother Fielder and the faithful there. Tis a shame that the other church (the big one as far as money, numbers and buildings go) has allowed such a disgraceful and sinful affair to continue with their approval. They have approved it by failing to do their duty toward the brother in error."

The above article in full or in part has appeared in many church bulletins and it even overflowed on the pages of the Gospel Guardian. When I read this article I wondered who was responsible for all the misinformation it contained.

In a recent letter to me, Brother Charles A. Holt, Jr., says that the article he wrote "was in substance what Brother DeHoff had in a recent bulletin of his from Murfreesboro... . If I am misinformed about the matter I am sorry and will gladly correct such. If I am, please inform me of the true situation. There is absolutely nothing to be gained by misrepresenting anything or anyone." I appreciate the spirit Brother Holt exhibited in his letter to me. It is a genuine pleasure for me to set forth the facts in the situation, since I am the preacher "of the other congregation," the congregation that is "the big one as far as money, numbers and buildings go." Now where did Brother DeHoff get his information? It is evident to all who know the facts that he was unreliably informed.

He could have gotten the true facts had he taken the time to do so.

Here are the facts: The sale of whiskey in Williamson county was made legal in September, 1939. In the spring of 1953 the prohibition forces of the county secured the signatures of enough registered voters to call a referendum for August 15, 1953. On April 30, 1953 the prohibition forces of which Brother Fielder was an official member drew up and published in the Review Appeal the following "statement of policy."

"It shall also be our policy to discuss this question on the basis of the principles involved and not on the basis of personalities. We do recognize that in a democracy every person is entitled to his own opinion."

In a speech over Radio Station WAGG on May 21, Brother Fielder spoke as follows:

"I want to talk about the liquor crowd. The people who are opposing this movement to try to get legalized liquor out of town have banded together and gotten them a mouthpiece, as they always do, and have called themselves Citizens For Enforceable Law. Now I want to insist, my friends, that this is misnamed, and I'm ashamed of people who are willing to admit that really what they are after is to do away with law... The truth is that these people who are banded together in what they call Citizens For Enforceable Law are not interested in enforcing the law. They are interested in selling you as much whiskey as they can sell you to get your money... Has it ever occurred to you that there are no deeply spiritual people in this organization? That church people, preachers and people who would naturally be expected to be standing for the right have not banded themselves together in this organization, but it's men who drink and men who make their money by drinking, and lawyers who'll sell their souls for a few dollars and be the mouthpieces for this traffic, this nefarious trade... They ought to be called Citizens For Legalized Sin."

The prohibition crowd, who called themselves, "Citizens For Enforceable Law" objected to the "abusive language" which Brother Fielder used, and rightly so, because the above language shows that Fielder did not live up to his agreement. They wrote a letter to each member of the anti-prohibition organization asking if a "change of policy" had been made, to which no replies were received. Later the letter which they wrote was published in the Review Appeal. In this letter was a quotation from Brother Fielder's speech:

On June 25, 1953, Brother Fielder in an advertisement in the Review Appeal said:

"With as many lawyers as are connected with `Citizens For Enforceable Law' one of them should know that they are guilty of stealing as they take my speech and quote from it, without so much as asking my permission! Did they think I wouldn't know the law, or were they ignorant of the law themselves? Let us hear from you, gentlemen — did you not know it is stealing to take that of another without asking?"

So on Tuesday, June 30, three separate suits were filed in Circuit Court, naming Kenneth Fielder as defendant. The plaintiffs were "Thomas P. Henderson, Chairman of Citizens For Enforceable Law, and Robert L. Richardson and Marshall Morgan, secretary and publicity manager, respectively, for the same organization." The declaration of Henderson is here given in its entirety; the declarations of Richardson and. Morgan each suing for the same amount as Henderson were similar in content: "Plaintiff Thomas P. Henderson, sues the defendant

Kenneth L. Fielder, for one ($1.00) as actual damages and for Five Thousand ($5,000.00) Dollars as punitive damages, for falsely, wantonly and maliciously publishing of and concerning him, in an advertisement in the Review Appeal, a newspaper published in Franklin, Williamson County, Tennessee, in its issue of June 25, 1953, the following false and defamatory matter, with intent to defame the Plaintiff, to wit:

"With as many lawyers as are connected with 'Citizens For Enforceable Law' one of them should know that they are guilty of STEALING as they take my speech and QUOTE from it, without so much as asking my permission! Did they think I wouldn't know the law, or were they ignorant of the law themselves? Let us hear from you, gentlemen — did you not know it is STEALING to take that of another without asking?"

