Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Freemasonry IS a religion!

Most every state's grand lodge publishes literature that says something to the effect of "Freemasonry is not a religion...."

On this blog and numerous other sites on the web, Masons are constantly replying to comments, usually from rabid anti-Masons, explaining that the fraternity is not a religion.

Guess what? As of October 3, 2007, according to the California Court of Appeals, we are a religion! And we can thank the Scottish Rite for making it official.

In the late 1950's, the Scottish Rite Cathedral Association of Los Angeles (SRCALA) requested and received a zoning variance to build a massive four-story Masonic facility, which includes a banquet room that will hold 1,800 people and an auditorium that seats 2,020, lodge and meeting rooms, as well as an adjoining parking lot. The property is on Wilshire Blvd., and borders on the affluent Hancock Park neighborhood.

With available land at a premium, the SRCALA requested, and was granted, permission to build the parking lot with far fewer parking places than would normally be required for a building project of this size. The variance was granted only because the SRCALA pledged that the building would not be rented out for commercial enterprises and that the sole use of the building would be for Masonic, charitable and non-profit events.

Almost from the beginning, when the building was completed in 1963, the SRCALA began renting out the facility for private functions, and by the 1970s, as Masonic membership began to noticeably fall, they began to rely on renting out the building as a means of making enough money to cover the expense of building upkeep.

And the neighbors began to complain. The unintended use of the building had become a public nuisance because of noise and trash and traffic and parking congestion on the residential streets.

In 1979 the SRCALA was told by the city they would have to file for a zoning variance, but the group ignored the order. In the 1980's, they were twice cited for zoning violations.

In 1993, the city initiated public nuisance abatement proceedings against the group, citing them again because of numerous complaints about noise, trash and traffic. A hearing concluded the building was a public nuisance, and the zoning commission prohibited the SRCLA from using the property "for any purpose other than for non-profit activities directly related to the purpose and function of the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple."

SRCALA appealed the zoning board's order via the zoning appeals process, and was denied. They then appealed to the city council, and were again denied.

Unable to earn enough money to maintain the facility, SRCALA closed the building.

After nearly 10 years, the SRCALA leased the building to a newly formed limited liability corporation called Los Angeles Scottish Rite Center, LLC (LASRC).

LASRC refurbished the building and immediately began marketing the facility under various names, including the Wilshire Windsor Pavilion, the Wilshire International Pavilion, the International Culture Center, and as the Scottish Rite Temple, advertising the building as a facility to be rented out to the public.

It didn't take long for the neighbors to get riled up again, and by 2003 the city cited the facility not only for being in violation of the 1993 order but also for not getting a business license or paying business taxes but also for failing to obtain necessary police and fire department safety permits.

In 2004, the zoning administrator issued a report re-imposing the 1993 conditions on the new, for-profit corporation, and further stipulated that the facility could now only be used for Masonic purposes, and that they could no longer charge for parking. The city council affirmed the report, and the mayor concurred.

The LASRC paid no attention to the order, and continued with business as usual, hosting boxing matches, concerts and other entertainment events. The LASRC even sold, or allowed to be sold, alcohol without proper permits.

The neighbors howled.

Yet another public hearing was held, this time by the city council, who was miffed that LASRC was not in compliance with their order.

A new order was given: No functions allowed, not even Masonic ones.

Both SRCALA and LASRC appealed. Their appeals were rejected.

In 2005, the groups filed a lawsuit in California Superior Court against the City of Los Angeles.

Here's where it gets interesting.

SRCALA and LASRC charged that the city had no right to tell them what to do, because they were protected under the 2000 Federal statute known as the Religious Land Use and Institutionalize Persons Act (RLUIPA).

In other words, they said to the city government: "Hands off! We're a religion!"

The Superior Court ruled that RLUIPA did not apply to the LASRC, and that Freemasonry was not a religion, based in part of evidence from a Masonic brochure that said, "The Scottish Rite is a part of the family of Freemasonry.... Freemasonry is the oldest, and by far the largest, fraternity in the world." [Although] "it is religious in nature, it is not a religion."

The Scottish Rite-related groups appealed the Superior Court ruling to the California Court of Appeals.

