Friday, October 27, 2006

Masonic Racism: The October Surprise that won't go away

This morning's Huntsville Times features an editorial from David Person, its regular editorial opinion columnist.

This writer seems to understand Masonry a little better than the AP writer Jay Reeves, who "broke" the "Riley-Masonic Racism in the South" story a few weeks ago, and who followed that article up with another AP national wire story a few days ago. Person not only better explains the segregated nature of the dual Grand Lodges in Alabama (and elsewhere), but he understands, probably correctly, that Riley and other Alabama politicians (from both parties) might not actually be racists, though they all belong to a "racist organization." Face it, Freemasonry isn't the Klan, though I know several Masons who could be, and maybe are, members of the KKK, for all I know. God knows I've heard enough "nigger" jokes in lodge to last a lifetime.

Two other things are noteworthy to me about Person's editorial.

First, it marks the first time that I am aware of that a major publication has mentioned by name the less-than-a-year-old United Grand Lodge of America. The UGLA was formed in Atlanta last December after the 2005 Grand Master of Georgia Al Garner issued a bitter edict banning certain Masons from meeting to discuss ancient French Masonic rituals (Red Lodge Masonry) and the 2006 Grand Master of Georgia F. Ray Jackson threatened expulsion without trial of those members who would not sign letters of renunciation. Masons who refused to sign letters of renunciation were summarily "whited out" from their lodges' rolls at the turn of the year last January.

The second thing this article points out without knowing it is pointing it out, is that a majority of Freemasons don't know a thing about Freemasonry. The editorial quotes Alabama Gov. Bob Riley as saying he hasn't attended a blue lodge meeting since he was in his 20's, and doesn't even know who this year's Grand Master is. (Hint: That's him in the recent photo above, standing next to you!) He's just another one of those "Pay Your Dues So You Can Call Yourself a Mason" Masons. Did he just memorize his lines well enough to get through the Three Degrees, earn the right to wear a ring and call himself a Mason, and then dust off his shoes and not look back? It seems he's a Mason only by virtue of paying his dues every year. Big shots do that all the time. They join all the groups they can, for the business contacts and the networking and to say "Yeah, I belong...."

I conferred the Entered Apprentice degree, and acted as Senior Deacon during his 2nd and 3rd degrees, on a bank president a few years ago that we never saw in the lodge again after he was made a Master Mason. It happens all the time, everywhere, I'm sure. These aren't the guys that stop coming to the lodge because they didn't find what they were looking for; these are the guys that got exactly what they were looking for — membership and privilege without responsibility and honor, without truly becoming a part of the brotherhood except in name only.

And they gave Riley the KCCH!

Here's the article by David Person, from today's Huntsville Times:
Gov. Bob Riley and the Masons, Redux by David Person

Friday, October 27, 2006
Reprinted from The Huntsville Times

Some folks say that the most segregated hour of the week is Sunday morning at 11 a.m. That's when most folks go to church, and most — even in this new century and millennium — don't worship with people of other races on a regular basis.

Seems church folks have something in common with Masons, who are as segregated as Sunday morning. Most white Masons are members of the Grand Lodge. Blacks become Prince Hall Masons.

If both groups merely were self-segregating as most churches are, it would be bad enough. But this is worse because by charter or tradition, Grand Lodges across the South won't allow Prince Hall Masons to become members or even visit their meetings.

In turn, some Prince Hall Masons have reportedly done the same thing.

Why does any of this matter? Because it's an election year, and the rap on Gov. Bob Riley is that he is a racist because he is a member of Alabama's Grand Lodge.

I don't think Riley is a racist, but I understand why others do. What's the old saying? Lay down with dogs and....

In Riley's defense, he said he hasn't attended a meeting since he was in his 20s.

"I don't even know who the head of the Masons in Alabama is," he told The Times editorial board Tuesday afternoon. Well, the head Mason knows who Riley is.