"Plaintiff avers that he is an officer of 'Citizens For Enforceable Law,' being Chairman thereof; and that he is one of the persons whom the Defendant intended to defame by the publication above set forth and was known to be one of such persons by defendant and by all persons reading the said published matter. Plaintiff further avers that he is a lawyer, duly licensed to practice in all the Courts of the State of Tennessee and was one of the lawyers referred to in said defamatory matter and was known to be by Defendant and by all readers of the publication.

"Plaintiff further avows that any money recovered by him under this action will be given, in its entirety, to the County Center, Inc., a general welfare corporation located at Franklin, Williamson County, Tennessee.

"Wherefore Plaintiff demands a jury to try this cause."

From the time the suit was filed the elders of the Fourth Avenue church and myself were much perturbed. We knew that it was wrong for Brother Richardson to sue Brother Fielder.

Brother Robert Richardson is a splendid Christian gentleman and was not the "ringleader for the liquor crowd" as reported, and knows as well as anyone that whiskey is morally wrong. As a matter of fact he is a teetotaler, and teaches against the use of intoxicants.

We also knew it was wrong for Brother Fielder to make false charges against Brother Richardson and the other Plaintiffs as follows: They would "sell their souls for a few dollars," "they are interested in selling you as much whiskey as they can sell you to get your money," "it is men who drink and men who make their money by drinking, and lawyers who'll sell their souls for a few dollars," they are not interested "in enforcing the law." He also charged them with "stealing" and other things which were without foundation.

The elders and I began at once to have all three suits against Brother Fielder withdrawn, and we worked night and day until that was accomplished. To this end I invited Brother George DeHoff, who is a close friend of Brother Fielder, to come to Franklin and help to get the suit withdrawn. Brother DeHoff admitted that wrong had been done on both sides of the question and that Brother Fielder was very "unwise in some of the statements" he made. DeHoff also suggested that Fielder had failed to make a distinction between the moral issue and the political issue involved. He said that some of the "best members" of the Main Street church in Murfreesboro were morally opposed to liquor but were convinced that the best way to control whiskey was to legalize its sale, rather than to turn it over to the bootleggers. He told the Plaintiffs in the case that he had been misinformed about their characters; that after meeting them he recognized that they were high type gentlemen. He also apologized to Mr. Henderson for writing an unkind letter to him. He also said that Brother Richardson was a man of honor and integrity. He also told me that I was following the scriptural course by preaching what the Bible says about whiskey rather than getting involved in the political end as Fielder was involved. He also knew that we were trying to get the case withdrawn.

We hope that Brother DeHoff will make the necessary correction in his paper. In turn we hope that the preachers who copied DeHoff's article will make corrections in their church bulletins. We are also sending a copy of this article to our friend Yater Tant with the hope that he will publish it in the Gospel Guardian.

Through our efforts the case against Brother Fielder has been withdrawn. The following joint statement which is self explanatory was drawn up and signed by both the Plaintiffs and Defendant in the case:

FIRST: We feel that in the heat of the present campaign with reference to an election on the legalized sale of alcoholic beverages in Williamson County, an unpleasant spirit has been shown on occasion by both sides, improper insinuations have been made by both sides, and that in general the campaign, on both sides, has not been conducted on the high plane necessary to avoid bitterness among our people. We regret these occurrences.

SECOND: We agree that on both sides of opinion in this campaign there are good, honorable, Christian men and women, who, in good faith, have conflicting opinions as to the proper method of control of alcoholic beverages, some believing that the present system of legalized sale is best, others believing that all sales should be legally forbidden.

THIRD: We pledge ourselves for the remainder of this campaign to refrain from personalities, either implied or open, and to refrain from casting aspersions on the character of those who disagree with convictions on the issues involved. We believe that this is the right of all men under our form of government.

This 6th day of August, 1953 Kenneth L. Fielder Thomas P. Henderson Robert L. Richardson, Jr.

In consideration of the foregoing the undersigned agree to withdraw the lawsuits they have heretofore filed against Kenneth L. Fielder.

Thomas P. Henderson In view of the statement which Kenneth L. Fielder has seen fit to sign, I hereby agree to dismiss the lawsuit which I have heretofore instituted against him in the Circuit Court of Williamson County.

Marshall Morgan