Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Small Town Freemasonry — Part Two: The Masonic Ambush

If you haven't read Part One: Bucket of Rattlesnakes, please do so and then return here to read Part Two.

While making comments to add to a post on Free-Mason-Alert yesterday, I inadvertently found myself writing Part Two of my story "Small Town Freemasonry." Let's call this chapter "The Masonic Ambush."

The brother who writes Free-Mason-Alert had related how a visitor to a sister lodge had worn a 100-year-old York Rite apron to a Master Mason degree where he was assisting. Someone at the lodge took offense to the unusual apron and instead of simply asking the brother about it, took it upon himself to call the Grand Master of Alabama to complain! The GM then fired off emails to the "offending" brother accusing him of wearing a "clandestine" apron of the Rose Cross of Gold.

I wrote this in response:

Apparently running to the Grand Master every time something happens in a lodge that someone doesn't like is the typical way things are done in the rural South.

Lodges should be fully capable of handling their own issues without having to "run to daddy" every time the peace and harmony is breached.

As my lodge's webmaster, I posted news from my lodge on the website I ran for the lodge. About two weeks after I posted a particular news item, I received a frantic call from a Past Master of my lodge, demanding that I take that material off the web immediately. I refused, and then set up a meeting with the lodge's Master and Senior Warden. I was Junior Warden. We planned a meeting for that evening to decide what course of action we wanted to take regarding the information that had been placed online.

An hour later, the PM who had called me in the first place called back again, saying he had taken it upon himself to call the Grand Master ("I know him," he said), and that the Grand Master had told him to tell me to take the information offline. I politely told the PM to have the GM phone or email me with that "order," and I would remove the information.

The elected chief officers of the lodge — the WM, SW and me — met and decided what course we wanted to take; we were going to put the question to a vote of the lodge. We never heard from the GM, only from the PM supposedly relaying his words.

The next evening was our regular communication. As soon as I arrived, I was asked to "come in here" by a different Past Master, and when I entered the preparation room I found myself face-to-face with three PM's of our lodge, already wearing their aprons and their stern faces. This episode has come to be known as the Masonic Ambush.

In a scene reminiscent of a Monty Python sketch, they told me three times: "We demand that you remove the information from the website."

Twice I told them that the elected officers of the lodge had made a fair decision about what to do, that we were going to have the lodge vote on it.

"But we don't want you to be embarrassed when you lose the vote," they chorused.

I really didn't care one way or the other how the vote came out. I simply wanted to get out of the preparation room. I didn't feel physically threatened, but I certainly felt emotionally disheveled by the event. Here were three men representing together over 100 years of Masonry, men whom I (at the time) respected. Two of them had coached me through my catechisms. I had no desire to go against their wishes....

But they were wrong. Wrong in the way they'd approached me, and certainly wrong in making demands of an officer, especially after they were told that the WM was aware of the issues and was prepared to handle it in a fair way (with a vote).

The WM was totally unaware that this Masonic Ambush was going on in the preparation room just before the meeting, and I didn't have a chance to mention it before the meeting began.

At the New Business point in the meeting, I stood and told about what had happened, not just the ambush but the entire story, and called for a vote. Two of the PM's stood and spoke against me, and against the information being presented on the website.

Oh, haven't I mentioned what this was all about? Our lodge had a brother who pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a minor in state court, and he was at that time under charges of gross unMasonic conduct for the same. Pursuant to my understanding of Masonic Code which says we should publicize that type of thing so as to show we as Masons do not condone it, I had simply announced those facts on our lodge's website.

The vote was overwhelming in favor of hiding this information from the public by removing if from the website, and not in publicizing it so that the public would know that we didn't condone the actions of the offending brother.

That didn't end the situation. It was only just the beginning.

Later that week, the WM, now aware of what had been happening, issued a summons for an "emergency meeting" of himself, the four PMs, and me, plus two other brothers: One, a "neutral" PM, the other a younger brother who had supported my actions by speaking up in the lodge meeting the previous Tuesday night. The PM who started the whole thing with the phone call didn't attend; everyone else showed up.

At this meeting, two of the ambushing PM's made mild apologies to me for "hurting my feelings" (it wasn't my feelings they'd hurt, but my respect for them and my pride in being a part of that lodge). The third PM simply barked that if the younger brother spoke, he would leave.