Last week, the appeals court ruled that yes, Freemasonry is in fact a religion, and falls under RLUIPA and other laws protecting freedom of religion, but sorry... since the private corporation LASRC was the entity in charge of the building, the city's actions weren't based on the appellant being a religion, since the corporation was a business entity, not a Masonic organization, therefore RLUIPA doesn't apply in this case.

So there you go. Thanks to the Los Angeles Scottish Rite, the government now considers Freemasonry a religion. Next time you engage in a conversation with an anti-Mason about whether we're a religion or not, you have one less leg to stand on.

You can read the Appeals Court opinion here.

Now excuse me. I must go bow to the East and pray to Hiram Abiff.

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  1. Sounds like the court's comments were dicta, and thus not binding precedent for any court. WHEW!!! For a minute, I was worried I was going to have to start worshipping a two-headed bird or something!!!

  2. Wait a sec; If your praying to Hiram Abiff, shouldn't you be bowing to the south?
    Great post by the way. Keep up the good work.

  3. Being a Mason in LA, I know the building, and sadly know the story behind it from a couple of angles.

    The LA Valley made some dubious decision on that building, and the org that was created to manage it was hardly Masonic. LOTS of money changed hands, on leases that seemed to curry lots of favor towards certian people, and now we are left with a mess.

    Sadly, i doubt that there will EVER be another Masonic event in the building. The library, as extensive as it was, was left open and exposed to the elements for a period of time, the sets and dressings were unpreserved, and for the longest time it was a commercial business that serviced commuting traffic, as it sits right in the middle of Los Angeles on the main strip from Downtown to the beach, Wilshire Blvd.

    Now, the LA Valley of the Rite meets in a lodge room, which is fine, while this building has hung like an albatross around the Rites neck here for years. For several years, it sat unoccupied surrounded by chain link fencing while demo crews gutted parts of it to retrofit to bring up its earthquake code rating.

    It really is a shame. But hey, at least we finally got that religion badge ;)

  4. Well, it's about damned time! Finally, I can stop paying taxes and we can all celebrate the soon-to-be named holidays of my self-declared religion: Freemasonariansim.

    Exalted Keeper of the Secrets of Freemasonarianism;
    Grand Sovereign Pontiff and Secret Exposuer;
    Ambassador to Zeta-Reticula;
    Crop Circle Planning & Zoning Commissioner;
    Aluminum Foil Beanie Fitting and Training Consultant;
    Team Osiris Obelisk Siting and Surveying;
    Manager, Dulces/Denver Airport Massage & Day Spa;
    Cydonia Vacation Resort Concierge;
    Past Master, Friendship #33.3 AM&FM,
    Area 51, Atlantis

  5. The West Allis Masonic Temple in West Allis, WI, is a historical building and the West Allis Historical Society wanted it included in the 2006 West Allis Centennial Celebration's historical sites tour but the West Allis City Council (on the less-than expert advice of Judge Paul Murphy) said that the Masonic Temple was a church and therefore exempt from the historical sites tour. My question to them would be why exclude churches from historical sites tours? Some of the most awesome historic buildings in the Milwaukee area are churches. Completely notwithstanding that Judge Murphy is completely wrong about the Temple being a church and that our arguments against him went completely unheard.

  6. SR once again proves to be the menace to Freemasonry. As they continue to subvert, control and take over GL's across the country.

    Secret meetings and secrecy within the Conference of Grand Masters they lay in wait in the shadows for a complete take over...

  7. Bro. Joshua,

    That's bizarre, excluding churches from a tour of historic buildings. That's exactly what American tourists want to see when they visit Europe, for example... old cathedrals and ancient temples.

    Judge Roy Bean, I mean, Judge Paul Murphy, was probably concerned that including a church (not that the Masonic temple is a church) on a government-sponsored tour would get him in trouble with those who always worry about church-state entanglements, like that guy in Washington, DC, who wouldn't let a certificate accompany a flag that had flown over the Capitol go out with the word "God" on it.

    — W.S.

  8. > Most every state's grand lodge publishes literature that says something to the effect of "Freemasonry is not a religion...."
    > On this blog and numerous other sites on the web, Masons are constantly replying to comments, usually from rabid anti-Masons, explaining that the fraternity is not a religion.
    > Guess what? As of October 3, 2007, according to the California Court of Appeals, we are a religion! And we can thank the Scottish Rite for making it official.

