Dateline: Wallingford, CT — A group of Jewish Freemasons, joined by a number of Muslim brothers, plus several other interested parties, met with the Grand Lodge of Connecticut to demand that lodges stop serving pork products at dinner, including bacon and sausages during the various pancake breakfasts. The group handed over a list of Kosher and Helal religious observances that they demanded lodges should meet, and accordingly, the Grand Master will issue an edict to that effect so that all of the lodges will be in accordance.
No, wait… that didn’t happen.
More specifically, it didn’t happen because for the most part, Connecticut Freemasons — Jewish, Christian, and everyone else — remember that one of the strengths of our society is that we accept men who are of good character regardless of religious background. We — most of us — make an effort to leave our particular piques and quarrels outside of the lodge room.
What did happen this week, however, is that the Grand Master of Georgia (as evidenced by the note on Chris Hodapp’s blog) presented an edict to the effect that homosexual behavior is counter to the Masonic Code of Georgia Freemasons, and anyone engaging in such acts will be subject to discipline. For those who can’t read the potato-phone picture, the relevant passage is this:
“Masonic Code section 77-108 shall be hereby amended to add that: Homosexual activity with anyone is prohibited conduct subjecting the offender to Masonic discipline.”
It now joins the existing prohibited activities of Adultery and Fornication.
The Grand Lodge of Georgia may have simply been following the suit already played by the Grand Lodge of Tennessee, which has already established that homosexual activity, “lewd conduct,” and co-habitation are all taboo activities, along with Gambling, Drunkenness, Use of Profanity, and Sharing of Pornography.
In the Tennessee case, also referenced by Bro. Hodapp, WB Dennis Clark, a gay man, recently married his partner in a legal ceremony, and is now being prosecuted, presumably because his same-sex marriage is an indication that he would be engaging in homosexual activity. Bro. Clark’s long list of titles suggests that he has been a Freemason for quite some time, and may have been aware of the code. However, the point remains that he is being singled out, while the Grand Lodge has been ignoring the presumably more frequent cases of brothers with live-in girlfriends, or those that have frequented the local bars, the brothers buying lottery tickets, etc.
Grand Lodge jurisdictions are sovereign; that is, there’s no head of Freemasonry to tell the Grand Lodge of any state, province, or country what they should or should not have in their code. And personally speaking, I don’t like the idea of the Grand Lodges of each state telling other Grand Lodges what they should or should not do. The calls on the internet this week for the derecognition of Georgia and Tennessee are examples of the members perhaps blowing things out of proportion; Grand Lodges should be able to figure these things out for themselves.
But let’s also keep in mind that while Freemasons understand (for the most part) that jurisdictions all have their own rules, the general public — you know, those people who read the Dan Brown books, and watch those History Channel specials — have no idea how the Society works. When the public starts hearing that “The Masons will kick you out if you’re gay” — and they will, of course, because these stories are already making the rounds on social media — they aren’t going to think to themselves “Oh, never mind, it’s just those guys in Georgia.” No, they will associate this with the entire fraternity in the US. Freemasonry, already fighting a reputation as an “old man’s club,” will soon be fighting a reputation as an “old dinosaur’s club.”
Freemasonry, as a society, does not need to be on the forefront of social change. It does not need to be waving a banner for whatever popular movement happens to be in the public eye. There are times when it is actually good to be conservative in actions or outlook. But societal change is going to happen. We don’t need to lead the march, but it would be nice not to appear that we are being dragged along, kicking and screaming.