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Claims Adjustment

June 16, 2017 2 comments

Anyone who has been paying to US political news for the last year or so knows that 2016 was a particularly divisive national election year, and that 2017 has been pretty much one “crisis” after another, as Republicans battle Democrats, and Trump supporters battle “Never Trump” activists.

I’ll admit to having done a bit of troll baiting over the last year, mainly because, well, I’m a 15 year old teenager trapped in a grown man’s body. Despite that, however, my Facebook friends list has stayed fairly steady. I’ve been blocked or unfriended by a few family and friends, but for the most part, the people that I’ve gotten to know – online and off – as fellow Freemasons have managed to keep their conversations level; they have been all over the political spectrum, but our disagreements have not been enough to have them drop me as a friend, nor I them.

Until this week.

The shooting of Republican Congressman Steve Scalise earlier this week should have elicited sympathy, if not outrage. At the very least, one would have thought that the more enlightened people would have abided by the rule “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.” That’s why I was not just surprised, but saddened at the comments of one of my friends who wrote, in essence, that Scalise deserved what he had gotten, that it was re-payment for his being a Tea Party supporter, and then added something about karma and female dogs.

The comment was not part of a conversation in which I was involved; I just blocked and later, deleted him from my friend list.

Oh sure, we’ve all had our moments of righteous anger. I can think of any number of times that I’ve read about some thug holding up a store, getting shot in the process, and thinking “Oh, good, maybe that’ll teach him a lesson.” But Scalise was not a thug; in fact, I had no idea who the guy was until I’d read the news, which indicates to me that he probably wasn’t an especially bad person. I’m guessing that for a lot of other people this was also the case.

“Okay, Tom,” you’re saying to yourself about now, “if I wanted to read about politics, I’d be on Facebook. How is this related to Freemasonry?”

Some US states have a piece at the closing of lodge (sometimes called the Closing Charge), that is sadly absent in Connecticut (and apparently elsewhere), but which I’ve run across, and I think it’s a moving bit of ceremony. A typical version runs like this:

Brethren: You are now to quit this sacred retreat of friendship and virtue, to mix again with the world. Amidst its concerns and employments, forget not the duties you have heard so frequently inculcated and forcibly recommended in this Lodge. Be diligent, prudent, temperate, discreet. Remember that around this altar you have promised to befriend and relieve every worthy Brother who shall need your assistance. Remember that you have promised to remind him, in the most tender manner, of his failings, and aid his reformation. These generous principles are to extend further. Every human being has a claim upon your kind offices. Do good unto all. Recommend it more especially to the household of the faithful. Finally, Brethren, be ye all of one mind; live in peace; and may the God of love and peace delight to dwell with and bless you.

I don’t know what made that pop into my head at some point yesterday, but there’s a part in there that I believe gets overlooked far too often:

These generous principles are to extend further. Every human being has a claim upon your kind offices. Do good unto all. Recommend it more especially to the household of the faithful.

That is, we have an obligation to be tolerant, if not downright charitable to everyone, regardless of political outlook. Maybe some of us need to be reminded of that not just in and around our lodge, but also whenever we log into our social media.

Darkness Falls

June 24, 2016 2 comments

This being St. John’s Day, I thought it appropriate to mention a few things.

First, this is typically the time that lodges in the Northeast US “go dark” for the summer. Now, there’s some disagreement on whether the expression “to go dark” should be used in this case, since the lodges will reopen for business in a few months. Some old-timers associate the expression to mean that a lodge turns in their charter and closes for good. If the lodge still has a charter and officers, then there’s some “light” available, and the lodge can not be totally dark. That said, I’ve noticed that the expression is so widely used, that even if it may be wrong, it’s not going to make a difference because everybody will be using it anyhow. You know, similar to the expression “I could care less;” it’s obviously wrong, but the usage is so widespread that nobody even thinks about it anymore.

Irregardless*, many of my friends in other parts of the US and UK have asked why we close at all during the summer. I’ve been told (although without any substantiating evidence) that it was the farmers needed the time off to tend their fields. Now, I grew up in rural parts of Connecticut, and while I claim no experience or expertise in this subject, I’m beginning to question if indeed, the farmers actually needed this time. As I drive past fields and pastures, I don’t see very much activity going on in July and August. In fact, the few local farm stores I pass are either closed or selling produce that obviously didn’t come from their fields. Do the crops need tending? Of course they do, but is there anything more labor intensive that happens during the hot months?For that matter, a quick perusal of the area Grange chapters seems to show that they are open during the summer. You’d think that if the professional farmers could manage to till the weeds (or whatever it is that they do) and get to a monthly Grange meeting, then the suburban Freemasons could manage a night off.

Hopefully some more agriculturally educated brothers can enlighten us.

It’s interesting to note that historians are also not in agreement on when the longer summer vacation for schoolchildren started. Again, while we are told that it was to help with the farming, historians of the Colonial period in the US tell us otherwise. tmtlampoonsvacation2

My own theory on this is that most lodges in the Northeast US were formed after the Industrial Revolution, and in the days before air conditioning and wine coolers, most of the members simply didn’t want to bother scheduling meetings when the children were out of school. Family trips, beach days, and other vacation days simply made it too difficult to get all of the members at a meeting; better to just not have them for a couple of months, and pick things up in September.

