On May 4 I emailed M. W. Bro. Rex Hutchens, the Arizona Grand Master; W. Bro. David Luebke, the Deputy Grand Master; W. Bro. George Stablein, the Grand Secretary; Illustrious Sir Russ Gunther, Potentate of El Zaribah Shrine; and W. Bro. Paul Reynolds, Recorder of El Zaribah Shrine, asking them to clarify and enlighten me on the information I had been provided. I told them that I was working on a story about it for the Burning Taper.
Bros. Stablein and Luebke were the only ones who responded to me.
Neither would provide any information. Both wanted to know my identity and Masonic affiilations. Bro. Luebke said "before I answer your questions" it would be "most useful" to know my name and what lodge I belonged to. I assured them I was a Mason, but I said I preferred not to give my name. I told them I wanted to present the story in a fair light, and since I only had the Shrine's side of the story, I would like to give their side, too.
They did not respond. But neither did they deny the events occurred.
Today I found what I'd been looking for: independent confirmation of the story from a USENET posting. [Update a few hours later: I have now rec'd confirmation also from the brother who originally mailed out the info below.] I have decided to publish the information I have, for the edification of all brothers who may find this of interest.
I would have liked to have presented a behind-the-scenes look at what has caused this riff in Freemasonry, but, as with most of the politicking and infighting that goes on in our Fraternity, people like to make a big stink of things and then say "don't talk about it; it's not good for the fraternity to air our dirty linen."
As I wrote in my unacknowledged second email to to W. Bro. Luebke,
The issue I've asked you about is most interesting, and I'd like to know more, as would my readers. Gone is the time when Masonry can keep its internal disagreements behind closed doors. The minutes of that meeting and comments about it have already found their way to me and to others.What follows is the original email I received from a brother on May 4. This info was originally posted on a Masonic forum of which I am not a member:
I would simply like to know more, to know if it's true, to know how and why the Page, Az. Shrine Club has displeased the GM of AZ, and any other information you care to share. It's Masonic news, and it will become Masonic history. I'm not making value judgments; I just want to know what happened, as I believe it's news that is of interest to all Masons.
I believe the greatest Masonic tenet is Truth. That's why I'm asking what happened. The story *will* be told, if not by me then by others. If I write about it, I'd like to get it right.
Ill. Sirs,Masons | Masonic Politics | El Zaribah Shrine Temple | Freemasonry | Grand Lodge of Arizona | Burning Taper | BurningTaper.com
Below is the wording of an edict from Arizona's Grandmaster given in a meeting April 28, 2007 with the GM, Deputy GM and all but three of El Zaribah's Divan. Following the edict is the minutes of the meeting as recorded by El Zaribah's Assistant Rabban and his personal comments.
The Grand Lodge of Arizona
Free and Accepted Masons
Edict No 2
WHEREAS The Grand Master is the Supreme Masonic Authority in Arizona; and
WHEREAS No organization within the State of Arizona whose requirement for membership includes that its members be Master Masons may fail to obey a direct order from the Grand Master of Masons in Arizona; and
WHEREAS The Potentate of El Zaribah Shrine has chosen to disobey a direct order given to him by the Grand Master of Masons in Arizona:
NOW THEREFORE, as Grand Master of Masons in Arizona, I hereby issue the following Edict No. 2:
EDICT No 2 2006-2007
Effective immediately no Mason may enter the El Zaribah Shrine Temple located at 552 North 40th Street, Phoenix Arizona 85008-6442 for any reason whatsoever unless he shall have obtained the written permission of the Grand Master of Masons in Arizona to do so, with the following exceptions:
1. Officers and/or Members of Thunderbird Lodge No. 15 for the sole purpose of obtaining the Lodge's mail and/or removing Lodge paraphernalia from the premises
2. Officers of the Grand Lodge of Arizona in the performance of their official duties.
Given under my hand this 28th day of April, AD. 2007 A.L. 2007
Rex R. Hutchens
Grand Master of Masons in Arizona
Illustrious Sir Russ and Divan:
Results of the Meeting with the Grand Master of Masons in Arizona on April 28, 2007:
Present at the meeting were the Grand Master, the Deputy Grand Master, the El Zaribah Potentate, Chief Rabban, Assistant Rabban, Oriental Guide and Recorder.
The first action of the Grand Master was to reprimand the El Zaribah Divan for not informing him that the complete Divan could not answer the summons. Illustrious Sir Russ apologized and explained that one Divan member was out of the country and the other had to take care of a Shrine responsibility that conflicted with the time of the meeting (receiving shipment of Onions).
The second action taken by the Grand Master was to present the Divan with Edict No 2 stating "Effective immediately no Mason may enter the El Zaribah Shrine Temple located at 552 North 40th Street, Phoenix Arizona 85008-5442 for any reason whatsoever unless he shall have obtained the written permission of the Grand Master of Masons in Arizona to do so." There are exceptions, but none of the exceptions would allow Shriners to conduct daily activities in the Temple as Shriners. We were told that if we didn't immediately pull the Charter of the Shrine Club in Page, AZ, the Grand Master would immediately sign and issue the Edict.
When asked to provide justification for ordering the Charter pulled, the Grand Master responded with "Because I said so." When asked to provide further justification as to specific actions of the Shrine Club to merit pulling the Charter, he stated that we gave up the right to ask for justification when our Potentate initially said "No" to his order to pull the Charter.
