Monday, June 09, 2008

Dirty laundry: Freemasonry's 'Orwellian, repressive, regressive and unconstitutional practices'

At this moment, Frank Haas' lawsuit against Charlie Montgomery, Charles Coleman and the Grand Lodge of West Virginia is the top story on the Charleston (WV) Gazette website and probably its front page story in newsprint. The story is also prominent in the Charleston Daily Mail.

The news of this sorry state of affairs is no longer confined to the relatively small number of West Virginia Masons, or to the Net-savvy denizens of Masonic blogs and forums.

Freemasonry's dirty laundry is officially hung out on the Clothesline of the World, right up there with McClellan's book, Clinton's failed presidential bid, and Lindsay Lohan's missing underwear.

Whether the World cares is anyone's guess.

I'm sure the anti-Masonic paranoid conspiracy crowd will find in the lawsuit more reasons to assume Masonry is ruled by Satan or the Illuminati, and perhaps a few more people will keep their kids from picking up tossed candy at the their local Fourth of July parades if the Shriners are there driving their little cars.

But will it make any difference within Freemasonry? Will men of good character finally speak up for M. W. Bro. Frank Haas, or will they support the West Virginia grand lodge and M.W. Bros. Charlie Montgomery and Charles Coleman? Will other U.S. grand lodges speak up against WV's tyranny, or will they instruct the rest of us to cease and desist our public commentary? Will it be a wake-up call to southern grand lodges who still actively promote racial segregation? Will other grand masters think twice before issuing "edicts" that attempt to unfairly suppress free speech?

To paraphrase Bob the Indian in the mystical masonic movie The Big Empty, "Will it make a difference?"

Image: By the most excellent Virginia photographer Sarah Huntington

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  1. The comments on the Gazette story itself are interesting.

    Suing the GL is a pretty extreme step; makes you think about the loyalty to the organization that some people have that they would bring a court case, rather than walk away.

  2. Isn't there an old phrase, "Extreme circumstances call for extreme measures"?

    In my opinion, W. Bros. Montgomery and Coleman created some pretty extreme circumstances for W. Bro. Haas, and, since they didn't give him any opportunity for review or appeal within the Craft, he's well within his rights in pursuing reparations via the court system. The damages inflicted upon him go far beyond the internal workings of the Fraternity, and he owes no "loyalty" to those who created this situation.

    — W.S.

  3. What I do not get is this:
    PGM Haas is a Judge!? To be a Judge, I believe one must practice Law?!

    Why would anyone want to mess with an individual who KNOWS Laws?

    I am sure PGM Haas dotted all his I's and crossed all his T's to get his legislation passed. Understanding "working within to make changes", I am sure he KNEW exactly what he was doing, but the new grand master and the next apparently KNOW better than a judge!?

    Letting th eprofane shine light on abuse of power is the only way to check an out of control individual/group......

    I am glad to see the newspaper is looking into it as well. Tougher to manuever in the dark that way!

  4. "Let them eat cake"
    The GL made their own bed. Walk away??? That has been to problem many Masons have been stabbed in the back by their precious GL and those GL's think they can kick their members to the ground.

    When the moon is in the seventh house and Juptier aligns with Mars........

  5. What changes were being implemented by MWBro. Haas that caused such anger by the GM? I think that it would be useful to enter some kind of mediation to perhaps not bring down the whole Grand Lodge. We have to stick together to keep Masonry in all 51 Grand Jurisdictions in this country.

  6. Grand Lodges are suing masons --they're suing me claiming I was an officer and they damn well no I was not. There are election don't yeah know...

    They were stupid enough to draw first blood --not me...

  7. This illustrates why it's so difficult to take Masonry seriously. BTW, I think he actually states a claim for defamation.

  8. As a judge, it is defamation to be kicked out of the fraternity if the GL has failed to follow its own proper rules, and refused to grant him a Masonic trial. It implies that he is guilty of charges for which he has not been allowed to answer. And his political opponents could make major headway during an election by saying "Hey, the Masons kicked him out and we don't know what for, 'cause they're a creepy, secret sect. Don't trust that guy!"

    It's a bad situation to be in and I don't envy his choices. Taking it public at least starts to get a different side of the story out: that he was fighting for positive changes within the fraternity and got punted to the curb for attempting to reform it by blinkered septuagenarians too stubborn to change. Frankly, his career is endangered by this episode, and I can't say as I blame him for putting it in the papers. Silence would be suicidal.

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  10. I don't understand why it matters if the brother is a judge or not?
    It's happening to brethren all over the country.
    But thats ok, if it took a judge to take a stand against all the nonsence than so be it.