Something else of note is that this marks the week that The Tao of Masonry web log was first published in 2006. Initially started as a way to track events and keep people informed during my year as Master of Friendship Lodge No. 33, I turned it into a public sideshow for my ego collection of my thoughts on Freemasonry. The early to mid-2000s was probably the Golden Age of blogging, and I’ve listed several hundred blogs by Masons either on the blogroll or on my RSS feeds. While blogging is still a thing (as evidenced by the number of excellent bloggers listed on the Ashlars to Ashes aggregate), it’s also a little sad that most of those blogs from the early years have “gone dark” themselves. I think that  the Dummy Chris Hodapp, and Millennial Nick Johnson may be the only other Golden Age bloggers still regularly writing.

Since it’s my 10th bloggiversary year, I’m including some links to a couple of old posts from that time. And enjoy your summer, whether it’s light or dark.

Not a dry eye in the house.

Masonspotting: You’re doing it wrong.

WWHD?

But what was Plan A?

Cui Bono?

Who’s in charge, anyway?

 

* Irregardless. It’s a perfectly cromulent word.

The pot calling the kettle black: Part 3

March 25, 2016 8 comments

Note: This is the third of a three-part article from a brother who wishes to remain anonymous. The online discussions of the past few weeks prompted him to write about his experiences, and what he would do if it were in his power to promote changes.

I saw some of his writing elsewhere, and asked if I could use some of his ideas; he responded by filling in some details and presenting what you see here. While I don’t necessarily agree with him on all points, he does make an interesting case for why Grand Lodges should remove recognition from those states that do not practice what the membership believes to be the higher ideals of our society. I’m presenting this as some food for thought.

Part 1 is here
Part 2 is here

 

The chief argument that I have made in the preceding parts of this article is that racism and homophobia are not limited to the Grand Lodge of Georgia and Tennessee. Instead, I am of the opinion that racism and homophobia are present throughout the Craft and must be addressed with comprehensive and meaningful solutions provided by the various Grand Lodges.

This article originated due to the fact that there have been several posts on social media sites applauding the letters condemning the policies against homosexuals and African Americans in Georgia and Tennessee. While these letters represent a step in the right direction, they carry very little weight in terms of their ability to effect change within the fraternity. The position more or less taken by a few Grand Lodges largely amounts to, “While we condemn the actions of the Grand Lodge of Georgia and Tennessee, they are entitled to their opinion, but in our jurisdiction we welcome homosexual Brethren.”

To that I reply, “Awesome, but what about Brother Clark and his husband? They will not be permitted to visit your Lodges anytime soon because they were wrongly expelled from the fraternity.”

Furthermore, I would reply, “Tremendous! Surely, however, there is another homosexual Brother in Georgia or Tennessee who will have to conceal their life from a Brother for fear of prosecution and persecution. When they are charged and this whole process repeats itself in the eyes of the public how is the Craft going to look then? Are we going to have our spokesman Brother Chris Hodapp rush to our aid to grant more interviews in which he says, ‘Well, the decision is up to the Grand Lodge, but this type of behavior is considered repugnant by the vast majority of Freemasons?’”

Moreover, I would reply, “Excellent. Now, what exactly will happen when another Grand Lodge decides to follow the example of Georgia and Tennessee because they know that the only consequence is a stern letter from three Grand Lodges and the Scottish Rite? More stern letters?” If that happens, heaven forbid, then we are going to have a lot more to worry about than a black eye.

If you do not think the damage has been done in the fraternity, I can point to a 38 year old Past Master in Georgia who is demitting because of the action his Grand Lodge took. I can point to a number of worthy candidates who will never file a petition because our reputation has been tarnished. I can also point to a more recent situation where I visited a Lodge and an Entered Apprentice refused to go forward with his work because of what happened. Brethren, this is not a Georgia problem, this is not a Tennessee problem, this is a problem that will have ramifications across the Masonic world and the best that we have come up with is, “Well, the Grand Lodges have the authority to make those decisions, we cannot question that authority, but we can assure you that our Grand Lodge will not make a similar decision.”

Spare me. Spare us. Our fraternity is far better than that and we should expect more from it.

In fact, I am going to propose a far more meaningful and comprehensive response to what has occurred than what our Grand Lodges have offered. My response is one that makes it clear, in no uncertain terms, that there will be consequences if a Grand Lodge or any other Masonic body for that matter decides to engage in racism, prejudice, or homophobia. Brethren, the truth of the matter is that actions speak louder than words and the time has come to take action.

With that said, here is what I would have done if I were the Right Worshipful Grand Master of Pennsylvania.

  1. Issue an edict reforming the Masonic judicial process.

As I mentioned in the last part of this article , there are barriers that prevent Freemasons from being able to address the issue of unmasonic conduct. As the Right Worshipful Grand Master, I would eliminate those barriers in multiple ways.

