Update, Tuesday, Dec. 11: Bro. Diogenes continues to update the story he tells here, providing names of those affected by the tyrannical acts of past grand masters in Arkansas. Be sure to read his updates in the comments section following this article.
Recently in the comments section of an article on The Burning Taper, a discussion has begun over whether grand masters have the legal authority to expel a brother without due process and a Masonic trial.
That such expulsions have taken place is without question. Witness recent events in Georgia and West Virginia.
But are these expulsions Masonically lawful or legal?
Bros. Gregg Hall and Theron Dunn were quick to jump on the "of course it's legal!" bandwagon, citing Georgia Code to prove that a grand master has authority to expel without trial. It's a bit amusing to have two brothers from California citing Georgia Masonic Code as if they're powdered-wig barristers, but they're welcome to their "considered opinions." After all, they've already proven to be experts on civil, criminal and Masonic law in Ohio.
In their pleadings in the court of public opinion, though, they confuse a grand master with a grand lodge.
The following guest editorial was written by a brother from Arkansas, who prefers to remain anonymous.
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1-103 — Authority — The Grand Lodge is hereby declared the highest legitimate source of Masonic authority...
77-110 — Grand Lodge may Expel — The Grand Lodge may on its own motion expel any Georgia Mason, though not a member of its body and with or without the recommendation of the Constituent Lodge.
The people posting the information above are (intentionally or unintentionally) confusing the "Grand Lodge" with the "Grand Master."
The "Grand Lodge" is a GROUP. Typically, it convenes once each year, and consists of the "elected" Grand Master, Grand Wardens, Grand Deacons, and other grand officers. Depending on the jurisdiction, it may also include all active Worshipful Masters and principal officers of blue lodges in the jurisdiction, all Past Masters, all Grand Lodge committee members, etc..
The Grand Master is one man, who is the chief executive officer of the "Grand Lodge."
Unfortunately, in my home state of Arkansas, recent Grand Masters have endeavored to browbeat the craft into submission. When resolutions have been proposed for consideration at the annual Grand Lodge sessions, Grand Masters who oppose those resolutions have simply declared them "un-Masonic," and denied the members of the Grand Lodge an opportunity to vote.
In another notable instance, a Grand Master denied the assembled members of the Grand Lodge the right to vote on a candidate for Grand Lodge office. At the annual session of the Grand Lodge in February, 2005, Past Grand Master Arthur "Buddy" Mhoon (now deceased) attempted to nominate one of our state's most senior and respected brothers for Grand Master. The presiding Grand Master rapped him down, however, and told him he wouldn't accept that nomination, which was in opposition to his own handpicked successor.
When Masons here have expressed dismay and/or opposition to their Grand Master's actions, recent Grand Masters have simply declared those Masons "suspended pending trial," then appointed Grand Lodge "trial committees" composed of their closest friends to "try" the wrongfully accused brothers.
Trials in the lodges of the accused are not permitted, but are instead convened at the Grand Lodge offices, where only invited witnesses are allowed to attend, and crowds of ordinary Masons have been turned away at the door with threats of trespassing charges. Such trials can't be held on any "degree" of Masonry, because the accused have already been suspended, and therefore aren't entitled to attend "regular" lodge functions. Needless to say, no one has ever been acquitted under those circumstances, and never will be.
Arkansas Masonic law specifically says that "every man is to be presumed innocent until proven to be guilty," and the mere fact that charges are filed, does not deprive a brother of any of his Masonic rights or privileges. "No brother," it says "can be declared suspended or expelled" prior to Masonic trial, but that's happened more than 20 times in the last four or five years, and the only people who've tried to stand up for what's right, have become the newest names on the list.
If a significant number of Masons who perceive the wrongs would rally behind those who are persecuted, the situation would immediately change, but we've all forgotten the lesson of Grand Master Hiram Abiff, and courage within our fraternity is about as rare as it is among wildebeests facing lions on the African Serengetti.
God help us — we've become a fraternity of sheep led by wolves, "democratically" deciding on what to have for dinner. It's a sad, sad situation, with very little hope of remedy.
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