The Grand Lodge of Tennessee, the other major player in the situation currently unfolding in US Freemasonry, issued their response to the suspension of fraternal relations by the Grand Lodges of California, and of Washington DC.
It might be cynical thinking on my part that instead of posting these as they come, I should have a page that has the list and we could keep adding to it.
This evening, the news began to spread around the Masonic internet haunts about the message from M. David Perry, Grand Master of Masons in California. I received several from brothers who were proud, excited, and who wanted to make sure the message went out.
From the GM of CA today
You might have read about recent events in some US states including Georgia and Tennessee where Masonic grand lodges have adopted new rules or have enforced existing rules that discipline Masons because of their sexual orientation. Such rules and actions do not coincide with the principles of Freemasonry as practiced by the Grand Lodge of California and do not support what we understand as the great aim of our fraternity.
Freemasonry is a universal system which uses the tools and techniques of the old stonemasons’ guilds to illustrate simple moral and ethical principles. To this it adds a philosophical and spiritual framework for personal improvement. Freemasonry encourages its members to be better by improving their relationships with others, by practicing a life of tolerance, compassion, honesty, and the pursuit of justice. Freemasonry instructs its members to uphold and respect the laws of their government and not to undermine those laws. It attempts to make the world a better place by making its members better citizens of the communities in which they live.
Freemasonry may be found worldwide, in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Freemasonry works through local lodges. In California and elsewhere, some lodges are comprised of men only, some of women only and some of both men and women. Each lodge typically operates under a grand lodge, and there are a number of these grand lodges operating in California. Each grand lodge is independent and operates under its own set of rules as its members may decide.
With more than 50,000 members statewide, those lodges under the Grand Lodge of California are open to men of good character and faith, regardless of their race, color, religious beliefs, political views, economic station, sexual orientation, physical ability, citizenship or national origin. Our lodges currently work in English, Spanish, French, and Armenian.
Through this universal brotherhood, California Masons learn to be better husbands, better fathers, better friends, and better citizens. By appreciating our differences, we learn to focus on what unites us. Thus, the discussion of religion, politics, and business is not permitted in our lodges. In this way we live up to the centuries-old aim of our fraternity – to unite men of every country, sect, and opinion and cause true friendship among those who otherwise would have remained at a distance.
It has been a week now since the news of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee and their expulsion of two seemingly well liked and active brothers who were accepted by the members of their lodge, but who were not accepted by other members of the fraternity in the state.
The discussions have continued on Facebook groups and other Web forums since then, with the overwhelming majority of Freemasons sympathetic toward Brothers Clark and Henderson; and ranging from irate to incredulous at the Grand Lodge of Tennessee.
Unfortunately, the opinions of the several thousands of Freemasons will probably have little impact, since most of the support for the brothers has been from members who aren’t from Tennessee. This may have something to do with the recent directive in Tennessee that forbids members from discussing the matter in public; indeed, rumors have circulated that the GL officers have noted some of the brothers who have spoken out on social media. So far, reports that those members have been disciplined have gone unsubstantiated.
Fortunately, however, it seems that the conversations have not gone unnoticed elsewhere. California is the first to release a public statement to the effect that the Grand Lodge does not condone or support the discriminatory actions of several other states. Hopefully others will follow shortly, before the Grand Lodge of Tennessee convenes at the end of March.
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Edit: Chris Hodapp has posted the text from the Grand Lodge of Utah, and the Grand Lodge of DC, both of which came out several days ago.
“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.
Dateline: Atlanta, GA — Westboro Baptist Church members are coming to the support of the GL of GA over their controversial decision to make both homosexuality and fornication Masonic offenses. As reported on Chris Hodapp’s blog,:
The Grand Lodge of Georgia met yesterday (Oct 27) and the voting members upheld Grand Master Douglas McDonald’s edict outlawing homosexuality, and throwing in fornication for good measure. After several impassioned speeches on the floor against the measure, it passed with a very close vote that probably should have been counted individually, but wasn’t.
Today being Halloween, a seance was held to summon the ghost of church founder Fred Phelps, who directed the WBC to give their support to the GL of GA, which has come under fire from Freemasons around the US and other areas for their decision to pass this ruling during their recent GL session.
The seance was short-lived, and reportedly ended with the ghost of Phelps complaining about the lack of air conditioning.