First and foremost, all black balls would be able to be appealed to a panel of three District Deputy Grand Masters anonymously if there were suspicions as to why they were cast. The appeal would require the showing of cause as to why an individual believed that a black ball was unfairly cast. Upon receiving the appeal, a District Deputy would inform the Worshipful Master of it and give them 30 days to make their case. Abstract explanations as to why a vote was cast will not be sufficient. Instead, there must be a valid reason such as a criminal record or other hard proof that the person is unfit to join the fraternity. The District Deputies would then investigate the claims and if well founded would uphold the vote and the petitioner would be rejected. If, on the other hand, there is no evidence to support the casting of a black ball, then the District Deputies would have the power and authority to overturn the vote of the Blue Lodge, expunge the record of the vote, and order that the petitioner be initiated by a simple majority vote of the three. Furthermore, the petitioner would be given the status of Candidate at Large and have the option of pursuing membership at another Lodge. If the candidate chose to do so, then the Blue Lodge that they petitioned would have to turn over the initiation fee to the petitioner’s Lodge of choice and it would be credited toward their initiation fee and dues.

Second, ANY member would be permitted to bring charges against ANY other Lodge or member anonymously on the basis of racial, prejudicial, or homophobic conduct. The charges would be filed with the District Deputy who may assign any member of his district to visit the Lodge and investigate the claims. If the claims are verified, then the District Deputy will either have the power to bring charges against the individual or the entire Lodge depending on the nature of the infraction. If racism, prejudice, or homophobia is found to be systemic within the Lodge and the Lodge is convicted, the District Deputy Grand Master under the authority of the Right Worshipful Grand Master would have the power to confiscate the Charter of the Lodge. Furthermore, every member that participated in such conduct would be subject to expulsion from the fraternity upon conviction.

Third, in terms of discovery, the District Deputy would have to produce the statements made by the anonymous Brother and his investigator. The Lodge and member would reserve the right to serve interrogatories through the District Deputy in order to confront their accuser. The accuser must respond to the interrogatories within 30 days and they must be served upon the Defendant.

Fourth, all decisions made by the District Deputies may be appealed to the Right Worshipful Grand Master.

  1. Grand Lodges that engage in homophobic or racist conduct will no longer have fraternal ties with the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania

As the Right Worshipful Grand Master of Pennsylvania, it is not enough for me to write a letter condemning racist, prejudicial, or homophobic conduct. Instead, I have a duty and a responsibility to lead by example within the Masonic world.

The first thing that I would do is issue an edict prohibiting Masons from the Grand Lodge of Georgia and the Grand Lodge of Tennessee from visiting Blue Lodges under my jurisdiction effective immediately based on the decisions made by their Lodges that reflect poorly on the Craft.

Next, I would propose that the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania sever fraternal ties with the Grand Lodge of Georgia and the Grand Lodge of Tennessee until the edicts are reversed, until they pass legislation that bringing charges of unmasonic conduct on the basis of race, religion, and sexual orientation are strictly prohibited, publicly disavow their current position, expunge and dismiss any and all cases that have been brought against any Brethren on the basis of race, sexual orientation, or religious belief, and reinstate the Brethren that have been expelled and grant them life membership.

  1. Proposing to bring back the Masonic Jurisdiction Thereunto Belonging and issuing an edict waiving residency requirements for Brethren who have been the victims of racial, homophobic, and religious policies, and declaring any and all decisions rendered against those Brethren by their respective Grand Lodges void and unenforceable within my jurisdiction.

One of the peculiarities of the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania is that the full title of the Grand Lodge is The Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons in Pennsylvania and Masonic Jurisdiction Thereunto Belonging. While the official title of the Grand Lodge is a mouthful, many people wonder what Masonic Jurisdiction Thereunto Belonging means.

Masonic Jurisdiction Thereunto Belonging means that Lodges affiliated with the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania extended beyond its borders at one point in history. In fact, the Grand Lodge had chartered Lodges in the Dominican Republic, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, South Carolina, and most notably for our present purposes Georgia. In fact, the website for the Grand Lodge of Georgia notes that a Lodge known as Hiram Lodge #42 was Chartered by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania on the basis that they disapproved of the work being done by Solomon’s Lodge #1 in Savannah.

Furthermore, one of the unique things about the Right Worshipful Grand Master of Pennsylvania is that he can unilaterally issue edicts without putting them to a vote and his edict is absolute. In a book titled The Exemplar, Right Worshipful Past Grand Master Carpenter states, “It may be of great interest for Pennsylvania Freemasons to know that the inherent powers of the Right Worshipful Grand Master are unequaled throughout the Masonic World. There is no appeal of the decisions or actions of the Right Worshipful Grand Master of Pennsylvania. It has been stated many times that his power is frightening.”