    Actually, that's NOT what the court said. They said Freemasonry isn't a religion, but you don't have to be a religion to have a claim of exercise of religious use under RLUIPA. They also affirmed the lower court which denied the religious use in this particular case.

    > In 2005, the group filed a lawsuit in California Superior Court against the City of Los Angeles.
    > they charged that the city had no right to tell them what to do, because they were protected under the 2000 Federal statue known as the Religious Land Use and Institutionalize Persons Act
    > In other words, they said to the city government: "Hands off! We're a religion!"
    No, they claimed exercise of religious use.
    > The Superior Court ruled that Freemasonry was not a religion, based in part of evidence from a Masonic brochure that said, "The Scottish Rite is a part of the family of Freemasonry.... Freemasonry is the oldest, and by far the largest, fraternity in the world." [Although] "it is religious in nature, it is not a religion."
    > The Scottish Rite-related groups appealed the Superior Court ruling to the California Court of Appeals.
    > Last week, the appeals court ruled that yes, Freemasonry is in fact a religion, and falls under RLUIPA and other laws protecting freedom of religion.
    No it didn't. The Court said that Freemasonry potentially meets the religious exercise tests of RLUIPA, and needs to be evaluated. It also accepted the claim that Freemasonry isn't a religion, but that isn't enough to not meet the religious exercise test of RLUIPA. In the evaluation, in the specifics of the case, the work being done in that location FAILs the test.
    > You can read the Appeals Court opinion
    Yes, please read it. It doesn't say what is claimed in this note.


  9. i've kind of gone off this blog recently. it might be an american thing, but how self-assured must one be to assume the'yre "ruffling feathers" and "challenging people"? no offence, but about all of maybe 50 people view this website on a regular basis. yes, i know you have a cute little website-visitor ticker happenin', and really, out of all the people on the internet, you're really not "challenging" too many people.

    don't be so fucking self-righteous and full of yourself. theres no crusade. the only thing wrong with freemasonry these days is most likely the american influence on it.

    yes, i used the word "most" as a point. could you stop, please, butchering the fuck out of the english language? i know being independent from england was a huge thing for you people, but seriously, learn how to speak and spell. ready? "ALMOST". "ALMOST". AL-MOST". there we go. "most everyone" just makes you sound like a hick from st louis, and hey, if i ever find myself back there again, i'll shoot myself, and as many other idiots as i can too.

    sorry "widow's son" (couldn't think of a better name? i mean, really? how about CHiram? Tubalcain? G? self-derivative?), but you lost me when you assumed you were oh-so important (re: your quote me if i'm wrong post, or whatever it was called. regardless, you were full of yourself as always.)

    i always found it weird how there were none of the problems you describe here in australia; even from my perspective as a young mason, but assisted by older ones. then i realised.

    its an american thing.

    good luck with your next election; you're going to need it.


  10. Bro. Crow,

    What crawled up your ass and died today? Usually your comments are civil and well-founded.

    When I wrote "Most every state's grand lodge..." I was using correct grammar. See footnote 11 on's definition of "most": "The adverb most, a shortened form of almost, is far from being either a recent development or an Americanism. It goes back to the 16th century in England, where it is now principally a dialect form. In American English it occurs before such pronouns as all, anyone, anybody, everyone, and everybody; the adjectives all, any, and every; and adverbs like anywhere and everywhere: Most everyone around here is related to everyone else. You can find that plant most anywhere. This use of most is often objected to, but it is common in the informal speech of educated persons. It is less common in edited writing except in representations of speech." Just because you people Down Under don't use it doesn't mean it isn't proper English.

    Besides, if you're gonna complain about the rules of writing, you should follow them. Try using capital letters to begin your sentences, why don't ya?

    And study up on U.S. geography. It's Masonic blogger John Ratcliff that's from St. Louis; I'm in Georgia. Neither of us are "hicks."

    You don't like the fact that I'm "self-assured"? Too bad. Sounds more like your problem than mine.

    I'm really no more self-righteous than, say, Steven Colbert. Whether he, or me, is serious in our self-righteousness is left to the viewer/reader.

    Regarding the phrase "challenging people": I don't see the words "challenge" or "challenging" in an article since July.

    And the last time I see that I used the phrase "ruffled feathers" was in my original Bucket of Rattlesnakes" article in May 2006.