After one of the PM's told the younger brother, "You don't know what Freemasonry is about," the younger brother stood to speak. Immediately, the third PM stood and banged his metal chair loudly (we were in the dining hall area) and stomped off in a huff.

Needless to say, no one left the meeting feeling better about any of what had happened.

— Widow's Son

Small Town Freemasonry — Part Three: A Day in the Life of a Junior Warden


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  1. Yet again another great article.
    Sadly I see the same things happening in Alabama. The present system of Masonry is NOT what a brotherhood or a fraternity is or what it should be about.

    The incident in Alabama was not in a rural area but in the Birmingham area. I am quite tired of these guys acting like children running to "Daddy" or being so vendictive towards one another. I did not become a Mason to be involved in spats and school yard fights.

    The old order has passed away and a new one is taking its place. The sad thing is it did not have to be this way.

  2. Pretty much par for the course wouldnt you say? A bunch of old hags lording over their powerbase as it slowly slips away. SOUNDS LIKE THE LODGE NEEDS AN ENEMA!!!

    F.Roy Dean Schlipp

  3. Well, actually, F. Roy, they managed to hang on to their "powerbase," as you call it. The younger brother resigned his office a few weeks before the end of his term, partly in support of me and partly in reaction to being accused of being unpatriotic by the chair-banging Past Master, and I was passed over in December, 2005 as rising Senior Warden by a 27-4 vote after having been elected Junior Warden a year earlier by near-unanimous approval. Neither of us attend that lodge, or feel particularly welcome in that lodge, anymore.

    This year's Worshipful Master won't even reply to my emails, not even the one I sent him congratulating him.

    What a diffence a year makes. As a visiting PM from another lodge told me, "I hate to see this happening, but this is what you get when you step on the Big Dogs' toes."

    He probably didn't realize it, but he was echoing the words of our 18th century Brother Voltaire, who warned, "It is dangerous to be right when those in power are wrong."

    — WS

  4. While I believe your lodge did not handle this issue correctly, in that they should have just discussed this and taken a vote in lodge or allowed the WM to make a decision on the issue rather than badgering you as they did, I'm not sure you handled the situation correctly either.

    Before publishing such explosive information on the web, you would have been well advised to consult with your lodge in advance rather than taking it upon yourself to do so.

    If the Mason in question had not already been expelled or given a Masonic trial, you may have jumped the gun by publishing before the Grand Lodge took action.

    It is really up to the Grand Master and the Grand Lodge to publish expulsions in most jurisdictions and not the local lodge.

  5. Dear Anonymous,

    Thank you for your comments.

    While publication of expulsion may be the responsibility of the Grand Lodge in your jurisdiction, the Georgia Masonic Code (section 77-142) states: "Public announcement of the conviction of a Mason is not un-Masonic conduct, especially when the commission of the offense was well known to the community and tended to discredit the Craft. Publicity of such results may be effective of good."

    As the Director of Masonic Education and the Webmaster of the Lodge as well as an officer of the Lodge acting under the trust of the Worshipful Master of my Lodge, I saw it as my duty to uphold the spirit of this section of the Code by posting the information to the Lodge's website.

  6. "Publicity of such results may be effective of good."
    May Be..or may not be...Looks like it depends on the case and cercumstances.

  7. Although the three PMs had no right whatsoever to corner you like that, I agree with the previous "anonymous" comment. Might not have been such a great idea to take it upon yourself to post the information on your lodge's website. I noticed you said it was your "lodge" website and not “your” website. I believe the decision to publish the information should have been left up to the lodge members. I'm sure that, regardless of the post, most level-headed citizens in your community would realize on their own that Freemasonry does not condone such a heinous act (sexual exploitation of a minor).

  8. In response to all this, maybe it would have been better to not address the conviction and expulsion online but that's not really the point.

    I think the real point is that there is a procedure to follow. The JW/webmaster sees fit to publish something online and the WM or the lodge members disagree, fine. The WM or GM says remove it? Fine. Remove it. They say keep it? Fine - keep it.

    But a PM not holding an office in the lodge says to remove it? Part of the benefit of having PMs is to take into account their wisdom, experience and guidance for the lodge's ritual, conduct and business, but if they aren't the ones with suthority to make the decisions, it's not their place to insist on having their preferences met.

    Just my two cents worth...


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