Given the power that I would have as Right Worshipful Grand Master and historic precedent, I would propose that we bring back the tradition of the Masonic Jurisdiction Thereunto Belonging. If the vote were approved at a meeting of the Grand Lodge, then I would immediately issue an edict stating that any Blue Lodge in Georgia or Tennessee that disagreed with the edicts of the Grand Lodge of Georgia or Tennessee could surrender their charter to me and would immediately be granted a new Charter under the jurisdiction of the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania provided that they adopted legislation that bringing charges of unmasonic conduct on the basis of race, religion, and sexual orientation are strictly prohibited, publicly disavow their current position, expunge and dismiss any and all cases that have been brought against any Brethren on the basis of race, sexual orientation, or religious belief and would be entitled to keep their ritual and customs which are distinct from those in Pennsylvania. Alternatively, if they did not wish to be affiliated with the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and wished to form an independent Grand Lodges, then their Grand Lodges would be immediately recognized by the Grand Lodge upon declaring their existence and would receive whatever aid was necessary from the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania in order to form provided that similar legislation was passed at the inception of the new Grand Lodges.

Furthermore, I would use my power of making a Mason at Sight to admit any Brother who was a victim of racial, homophobic, or religious misconduct leading to their expulsion, their records would be immediately cleared, the residency requirement to join the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania would be waived, and they would be permitted to join effective immediately free of charge and until their Grand Lodges removed the obstacles to their membership and rescinded their policies.

Conclusion

As one can see, my policies are very broad and truly make a statement that racism, homophobia, and prejudice will not be tolerated by the Craft. On a local level, I provide the mechanisms necessary in order for investigations to occur, charges to be brought, and the barriers to be broken down that prevent unmasonic conduct from being reported. On the Grand Lodge level, I would use the power vested in me to give other Grand Lodges the courage to stand up to the policies of the Grand Lodge of Georgia and Tennessee while aiding and assisting Brethren who were victims of those policies.

Under my edicts, my Grand Lodge would not issue a letter simply condemning racism and prejudice. My Grand Lodge would begin the process of isolating Georgia and Tennessee from the rest of the Masonic world because of the inherently unmasonic decisions that they have rendered. When their Blue Lodges either joined my Grand Lodge or formed their own Grand Lodges that would receive immediate recognition, they would know that they had a true Masonic friend in Pennsylvania that upheld the virtues and principles of equality in the fraternity above all else.

Instead of the public seeing little action, they would see a precedent set that if you tarnish the reputation of the fraternity with racist or homophobic edicts, then there is a price to pay in the form of severe consequences. Those consequences would not only be severe enough to make every Mason within my jurisdiction think twice about engaging in racial, homophobic, or prejudicial conduct, but they would have a devastating impact on Grand Lodges who engaged in such conduct.

If other Grand Lodges followed my example, then Georgia and Tennessee would have no choice but to reverse their edicts and overturn the convictions that have been entered against Brethren on the basis of race, religion, and sexual orientation due to the sheer amount of pressure exerted on them. Moreover, we would not have to throw in the towel and say, “Well, there is not much we can do about it,” when we face the media. Additionally, no other jurisdiction would even consider enacting such policies by the time it was said and done because they know that my jurisdiction will act against it. If we responded with edicts and actions similar to the ones proposed, then the discussions that we are having about Georgia and Tennessee would not be concerned with how they are tarnishing the reputation of the fraternity. Instead, we would be enhancing the reputation of the fraternity by taking a firm stand that inequality does not have a place in a Blue Lodge or any Grand Lodge. Simply put, if we do not take action, then the public sees us as being just as much a part of the problem.

I have chosen to remain anonymous owing to the fact that I no longer live in Pennsylvania. Instead, I now live in one of the jurisdictions that have passed the edict against homosexuals. Although I am saddened by the fact that no Grand Lodge has chosen to act, I fully intend on joining a Lodge in this jurisdiction, making my way to the East, and gaining the ability to vote against the current policies of the Grand Lodge. I fear that if my identity is exposed that I will have problems joining a local Lodge with the hope of making positive change. I hope, however, that my series of articles will cause you to see the problem of inequality within the Craft, that you will demand that action be taken within your respective Grand Lodges, and become an active part of making a change within the fraternity that live up to our ideals of equality within our ranks.

 

 

The pot calling the kettle black: Part 2

March 18, 2016 3 comments

Note: This is the second of a three-part article from a brother who wishes to remain anonymous. The online discussions of the past few weeks prompted him to write about his experiences, and what he would do if it were in his power to promote changes.

I saw some of his writing elsewhere, and asked if I could use some of his ideas; he responded by filling in some details and presenting what you see here. While I don’t necessarily agree with him on all points, he does make an interesting case for why Grand Lodges should remove recognition from those states that do not practice what the membership believes to be the higher ideals of our society. I’m presenting this as some food for thought.

Part 1 is here

In the previous part of this article, I argued that the statements that have come forth from Grand Lodges distancing themselves from the edicts of the Grand Lodge of Georgia and the Grand Lodge of Tennessee were the equivalent of the pot calling the kettle black. That argument will undoubtedly ruffle the feathers of some of the Brethren who view the policies and principles of their Grand Lodge as superior to those of Tennessee and Georgia when it comes to equality. In deference to those Brethren who may disagree with my argument, I believe that your Grand Lodges are different and understand your argument because there is a difference.