    You even bitched about the sidebar note saying how many unique visitors have dropped by The Burning Taper. It's not there to brag; it's there to let newcomers know they're at a place that has been around a while, and that is, regardless (or is that irregardless, Mr. English major?) of what you think, one of the most read Masonic blogs online. I'm honored that one or more of my 730+ posts have been read by that many people, even if they're just stopping in to see what outlandish thing I'll write next. The sidebar number is there to thank visitors for reading the Taper.

    Oh, and this blog: It's an American thing.

    — W.S.

  11. C.Z.:

    Language? What's with the swearing? There are approximately 180,000 words in common English usage, to limit yourself to profanity serves only to make you look ignorant. This is a pity, for having read your previous posts, it is evident that you are not.

    I have shared my point of view with The Widow's Son both on-line and in person. We agree about some things, and disagree on others. But, I have never felt that he has disrespected my point of view even if he can't bring himself to agree with it. The man has been in my home and has broke bread with me. He is many things, but "full of himself" he is not.

    I'm not defending him because he doesn't *need* me to defend him. What I am doing is asking that if you have a disagreement with his point of view, his ideas, or his grammar, please air those disagreements with the dignity and aplomb I would expect from a Mason.

    Be Well,
    Traveling Man

  12. Harry,

    I'm no lawyer, and the Taper isn't a law journal, so of course I could be wrong in my interpretation of the appellate court's decision and remarks.

    But Howard M. Friedman, Distinguished University Professor of Law Emeritus at the University of Toledo College of Law, concurs.

    On October 3, he wrote on his blog Religion Clause, under the title "Freemasonry Is 'Religion' Under RLUIPA, But Masonic Temple Loses RLUIPA Claim," the following:

    "In Scottish Rite Cathedral Association of Los Angeles v. City of Los Angeles, (CA Ct. App., Oct. 3, 2007), a California court of appeals rejected a RLUIPA challenge by the Los Angeles Scottish Rite Cathedral Association to the revocation of its certificate of occupancy for its Masonic Temple. The appellate court rejected the trial court's holding that Freemasonry is not a religion. The appellate court found 'no principled way to distinguish the earnest pursuit of these [Masonic] principles... from more widely acknowledged modes of religious exercise.' However the court held that the Masonic Temple, which was now largely being rented out for commercial as well as non-profit events, was not protected under RLUIPA. It concluded: 'a burden on a commercial enterprise used to fund a religious organization does not constitute a substantial burden on 'religious exercise' within the meaning of RLUIPA.'" [emphasis mine]

    I'll leave the hair-splitting of whether a "religious organization," a label the court pinned on Freemasonry, is the same thing as a "religion" to legal scholars, or whether "religious exercise" can be practiced by someone who is not religious.

    — W.S.

  13. Widows son gets put in his place by one of his own. This blog of yours is for you to cry, piss, and cry some more.

    It really is visited by the same people every day. And the comments are by the same people. You are a cry baby redneck from GA. I bet your family tree doesn't even have a fork in it.

    And you really believe you are all important. You're nothing more then trash. Oh and look Tom the Burger king cook Accuosti decided to post. Another reason why that idiot got kicked out of his lodge.

    I have an idea. How about you put the tissue away, change the kotex, and grow a pair wimp.


  14. Geeh guys, can't we all just get along?

    Did I miss the memo that this was bash W.S. week with side order of Tom Accuosti?

    CZ and Jean, its just a blog, don't take it so personal.

    W.S. does sometimes play the antagonist. Without an antagonist that can occasionally get under or skin and yes, they may even cause a rash, without such people to cause us to think and step outside our comfort zone, to use the brains we are given, what would life be like.

    I am not ready to fall into mindless boring complacency, afraid to express an opinion that may offend.

    CZ and Jean if you have been offended by articles or interaction that has gone on within this site, step back, take a breath and gain a little perspective.

    Remember, no one has forced you to read or participate in anything on this blog, the choice has always been yours.



  15. The only thing that is offensive is the constant crying by Widow son and Tom. These are grown men pissing themselves over nothing.

    I would never take this blog serious. Who could with a moderator/page owner acting like a two year old in candy store?

    You can read from the very start of this page up until now and see what a cry baby widows son, Tom, and tubalcain are.

