Speaking last week to the Blount County Democratic Club, Rev. James C. Fields Jr. appeared to call for a balance between church and state. Diverging from the announced topic, “Separation of Church and State in a Diverse Society,” Fields noted Christians have a higher law but are to be respectful of earthly government and leaders.
“People will only believe you, if you believe yourself,” he began. Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers “never meant for government to run churches.” He held that politics have taken control of churches. Preachers, who at times lack formal education and training, may rail against the Democratic Party from the pulpit but fail to view the broader picture of concerns for those in need.
“Roy Moore (currently suspended chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court) did some good things, but he violated his (constitutional) oath.” Fields asserted Moore should have resolved the issues he faced before standing for public office.
Suggesting that government has its role, the Colony native said, “Schools should do their thing, but parents need to instill in children what they need to know (in terms of values).” The unsuccessful 2014 lieutenant governor candidate jested, “Had we just breathed a little differently in 2014, I’d be the governor tonight.” He tied that thought to the need for Democrats to work harder in believing in themselves.
He notes Democrats should work together to make a difference. He decries the plight of 80 percent of Alabama’s public school students who receive free and reduced lunches, while the state pulls in record tax revenues.
He lamented that former governor Bob Riley called the Legislature into special session after his replacement election in 2010 and before he left office to set up a rolling reserve. That reserve now holds at least $97 million in unused funds when the state has needs. He depicted the Poarch Creek Indians, reportedly having supplied millions of dollars for Riley’s campaigns and others, as bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars a year and as buying control of much of state government.
The retired Alabama Department of Industrial Relations employee anticipates teachers will see a pay raise next year (2018) from that “rolling reserve” but suggests its intention is as a bribe to get their votes. In addition to the reserve, the Republican-controlled legislatures have borrowed other funds from the Education Trust Fund and still have not paid those back.
“I’m not saying all Republicans are bad, but we’ve got to have balance,” he announced. “Mac (Mac McCutcheon, present Alabama speaker of the house) is a good man, but he’s going to get caught up in it (the toxic culture Fields described).”
He holds that Democrats have been the party of the people, citing Social Security, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicare and Medicaid. Recalling the early fight for Social Security, he noted considerable opposition to it among Republicans; he compared that to the near-unanimous opposition to the healthcare act. Over time, Americans have come to embrace Social Security; given time, he foresees, they would and might still embrace the ACA.
When Democrats held power in the state, they took care of all, according to Fields. Citing his own heavily African- American town of Colony, he asserted the Democrat leaders addressed needs there as well as elsewhere.
“I could have switched (parties) in 2008 and I’d still be in office,” the former Cullman County state legislator opined. “But, to thine own self be true,” he continued. “Democrats have got to verbalize their message (of care for all),” he added.
Returning to his faith-based ideas, Fields spoke of Jesus’ lesson of a grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying to produce more. He noted “we today benefit from the sacrifice of others before us.” He urged Democrats to get involved and plant for the future.
Fields accepted questions from the more than 30 attendees before the meeting ended. The club will host newspaper columnist John Archibald at its May 11 meeting, which will be at 6:30 p.m. in Oneonta’s Frank Green Building.