News Item: “Tennessee Freemasons Oust Married Gay Couple, Threaten Supporters with Suspension”
“Tennessee Freemasons Oust Married Gay Couple, Threaten Supporters with Suspension”
Readers will remember when we discussed this several weeks ago: Bro. Dennis Clark and his married partner Bro. Mark Henderson have been expelled from the Grand Lodge of Tennessee because they violated the rules:
According to the constitution, members are not supposed to “engage in lewd conduct. To promote or engage in homosexual activity. To cohabit immorally in a situation without the benefit of marriage.”
Now, there’s no arguing with this. They are homosexuals. They got (legally) married. It’s against the Tennessee Masonic Code, and they are in violation.
But it really does make you wonder about the situation. Dennis Clark and Mark Henderson were, to all appearances, honest, active, and hard-working Freemasons. I haven’t run across any behind-the-scenes complaints about either of them; as far as I can tell, Clark was very active in lodge, and in several other appendant bodies. Why would the Grand Lodge of Tennessee opt to discipline, and ultimately expel them, for violations of the code, when they could have easily ignored the situation until such time as the rules could be changed? The Grand Lodge convenes in March, and presumably legislation could have been drafted to present at that time.
More, why pick on two active brothers for that violation, when it would be presumably easy to find brothers cohabiting with partners, or violating any other of the rules?
By 2:30 pm, the WKNO news item was picked up by The Raw Story, an internet news magazine. In less than 2 hours, it managed to get almost 600,000 “likes” on Facebook, which means that the idea “The Masons don’t let gays in,” will be what people think of. The general public has no idea that every US state has their own rules, they will just remember something about some gay guys getting kicked out — for being gay.
Even more troubling, though, is the report that the Grand Lodge has essentially issued a gag order on all members, forbidding them from discussing this situation with the public — including online venues.
Grand Master Phillip Hastings, the current leader of Tennessee’s freemasons, did not respond to multiple interview requests. Last November, he outlined the organization’s position of silence in an open letter sent to lodges:
“Brethren, this Masonic matter is to be handled by the Grand Lodge of Tennessee within the State of Tennessee and any further un-authorized discussion on this matter outside of the Tennessee Masonic fraternity will be considered a Masonic offense and will be dealt with accordingly,” Hastings wrote.
Naturally, this hasn’t stopped Masons from other jurisdictions from discussing the situation. While there are mixed opinions, depending upon which forum or Facebook group one reads, the majority of Freemasons online (typically a younger demographic), disagree strongly with the decision.
Paul Rich, a scholar of Freemasonry, says that the society was originally founded as a safe haven for ideas and Enlightenment values.
“It largely eliminated sectarian references and welcomed diversity. Because of that, it attracted prominent people and made an important intellectual contribution,” Rich says, adding that America’s regional ideologies are affecting that spirit. “The Northern lodges are having difficulties being associated with all of this.”
And indeed, most of the arguing online seems to be based on the disagreement of whether homosexuality is an immoral behavior. It’s not something that will be settled easily. Unfortunately, in the meantime this is just one more reason that Freemasonry will continue to look like a dinosaur club.