As a side note, I asked Illustrious Sir Russ later what he really said to which he responded that he said "No without a reason." This was confirmed by Lady Barbara who heard the conversation. Having known and worked with Illustrious Sir Russ for approximately 10 years, I consider a straight comment of "No" to be out of character for him, therefore I believe the comment as he stated, and substantiated by Lady Barb, to be more factual and correct.
The Grand Master further stated that by requesting justification for his order indicated that his decision could be judged. This is indeed the intent of the request since we must abide by the Code of Ethics as stated in Imperial Bylaws 334.13 (pg 91) that refers to Imperial Bylaws 210.7 (pg 37) that gives numerous directives of why we need the appropriate justification to take any action against a Shrine Club, Unit, group of Nobles or an individual Noble. Furthermore, Imperial Bylaws Article 30 (330.1 through 330.4), while applying to the rights of individual Nobles, clearly indicates that our responsibility as the Board of Directors is to insure "Fair Play and Substantial Justice." Without a complete picture of justifications, I'm not sure how we could insure fair play and substantial justice.
During his comments the Grand Master stated that he had spoken with the Imperial Potentate and that the Imperial Potentate had "lied" to him. (I take offense in someone stating that our Imperial Potentate has lied).
After reading the Edict, the El Zaribah Recorder asked if the Grand Master was "denying the right of assembly as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States" to which the Grand Master responded that "he did not have to abide by the Constitution of the United States when dealing in Masonic matters." I find this comment very disturbing in that we are required to abide by the Law of the Land as stated in Imperial Bylaws 210.7 (a) that states: Obey the law of the land and the articles of incorporation and bylaws of the Order, adhering to the spirit as well as the letter thereof." (If a similar comment is not found in Masonic Law, I would question whether the Shrine should be affiliated with an organization that does not have to abide by the law of the land).
When questioned about the ramifications of the edict and El Zaribah Shriners' commitment to continue to care for the 1200+ children we currently have in the hospital system, the Grand Master stated that the burden of responsibility would be on our shoulders since all we had to do to keep El Zaribah open was to abide by his order and pull the Charter of the Shrine Club in Page.
The Grand Master did state that once the Charter is pulled he would provide the justification for his order, but that his mandate must be obeyed first before providing justification. In other words, we would have to act strictly on the order of the Grand Master because "he said so."
The Grand Master also stated that the removal of Shrine property from the Masonic property in Page, AZ was not the issue. Obviously, we have been operating under a false perception that the issue was a question of cooperation concerning this Shrine property, which now is clearly not the case.
The Grand Master stated that the Grand Master was the ultimate authority in all Masonic matters over Scottish Rite, York Rite and Shrine activities and could not be questioned. (This clearly demonstrates that the Grand Lodge of Masons in Arizona operates under an absolute dictatorship).
The Grand Master stated that if the Edict was issued it would be continued by the next Grand Master to which the Deputy Grand Master confirmed that he would reissue the Edict upon taking office. The Grand Master also stated that the next person in line (Senior Grand Warden) would also reissue the Edict.
The Grand Master stated that once issued and the mailing sent to every Mason in Arizona, and that before the Edict could ever be retracted, that El Zaribah would be responsible for the cost of the mailing and the cost of the Guards the Grand Lodge would put at the El Zaribah Temple to enforce the Edict.
Numerous additional requests by Divan members for justification other than "I told you so" were declined by the Grand Master. We tried to explain that we have a responsibility to act in the best interest of our Nobility and not just blindly follow the direction of one person. This fell on deft ears.
The Potentate requested until Wednesday, May 2, 2007, before providing an answer to the Grand Master's order and the Grand Master issuing the Edict if we did not abide by his order. While the Grand Master was prepared to issue the Edict immediately, he agreed to the Wednesday deadline, but cautioned us that if the Charter of the Shrine Club in Page had not been pulled by Wednesday, the Edict would be issued.
The meeting was concluded.
My Personal Thoughts: [the personal thoughts of Jim Miller, Assistant Rabban El Zaribah Shrine Phoenix, Arizona]
While I'm very concerned about the impact that our actions might have on the Children in our hospital system, I don't believe we have a choice in the matter. For the betterment of the Shrine (and maybe in some way to Arizona Masons), I believe that we have an obligation to take a stance. I believe that we must look at the long term implications of this current situation. As I see it, if we do what the Grand Master wants without insisting on additional justification other than "1 told you to do it" that we open up future directives that the Grand Lodge could issue be it lawful or unlawful. In other words, conform to the reality that the Grand Lodge is a dictatorship and we have no say as to our own operations. This clearly indicates that the Grand Lodge could suppress the Shrine in Arizona. I truly wish that the Grand Master would work with us in this matter (all we are asking is some justification, other than "I told you to do it," for taking action against the Lake Powell Shrine Club, but it is very apparent after yesterday's meeting that the relationship between the Grand Lodge of Arizona and El Zaribah Shrine has been severely damaged. While I believe that we have acted in the spirit of cooperation, the Grand Master has no intention of recognizing that cooperation. His only goal is that we accept him as the absolute authority and abide by every order that he issues without questioning the merit of the order. This clearly shows that the Grand Lodge is operating under absolute authority that cannot be questioned and has no intention of trying to cooperate with anyone outside the Grand Lodge.
These are my personal observations, thoughts and belief. I'm very interested in what the rest of you think and the direction we should take. I believe that the actions we take are going to have a very long term impact on the Shrine. I don't relish that responsibility and do not take our actions lightly. Let's try to make sure that our actions are consistent with Shrine Law and in the best interest of the Shrine in general and Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Yours in the Faith,
Assistant Rabban El Zaribah Shrine Phoenix, Arizona