What makes the Grand Lodge of Georgia and the Grand Lodge of Tennessee unique is the fact that persecution for race and sexual orientation has occurred at the hands of the Most Worshipful Grand Master of each jurisdiction. The racism and prejudice, therefore, is far more deeply embedded than it is in other jurisdictions and is overt in nature. My argument, therefore, is not that all Grand Lodges endorse racism. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. I believe that the vast majority of Grand Lodges have similar views to the ones that issued statements speaking out against it in California, Utah, and the District of Columbia. Instead, what I am suggesting is that one does not have to look nearly as far to find racism and prejudice at the local level where it is more easily concealed.

Furthermore, I want to make it clear that my argument is not one where I am attempting to paint Freemasonry with a broad brush. Instead, I am simply arguing that there is a significant minority of individuals and Lodges within the fraternity with racist and prejudicial views. In some places, such as Pennsylvania, you will not necessarily see racism and prejudice at a meeting of the Grand Lodge or during a visitation by a District Deputy Grand Master. Moreover, the vast majority of Lodges that you visit will not have an issue with race or sexual orientation. Instead, you are far more likely to see it from a small Lodge in a rural area that does not receive a lot of visitors and only after they become comfortable with you and assume that you share similar views. In the case of the Lodge that I spoke of in the previous part of this article, it becomes quite clear that the deck is stacked against you as well. Even if you wanted to pursue charges of unmasonic conduct against them, it is impractical due to the fact that you are largely outnumbered in that particular Lodge. The argument, therefore, is one where I am saying that a problem involving race and prejudice exists in the fraternity beyond the borders of Georgia and Tennessee and to think otherwise would be either highly optimistic on your part or naïve.

With that in mind, the primary reason that Brethren direct their disgust at the racism and homophobia in the fraternity toward the Grand Lodges of Georgia and Tennessee is simply due to the fact that it has been made public for the world to see. While that is a bold statement on my part, let us examine it in greater detail.

One of the cases that I have already referred to was the case of Brother Victor Marshall in Atlanta. As we are aware, one needs to complete the Blue Lodge degrees prior to petitioning the Scottish Rite. When Brother Marshall, an African American, became a Master Mason, charges were brought against the Worshipful Master of his Lodge for raising an African American. Once the Grand Master signed off on those charges, then it became readily apparent that racism was present at the highest levels within the Grand Lodge. Even though the charges never resulted in a conviction, Brother Marshall along with another Brother from his Lodge, were denied admission from the Scottish Rite on multiple occasions thereafter. Now, if the charges against the Worshipful Master had never been filed and the black balls had come against a white and African American brother, it is possible that the discussion of racism would never have taken place owing to plausible deniability despite the signs that the fix was in. The reason for that is due to the fact that the Scottish Rite could have simply said that they rejected members from multiple races. With the charges authorized by the Grand Lodge, however, the true reason for the black balls was never in doubt. While admittedly the Scottish Rite would have had a weak argument under suspicious circumstances, the possibility that no one in the Craft would speak out about it would arguably be higher due to the fact that we are naturally reluctant to levy such a heavy allegation against our fellow Brethren without a smoking gun being present. Unfortunately, in the case of Georgia, we not only saw the smoking gun but also the bullet being fired from it   by the Grand Master.

The racism and homophobia that occurs at the local levels of the fraternity, however, largely remains ignored. There are multiple reasons for that.

For instance, in my case, it would have been highly unlikely that I would have gained admission into the fraternity if the Lodge that I petitioned held anti-Semitic views. That was never likely to be the case because the Lodge that I petitioned was widely known for being a Lodge that was largely made up of Jews. In fact, I have a Masonic Bible from the 1970’s from the Lodge prior to it merging that only contains the Old Testament, which illustrates the Jewish character of that particular Lodge.  As a result, Freemasons that do not visit other Lodges are unlikely to come across this problem.

Even then, the system of voting is such that one must merely provide a “Masonic” reason as to why a petitioner is being rejected. To the credit of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, an edict was issued dispensing with this requirement and replaced with a standard requiring three or more black balls for rejection. While some purists of the fraternity are undoubtedly critical of some of our Grand Master’s more progressive edicts, I find this one to be well founded. If a committee makes a case as to why someone is not fit for the fraternity, then there is no doubt that more than three black balls will be accrued. At the same time, the edict had the effect of silencing the loose cannons that had their own agendas for rejecting candidates. Nevertheless, as most jurisdictions require only one black ball, any myriad of reasons could be presented as to why a candidate should be rejected. One may say something as simple as, “I do not think he possessed the good character requisite of a man who seeks admission into the Craft,” and that will often be the beginning and the end of the argument.

