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News Item: “Tennessee Freemasons Oust Married Gay Couple, Threaten Supporters with Suspension”

February 24, 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments

From Tennesee’s WKNO 9:00 am news article:

“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.

Mark G Window

Stained Glass G, restored by Bros. Henderson and Clark.

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.

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  1. February 24, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    I would relish that suspension.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. February 25, 2016 at 6:49 am

    From Anderson’s 1738 revised Constitutions:

    “A Mason is obliged by his tenure to observe the moral law as a true Noachide; and if he rightly understands the Craft, he will never be a stupid Atheist nor an irreligious Libertine, nor act against conscience. In ancient Times, the Christian Masons were charged to comply with the Christian usages of each country where they traveled or worked; being found in all nations, even of divers religions. They are generally charged to adhere to that religion in which all men agree (leaving each brother to his own particular opinions); that is, to be good men and true, men of honor and honesty, by whatever names, religions, or persuasions they may be distinguished; for they all agree in the three great articles of Noah, enough to preserve the cement of the lodge. Thus Masonry is the Center of Union, and the happy means of conciliating persons that otherwise must have remained at a perpetual distance. “

    In other words, while Freemasons will take the Holy Bible as a guide, Anderson understood that there were going to be differences of interpretation. Anyone claiming that excluding gay men (or black men, for that matter) can be justified by scripture misses the point that we learn to put aside such differences in order to be united in the bigger picture.

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  3. CLS
    February 25, 2016 at 10:47 am

    Before you start making assumptions about this matter based on WKNOP and the Raw Story (which isn’t a “news” site, it’s a clickbait machine) why don’t you call MWGM Hastings and ask him about it? He’s not a hard man to reach.

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  4. Greg
    February 25, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    From a Mason outside of Tennessee: Two things to keep in mind whether you agree with the decision or not…

    First, the lodge they were initiated into knew that homosexuality was against the Tennessee Masonic Code as is sex outside of marriage. They chose to ignore that fact when accepting them into their lodge. If the GL of Tennessee sees fit to suspend or expel these individuals because they were acting against the already established code then that is their right to do so. However, they should also take action against the Officer of that lodge when the men were initiated if it is true that they knew the men were joining against code.

    Secondly, both of those men took an obligation (oath) that they would uphold the rules of the lodge they joined and the Grand Lodge which that lodge was under. They willingly went against the rules they agreed to uphold. So they were in violation of their obligation.

    Now, if they feel that the rules are unfair or not correct then they should have fought to have them changed before they joined.

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  5. February 25, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    Greg, that would make sense if they knew about the rules beforehand. It’s not uncommon for men to get moved through their degrees pretty quickly, then have a Bylaw book shown to them at the end of the MM degree, told to sign it, and that’s the end of the matter.

    And yes, the lodge members should have known better, but since they appear to have accepted both men in, and since Clark went on to become an officer in several other bodies over the course of the next few years, I think that it’s reasonable to assume that most of them figured the rule as one of those archaic regulations that had little meaning. In fact, from the several news stories and from several emails, I now understand that Dennis Clark had drafted some legislation to have the clause about homosexuality removed.

    When you consider that the members of their own lodge had no issue, and that the charges seem to have originated outside the lodge, it seems as if the selective enforcement (selective because there don’t appear to have been expulsions for men cohabiting with their girlfriends, or expulsions for guys who were drunk, using profanity, etc.) could have been a factor of Grand Lodge politics by people who did not want the proposed legislation to pass.

    That’s an assumption on my part, but it would not surprise me in the least to discover that it were true.

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    • March 9, 2016 at 4:45 am

      Non disclosure vitiates any agreement including ones obligations. This is the rule of law.

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      • March 9, 2016 at 5:33 am

        If one does not fully understand ahead of time, non disclosure is in effect. Also, nothing illegal may be contained in an agreement for it to be binding. Conspiracy to commit murder vitiates any agreement. I cannot legally agree to my own demise. Further more when being put under oath by a lodge’s WM on a bible who would be officiating as an officer of the biblical God of Abraham, issac and jacob, he could not also represent Allah and the koran without his authority being in question for conflict of interest. His illegal representation that the initiate is being put into a lawful agreement with God would be fraudulent and thus would vitiate the entire obligation. ( gag order)

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  6. Jay Bell
    February 27, 2016 at 8:30 am

    I don’t see why they would make such a big deal. They let masons stay in that have several felonies, and chose to ignore or look the other way, so why should this be an issue ? In the short time that i have been raised, i have seen a lot of shady things happen, that the grand lodge would rather overlook than to deal with.

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    • February 27, 2016 at 8:58 am

      Good question, Jay.

      Again, the members of the lodge were aware the their relationship. They were active for years, and served in several other bodies. Why now?

      Is it because Clark had come up with a change to the code that could have gone up to discussion or vote at Grand Lodge?

      Like

    • March 9, 2016 at 4:59 am

      George washington would have been felon in the eyes of the British. In whose eyes of the the LAW are these matters being judged? Ones apron is presented as representing an authority exceeeding priests, kings, and potentates. So few understand what this implied authority would entail. The authority to enforce devine law and decree what that devine law means. Moral law is not something determined by democratic vote. But by officers of the court of divinity.

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  7. Dennis Robert Clark
    February 29, 2016 at 12:13 am

    These are all good questions and salient parts of the conversation. To Greg’s point, Master Masons do not see the TN Constitution at any time unless they specifically ask for it. When I became aware of the Bullet 27 in the penal code, I was concerned and discussed it with my masonic mentor. He pointed out that there are 26 other bullets that everyone ignores above it and that I should not be concerned. On January 28, 2008, my partner and I went to Scotland to legally formalize our civil partnership and someone kicked up some dust about it. The then-current grand master did not accept those charges. Then in 2011 when I was Master of my lodge, the issue was a brought up again and the then-current GM would not accept those charges either. As a matter of Prosecutorial Discretion, a Grand Master can decide whether a masonic offense is critical enough to bring to trial. Frankly speaking, I can’t think of anyone who hasn’t broken at least one or two masonic offenses. It is because of Prosecutorial Discretion that we have any Tennessee Freemasons left.

    To Tom’s point, yes, I did write some of the legislation to change the code to prevent discrimination based on race, national origin, sexual orientation, or how a man practices his religion. I also wrote an amendment to remove language that makes being gay or cohabitating a masonic crime. You can find the text of those changes on the home page of the GLoT website. The amendments were co-sponsored by five other Past Masters (three of whom I raised or initiated) so I am hopeful that they will not be tabled but rather discussed with the gusto and zeal you would expect from a Grand Lodge of Freemasons undertaking important issues of social dynamism.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. John Gebhart
    March 8, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    Both the California and DC Grand Lodges have decreed that they will not recognize GL of Tennessee or Georgia due to their stance on gay Brothers.

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