    Widow son gets knocked down a few pegs by his own. This whole blog is like Star Magazine or some other trash gossip magazine.


  16. I have not always agreed with your approach Brother, but I have to give it to you, you do dig up some good stuff. Very interesting.

  17. Jean
    Obviously you already have taken this blog way too seriously.

    For what ever reason you continue to return to the Burning Taper, like a moth attraced to the flame. You seem to continually get burned.

    Now you lash out in pain and anger at the host and participants on this blog (your list grows). You must learn to be kinder to yourself.

    I debated for a while if I should respond to this again and give any energy to this negitve discourse.

    I find that I am weak in character on this point and that baltant rudeness and lack of good manners does offend me. We all have our issues to deal with.

    Jean you have every right to your opinion. How you chose to express that opinion is up to you.

    Frankly, you are starting to scare me just a little. The words "psycho cyber-stalker" keep popping into my head. I am very grateful one thing and that is you have no idea where I park my double-wide......

    In all things BALANCE


  18. What horrible a taste in my mouth! Brothers using this kind of language towards each other, where did BROTHERLY LOVE go? If you have a dispute with a brother master mason, you are to handle it in a mature MASONIC manner. Make your point and if you dont like a brother's opinion dont speak evil of a brother but whisper words of comfort and council into his ear! My goodness! Widow's Son you bring valid points but you as well as your challegers are wrong on this point because we are all part of a brotherhood and there is no need for this.. as moderator/author you might want to address this subject. This bickering on this blog has become a battle of who is the most Masonic! You are inspiring but when a brother brings something against you defend yourself, but be Masonic about it. Smile Guys you are someones impression of freemasonry.

  19. a bad taste is also in my mouth. yes, i reacted harshly, but the constant american butchering of the english language is beyond a joke. to come across it in such a well-written blog is, i suppose, par for the course when one realises it is, after all, an AMERICAN blog. and no, w.s, your dictionary definition, which was somewhat childish at best to even go to those lengths, was one that is only supported by the american use of "most". yes, im nit-picking, but when is the butchering going to stop?

    the worst part was, the best you could do was cry about my syntax. syntax. seriously.

    and your self-love is more my problem than yours? if you claim to be exposing the truth of freemasonry, in all its delicious forms, the best you could do is exercise some masonic humility.

    and obviously i used the phrases i did in quotation marks as paraphrases of previous terms you used. theres really no need to trawl through each and every post you make just to gather some EXACT quotes. i got my point across, and the terms i used were accurate. you think yourself as someone who is going against the grain, challenging common ideas of freemasonry and the world at large. fine and great, but do it with some humility. your post about "surely there's been some mistake" made me sick. stop thinking so highly of yourself. pride is great - it stops us from becoming useless. but lets balance it with humility.

    my view of freemasonry is at complete odds with an americans, and i can only assume it's because of the obvious american influence on the craft. we can see it in popular culture, and international rape of almost all western cultures, including australia. if australia gets to the point where our craft practice is identical to america's, then we're in serious trouble.

    i've had several brothers visit american lodges, and they spoke in disbelief with how poor the actual ritual work and approach to the ideals actually is. they spoke in disbelief, because we take it so very seriously.

    i apologise for my heated words, but i do not apologise for my view that widow's son has proven repeatedly in the several months that i've been reading this blog as a self-indulgent, self-important intellectual, the likes of which i commonly met in my philosophy classes at university. yes, you have a lot to say, and a lot of it important (to an extent) - but you're not the only one. and there's others out there with that all-important humility i'm trying to point out.

    peace and blessed be,


    ps: oh, and jean:

    shut up.

    (yes, that was "un-masonic", but seriously, no one has said it yet, and it needed to be said).

  20. Why don't you fly across the big pond Crow and make me shut up.

    P.S. that was unmasonic conduct and I could careless.

  21. I think all of you are morons! As a Mason I and some of the select Brothers rule society and will one day hold complete control over all.

  22. I would be really worried. A bunch of guys who wear dish washer aprons, hang out at a all male club, and have secret passwords and handshakes. I just might be pissing my pants.

  23. that's strange. i don't remember anyone asking for my permission to use my words as part of the never-ending list of show-pony quotes to the right of the blog.

    self-absorbed AND tyrannical.

    i was going to start to give you the benefit of the doubt, but now it's all over.