In May 2005, Riley's Grand Lodge brothers gave him the rank of Knight Commander of the Court of Honor. When I asked Riley about this a month or so ago, he dismissed the honor as ceremonial.

Nevertheless, active or not, he didn't turn it down.

Other Alabama Masons have been more decisive. After a failed attempt to integrate Alabama's Grand Lodge in 1999, some members left it.

White Masons in Alabama now can be affiliated with the United Grand Lodge of America, which was formed specifically to ensure that Masonry does not discriminate based on race or religion.

Most Grand Lodges across the nation now practice what is called "mutual recognition," meaning that they accept blacks as members and visitors. The Associated Press reported that Masonry is segregated only in the South - Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.

The governor's responses to this issue have been somewhat tepid, but his campaign's have been worse. The Montgomery Advertiser reported that campaign spokesman Josh Blades outed lieutenant governor candidate and former Gov. Jim Folsom as a Mason, along with House Speaker Seth Hammett and state Sen. Lowell Barron, both of whom are running for re-election.

If the message from the Riley campaign is that we should get off the governor's back because Democrats are in the Grand Lodge too, that's the wrong message.

Masons refusing to accept members based on race is wrong, whether white or black, Republican or Democrat. Riley knows this, as does the head of Alabama's Grand Lodge, Grand Master Frank W. Little.

To his credit, Little told The Advertiser that while he doesn't know of any blacks among the 32,000 Masons in his Lodge, "if I heard of any lodge that denied a man membership because of his race they wouldn't be a lodge for long."

Riley, to his credit, told The Times editorial board that he agreed.

"I think that's where you go," he said.

However, we all know that saying the right thing isn't the same as doing it. Little needs to investigate what his lodges are — or are not — doing. And the governor needs to back up his words with action.

If Riley doesn't believe that Masons should be discriminating — if he truly believes that mutual recognition is the way to go — then he ought to use his bully pulpit to get loud and pushy about it.

If the Grand Lodge won't budge, Riley should disassociate himself with it. And so should Folsom, Hammett, Barron and any other Grand Lodge member who wants to be elected to public office.

Riley should also renounce the rank the Grand Lodge gave him. Knight Commander of the Court of Honor sounds mighty royal. But there's no royalty in racism.
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  1. Thank-you for posting this article. It's about time a news reporter in Alabama gave some publicity to a story that has been circulating around the entire nation for several weeks.

    Just last night I wrote a column about the news blackout in Alabama on the Riley/Masonic flap. Then low and behold the very next morning a columnist puts the spotlight on the story in Alabama.

    I'm glad to see this happening.

    It's a great column too.

    D. Martyn Lloyd-Morgan
    The Liberty Sphere

  2. It takes open minds to even "care" whether or not a group of men who claim to uphold and perpetuate a certain set of ideals and morals cannot even try to pretend to "care" about eqaulity.

    A sad day indeed for the progressive minds of the 21st century.

  3. interesting article. the only point is that no one can make a grand lodge recognize another one. it has to be voted on by the membership and there is nothing bob riley can do about it. it'a also very hard for a grand master to prove what members of a lodge rejected a man for. it could be for any reason and no one has to give an explanation

  4. I left my first lodge in California after the secretary sent out anti-Mexican hate mail. I was told to leave my second lodge in Ohio for attempting to bring in a Black candidate. I took their advice, and now I'm on my third lodge. Hopefully the third time is the charm.

  5. I noticed that Texas is listed as one of the southern states excluding men by race. I have been a Texas Mason for 16 yrs and have seen the number of Blacks in our lodges increase. Granted, at a snail's pace, but they are increasing.
    A person has to get by the ballot box to become a Mason. This is after 3 Masons meet with him then give the Lodge their "Opinion" as to his character. Even with 3favorable opinions, I have see men rejected by the Ballot. So for any Grand Lodge, or for that matter, Governor to say the will close a Lodge for rejecting a Black man from membership, they will have to change Grand Lodge Law on how a person becomes a Mason.


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