Next, if we are dealing with a Grand Lodge that observes Mackey’s Landmarks, then it is near impossible for a member of another Lodge to confront racism. According to Mackey, the sixteenth Landmark is that, “No Lodge can interfere in the business of another Lodge or give degrees to Brethren of other Lodges.” With that in mind, lets suppose that you visit another Lodge and view unmasonic conduct. Even though you observed the racism, you would be hard pressed to bring charges against that Mason because of the fact that you are not entitled to do that as a member of another Lodge. That is simply because masonic charges and trials would fall under the purview of that Lodge.

Finally, if you are dealing with a Lodge that is overtly racist it often becomes an issue where you are outnumbered. Even if you lived in a jurisdiction that would allow you to bring charges, it is likely that there would be a slew of witnesses testifying to the fact that your allegations are false. Other times, you are not in a position with enough authority to bring charges. In the Brother Marshall’s case, charges were brought by a Worshipful Master in the Grand Lodge of Georgia against the Worshipful Master of Brother Marshall’s Lodge in order to take the case to the Grand Lodge of Georgia and out of the Blue Lodge where it clearly would not have succeeded. In my case, it would have likely been my word against a Monarch of the Grotto. At the Blue Lodge level, it would have been my word against the Worshipful Master, the Senior Warden, the Junior Warden, along with several appointed officers and Past Masters. When you are faced with those odds, it is no wonder that charges are brought or you are told to lighten up and let it go even though the matter is far from trivial.

The end result is that we unfortunately have created a system where it is difficult for those who witness or are the victim of persecution to defend themselves. There are some that want to believe that the ills of homophobia and racism are confined to the Grand Lodge of Tennessee and the Grand Lodge of Georgia. Unfortunately, this is simply not the case.

Furthermore, if one wants to take action against a Brother who engages in unmasonic conduct, they are likely to face an uphill battle. First, it is extraordinarily difficult for a Brother to prove that another Brother acted out of malice when casting his vote without staining his own reputation in the process. Second, even if racist or homophobic behavior is observed, it is highly difficult for a Brother to bring charges against another Brother when they are clearly outnumbered. Third, there are institutional barriers in place, such as Mackey’s Landmarks, that often prevent a Brother from bringing a case against another Brother for unmasonic conduct stemming from racist or prejudicial behavior. Finally, we have a number of Brethren who encourage those who are persecuted to let it go and move on from what occurred rather than confronting it.

In the next section of this article, I will be presenting solutions for the problems that I have discussed in this section.

Categories: Freemasonry, prejudice Tags: ,

The pot calling the kettle black: Part 1

March 11, 2016 5 comments

Note: This is the first of a three-part article from a brother who wishes to remain anonymous. The online discussions of the past few weeks prompted him to write about his experiences, and what he would do if it were in his power to promote changes.

I saw some of his writing elsewhere, and asked if I could use some of his ideas; he responded by filling in some details and presenting what you see here. While I don’t necessarily agree with him on all points, he does make an interesting case for why Grand Lodges should remove recognition from those states that do not practice what the membership believes to be the higher ideals of our society. I’m presenting this as some food for thought.

 

The car ride home was one of the most awkward journeys that I have ever taken. My girlfriend at the time sat there silently and I was unable to find the words to explain to her what had just happened. The truth of the matter was that I was embarrassed, angry, and ashamed. I always thought of and spoke highly of the men that formed the rank and file of Freemasonry and never hesitated to speak of my membership in the Craft with pride.

Earlier in the evening, we drove out to my Lodge to participate in Ladies Night. It was a chance to show the women in our lives why Freemasonry was special to us. We had dinner, a meeting, and then after the meeting we headed over to the Grotto to share a beer with the Brethren who met on the same night, as was our monthly tradition. Good conversation was had, beer was drunk, and all were having a good time. As members gradually left a man approached my table and sat down. I introduced myself, I introduced my girlfriend, and he introduced himself as the Monarch of that particular Grotto. I told him about the fact that the Grotto was very important to my Great Grandfather and that I hoped to follow in his footsteps. I told him how he had tried to join the Shrine but was rejected because he was a Jew and instead joined the Grotto for fellowship.

In most instances, I would assume that most Masonic leaders would be proud of hearing that their organization stood for what was right. This one was the exception to the rule. What followed was a torrent of anti-Semitic remarks directed towards me and I was told that Jews were not welcome in his beloved Grotto.

I finished my beer, picked up my tailcoat, put it on, and walked down the hallway with my girlfriend. One of the Brothers from my Lodge happened to be walking down the hallway and saw that I was visibly upset and shaken. He asked me, “What happened?” At first, I did not want to tell him about it. I had dealt with anti-Semitism previously in my life and knew that it was best to keep my mouth shut rather than to speak up about it. To the credit of the Brother, he persisted and I finally told him what happened. He told me that it was not the first time it happened and that another member of my Lodge who happened to be married to an African American had racial comments directed toward him by the same man. I will always have a high opinion of the Brother who spoke with me that night. He called numerous times to make sure that I was doing all right and I finished out my year as an officer in three separate bodies while making sure to never step foot in the Grotto again.

So you might ask what happened to the Monarch? The answer was absolutely nothing. He finished his year as Monarch, got his honors for serving, and is, as far as I know, still a member of the fraternity.