  24. Bro. Crow,

    Any comments publicly posted on this blog about me or this blog, positive or negative, are fair game for also being posted in the sidebar's "pony show" of quotations.

    The quote will be removed if the author requests it. Your again-rude comments (above) don't really constitute a request, though.

    "Self-absorbed AND tyrannical." Thanks for another great quote.

    — W.S.

  25. "Self-absorbed AND tyrannical."

    Damn, WS, you get all the love.

  26. please remove any-and-all quotes you find necessary from my comments from your quote section.

    my, how different are the differences between australian and american freemasons.

    much love, peace and respect to you, widow's son. i'm sure our ultimate leveler of our craft will eventually level us all to the beautiful, loving, wonderful, peaceful people we all are at heart.

    thank you,


  27. CZ

    Well said.

    In all things balance.


  28. The Burning Taper grossly exaggerates the holding of the cited California Appellate case. The Burning Taper's comments do make for a great sensationalist news article, however. The Burning Tapers' editorial comments constitute a very poor review of the legal implications and reach of the actual case. The SR did not argue that it was a religion. The Appellate Court did not conclude that the SR was a religion. The Appellate Court held in dicta (language not needed to resolve the issues before it) that the SR "might" fall within the protections of a Federal Act due to the quasi-religious character of the SR's beliefs under several cases interpreting the Federal Act: RLUIPA. The Court did not reach this determination because it found that the actual entity, LASRC, (very much removed from the SR) that was conducting the commercial activities and events that were prohibited did not, in fact, have much to do with the SR or the SR's practices and beliefs. This case decided none of the interesting Constitutional issues at stake, whether the SR is a religion, or whether the SR would be entitled to the protections afforded by the Federal Act in question.

    I would suggest that our Constitution would protect the rights of an organization that requires, at the very least, that all of its members affirm a belief in the GAOTU.

  29. I have a masonic encyclopedia that clearly says freemasonry is indeed a religion. what is this, a new late breaking discovery. the encyclopedia is over 40 years old! This is the great secret. for once freemasonry is exposed as the religion that it has always been (a place or worship, a prayer, and a god, jahbaalon), then the american government has been in direct conflict with its own laws since its foundation.

  30. Oh, God, will you stop it already?

    I think you've already been told that not one person speaks for Freemasonry. So, that encyclopaedia to which you hang your faith and opinion like wet laundry is but ONE OPINION in a sea of them.

    Sure, there are very good, serious books on the Craft, but I take great umbrage with those that consider it a religion, and even more with those non-masons that see the Jabulon boogey man at every turn.

    It's not a god, dillweed. I suggest you do a serious inquest into Freemasonry WITHOUT your blinders. You have not uncovered some heretofore hidden knowledge or proof so don't delude yourself on having a book of authority or proof--simply because you have not done the required shovel and spade work to uncover something worth talking about.

    If you still come to the same conclusion, what do you care about us? We're all going to hell according to your sect.

    That said, my god doesn't give me nightmares. Go play somewhere else because your games are played out. Been there, done that, heard it already ad nauseum.

  31. Wow! There's a lot of anger on this post. I didn't like reading it, but I thoroughly enjoyed the constant American butchering of the English language. That was my favorite part.

    CZ - Are you a elementary school teacher or something? I did notice that you never commented on the subject/topic of the post, so I'm guessing that you just needed to get some stuff off your chest?

  32. I know this "discussion" is over a year old and I should maybe let sleeping dogs lie but I feel I have to comment. Over the past few weeks I've been reading around lots of Freemasonry sites, doing my best to avoid tinfoil hat anti-mason sites, and been enjoying reading various blogs. The strong moral stance of Freemasonry as a whole is really attractive.

    The comment I wish to make, however, is that besides reading some of the sites connected to the comments of Crow Zampano is the first posting I've seen from an Australian Freemason. His comments here have really put me off. If this kind of petty attack is indicative of Freemasonry in Australia then I'm not sure I want to look into it any further. Perhaps I've been misunderstanding what I've read but I expected to see more common courtesy, respect, and even brotherly love between Masons despite their differences. That's about all I have to say on that, just that I'm slightly disappointed.

    Oh and before I sign off, I just want to thank Widow's Son for this blog. I'm finding it enjoyable reading alongside all the other Masonic blogs out there.


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