As for me, I ended up apologizing to my girlfriend and attempting to explain to her that not all Freemasons were like the Monarch. Furthermore, I apologized to her for being a Jew because if I were not a Jew than she would have never had to witness what had occurred. I was embarrassed and ashamed by the men and organization I had held in such high regard. When I finished my commitments as an officer, I chose not to take on any new positions. Furthermore, I did not return to Freemasonry for nearly four years.

I would not be surprised if the vast majority of Brethren would be disturbed and a bit sickened after reading my story. Many of those Brethren would say what many Masons told me in the aftermath of the incident after having learned of it. They would say well if you belonged to such and such Lodge or so and so Grand Lodge that would have never have happened because we would not tolerate it. The next Monarch of that Grotto even came up to me and said that some sort of agreement had been reached where he was allowed to finish his year but no longer permitted to return. Furthermore, he told me that he was sorry and that I was welcome in the Grotto.

Even though I have no doubt of the sincerity of his apology, it came nearly six months later. Even then, part of me still believes that a lot of it had to do with the fact that I was a 23 year old Past High Priest, held multiple offices, belonged to several appendant bodies, and was very active in the fraternity. Needless to say, I do not think that I will be joining the Grotto in my lifetime.

The saddest thing of all is that my story represents just one of many. I could tell you about the Lodge Secretary who did not turn in minutes or reports to Grand Lodge for over three months, got a call from a female employee of the Grand Lodge questioning why they had not received the documentation, and his response that it was her fault because she probably had not been with a man lately. I could tell you about the Blue Lodge and Royal Arch Chapter where you hear racial epithets and jokes more often than the words “so mote it be”. I can tell you about a District Deputy that was not only present when those racial epithets and jokes were made but more than happily joined in making them alongside the Brethren. I can tell you that when I asked another Brother how I should respond to it, they told me that I needed to lighten up and that no one would believe me over a District Deputy.

Now, I know that many of you are mulling this over and are wondering where this occurred. I would be willing to bet that many of you have already pulled out your map of the United States and have your fingers pointed well below the Mason Dixon Line. I would be willing to wager that many of you have narrowed it down to one of two jurisdictions. The first on many of your minds would undoubtedly be the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Georgia owing to the fact that they prosecuted a Worshipful Master for allowing an African American to join their ranks and in light of the edict that was recently ratified that forces homosexual Brethren to remain in the closet. The second would likely be the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Tennessee because they expelled two more than worthy Brethren as a result of their marriage. So in which of these two Grand Lodges did the events that I have described occur?

Neither.

The Grand Lodge that they occurred in was the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.

Like so many other Brethren, I have followed recent events in the Grand Lodge of Georgia and the Grand Lodge of Tennessee and am thoroughly disgusted and embarrassed by what has occurred. At the same time, I have also taken notice of the fact that so many other Masons from those jurisdictions have stood up to the edicts and have defended their Brethren.

In fact, all of the members that defended our African American Brother Victor Marshall in Atlanta ultimately persevered. Today, he is a Past Master and in spite of some members best attempts to prevent him from joining the Scottish Rite he became a member of that body. No one remembers the fact that it was one or two black balls against a vast majority of favorable votes that prevented Brother Marshall from joining the Scottish Rite. No one remembers that the Sovereign Grand Inspector General refused to allow racially motivated voting to carry the day in Atlanta.

Not many in the Masonic world know what happened the day that Georgia Freemasons ratified the Grand Masters edict outlawing homosexuality. Many of them are not aware of the fact that the room was evenly split on the issue. Not many know of the fact that the vote was close enough to warrant a hand count, but that it was ultimately pushed through without one by the Most Worshipful Grand Master.

Instead, what is remembered is that Georgia Freemasons are racist and homophobic.

The same could be said for the Grand Lodge of Tennessee.

I want to make it clear that I am not defending the Grand Lodge of Georgia or the Grand Lodge of Tennessee. The fact that there were enough members that enabled those edicts to be passed is shameful, embarrassing, and unmasonic to say the least. The argument that I have made and will continue to make in the next part of this article is that while Brethren are quick to point out the black eye given to Freemasonry by the Grand Lodge of Georgia and the Grand Lodge of Tennessee, they are largely unaware or turn a blind eye toward similar unmasonic conduct at home. Furthermore, while it is easy to condemn the policies of Grand Lodges through letters detailing policies of equality, it is not enough. Instead, Freemasonry will continue to suffer from the twin specters of racism and homophobia until Grand Lodges take meaningful and comprehensive steps to ensure that it will no longer have a place in the fraternity. As it stands, I am of the opinion that while recent events have brought attention to the issues of racism and homophobia within the Craft, the truth is that these same issues occur throughout the fraternity regardless of jurisdiction and until reform is made the opinions of the various Grand Lodges concerning Georgia and Tennessee are no different than the pot calling the kettle black.

 

Categories: Freemasonry, prejudice Tags: ,

Shots fired! GL CA suspends recognition with GA and TN

March 8, 2016 244 comments

From a Facebook post this morning:

By letter of March 7, 2016, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of California has suspended recognition of the Grand Lodges Georgia and Tennessee until the next regular communication of the Grand Lodge of California.

Verification and more developments to follow.

Edit 1: The text of the email, which went out to lodge officers yesterday:

M. DAVID PERRY
GRAND MASTER
GRAND LODGE
FREE AND ACCEPTED MASONS
OF CALIFORNIA
CALIFORNIA MASONIC MEMORIAL TEMPLE
1111 CALIFORNIA STREET
SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94108

WWW.FREEMASON.ORG

Via electronic mail

March 7, 2016

To all Grand Lodges in amity with the Grand Lodge of California:

You might have read of recent events in Georgia and Tennessee where the Grand Lodges
there have adopted new rules or enforced existing rules to discipline Masons because of their
sexual orientation.

The Grand Lodge of Georgia ratified Grand Master McDonald’s Edict No. 2015-4 at the last
Annual Communication of their Grand Lodge, thereby adding the following language to their
Grand Lodge law: homosexual activity with anyone subjects the offender to discipline.
The Grand Lodge of Tennessee recently suspended two brothers from Masonry for violating
a provision of the Tennessee Masonic Code when they posted photographs of their wedding to
each other on Facebook. The Tennessee Masonic Code states that it is a Masonic offense to
promote or engage in homosexual activity.

In each case, I construe these actions as a sectarian stand which is inconsistent with and does
not support the General Regulations of Freemasonry. I have therefore suspended
recognition of The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Georgia and the
Grand Lodge of Tennessee F. & A. M. until the next Annual Communication of our Grand
Lodge.

I am happy to share with you further details about my decision, if you so desire.

Sincerely and fraternally,
M. DAVID PERRY
Grand Master

 

Edit 2: Chris Hodapp has confirmation that the Grand Lodge of DC has likewise suspended recognition. I think that MW Bro. Fuller’s words sum things up nicely:

“On a personal note, as an ordained Christian minister who holds deep religious convictions, I find the actions of these Grand Lodges all the more troublesome. Many faiths, including my own denomination of Christianity, are divided on several social and moral issues, yet it is our duty as Masons to ensure these disagreements do not spill over into our fraternity and sow disharmony.

“In closing, let me reiterate the words of my predecessor and approved by our entire Grand Lodge: we are open to all men of faith based upon their personal merit and good character, without reference to race, creed, sexual orientation, specific religion or national origin.

“I hope, pray, and trust that the hand of providence and the light of wisdom will guide our fraternity to a swift resolution to this unfortunate matter.”

 

 

Pitchforks into ploughshares

March 4, 2016 6 comments

Freemasons that have been online in the last few weeks have been discussing the news item that the Grand Lodge of Tennessee expelled two active members of the fraternity for the presumed violation of the Masonic Code, which prohibits, in part, homosexual behavior.

I would like to take the opportunity to mention that I’m very disappointed at the open displays of intolerance and outright prejudice.

No, I’m not talking about Tennessee, or Georgia, or the other Grand Lodges which have made similar noises. I’m talking about the comments that I’ve been seeing all over social media from other members of the fraternity who do not support the decision.

Look, brothers, I get it. Perhaps you have worked through your own prejudices about different things, or perhaps you grew up without understanding how people can have those ideas. And you understand that Freemasonry is one of the few social institutions that allows men from various classes and cultures to meet together without the concern for titles, labels, or other forms of prejudice, and you are angry that some Grand Lodges (or at least, their officers) do not seem to interpret the purpose of the society in the way that you do. torches-pitchforks

But many of you are simply lashing out, and your righteous indignation is not helping your cause. Over the last couple of weeks, I have seen some of you use terms like “hayseeds,” “morons,” “bigoted,” “idiots,” and sadly, much worse. I’ve seen accusations that the members of those states have forgotten — or never knew — their Masonic duties. I’ve seen many of you suggest that those Grand Lodges are not worthy of recognition, that all enlightened Grand Lodges should immediately rescind any agreements of amity with them. And I’ve seen some of you suggest things much more crude.

Is this how Freemasons should act toward anyone, especially each other?

Most of us have a charge in our obligations to “whisper good counsel” to an errant brother, to help to set him aright “in the most tender manner.” The idea behind this is that taking somebody aside to talk to them is generally more helpful than screaming epithets from a distance. It’s not just Freemasonry, it’s a factor of human nature. You can not teach people tolerance and respect by failing to display it in your own behavior.

The Grand Lodges of other jurisdictions have already been discussing the situation, and some, as you know, have released statements regarding their position. Instead of continuing to insult (because that’s what you are doing) your brothers in other states, it would be more useful to turn your energies toward letting your own Grand Lodge know what you think. And please, let’s treat our fellow Masons in Tennessee, Georgia, and elsewhere with respect and consideration. You may not agree with their opinion, but ranting at them on the internet is not the best way to demonstrate what tolerance should be about.

After all, when was the last time you changed your mind on some issue because somebody called you an idiot?

 

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