    It will all come to Light soon enough for all of these egotistical boobs who treat fellow brothers like this.

  11. tom accousti has brought up a point that leads to an important question: "Have you ever walked away and withdrew from a lodge because of issues that made you incompatible with that lodge?" Did you have to decide to join a new lodge or completely demit.
    I know I did. I withdrew from an unnamed lodge here in Texas over harassment by Past Masters and other members over my particular stand on the subject of race. Thankfully 10 years later there are members of that race in many lodges across Texas. I stayed in Texas Freemasonry and fought for what I believe was for the good of Masonry. Was I the one who brought about change? Hopefully and so were thousands of other good men. Should we turn and walk away. My answer is "NO!"

  12. Frankly, Grand Lodges should be like a McDonald's or any other franchise business. The most important job a Grand Lodge should do is to maintain the brand but it is the local Lodges that are the direct connection between the brothers, community and Freemasonry. The Grand Lodge should make sure that every one follows the same program, et cetera, but it is the local Lodges that are the gateway for brothers. If the brothers want change, they should begin at the local Lodge level and bring other brothers into the mix. It is the power of the ground swell below and not the rain from above that changes policy.

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  14. What, what, what what?! What are you talking about?
    "I am not sure that segregation is automatically wrong and terrible."
    Segregation based on a mutable qualification: okay I will give you that, in certain, limited circumstances.
    Segregation based on an immutable qualification, morally wrong except in extremely, limited circumstances.

    "For thousands of years it was correct and 50 years of contrary thinking by some doesn't necessarily mean segregation was completely wrong."
    Until 1865, certain states of the United States believed that slavery was okay after millennia of it being considered right. However, it is obvious that this is contrary to the natural law set about by G-d.

    "As Masons should know, the freedom of association is important, though it has been embattled for several decades now."

    Of course we have the right for freedom of association, but just because you have a right does not mean that you should use that right especially for attacking a person's quality over something that can't control.

    In closing, if M.W. Bro. Haas tried to remove the scourge that has cost this country centuries of strife, discrimination, then he should be applauded. I believe with this case being filed, we will hopefully get a truthful picture of what happened, and see some resolution. At the very least, M.W. Bro. Haas deserves a fair trial, especially in an organization that expounds all the qualities of our great country, such as ours.

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  16. Ky traveler sounds more like a klansman than a Mason. Are you for real with that thinking?
    Just goes to show there are all kinds that make this crazy and sad world go round.

  17. Not a Klansman in the least, and I don't agree that it is a sad world. Especially when there are those very open for any discussion no matter how difficult.

    I don't hear a good argument for the other side here, I am trying to present that. I am trying to describe, as best I can, what I have heard in and out of lodge (by members, and more especially, Nonmembers)and especially here in GA (where I am living for a couple of more weeks.) I think that the underlying concern is mixed-race marriages and loss of a culture -not sharing a lodge or school together. It's more like how some people are trying to keep Gaelic alive, or French, or want their children to marry a good Catholic or Jewish person. It just shows its face with the lodge issue and I don't think it is Reasonable to discount the beliefs of others so quickly and surely. I don't think that way of thinking is Masonic either, as we should always seek Reason and not be so quick with our passion and judgment.

    For me personally there were a few people that convinced me to become a Mason. Some of my family, one fellow from another similar organization, and a young Black man that presented himself very well, and wore the ring. He wasn't working in a high income job or anything, but he had a different way about him -like he really knew who he was, and knew his role in the world. I know he had to be a Prince Hall Mason, but he helped me make a decision without much conversation at all.

    So, just looking at a certain black man and thinking he had the right stuff, helped me to decide to join. Not sure how Klan-like that is, but I hope it helps to tell who I am.

    I do enjoy the conversation and hope this all gets resolved in the coming decade or so. It is on its way I think.

  18. Thank you for the clarification.
    My bad. Reading it once over, I believe you can see where I might have gotten that view.

  19. Kintucky Traveller,

    Just because it is a way of life and a tradition does not make it right.

    Race preservation is a man made idea, not a holy one!

    It is the internal, not the external that qualifies a man for masonry.

    Race discrimination is a seperatist mode of thinking and is out dated.
    Most of us would not ne alive today if our forefathers thought america was for anglo's only. My father, a italian catholic, was viewed the same as a black when living in Tenn.

    as a mason be just; because equity sustains the human race.
    be good; because goodness enchains all hearts.
    be kind;because kindness secures affection.

    above all: be modest; because pride is offensive to your fellow human beings.

    be grateful; because gratitude is the food that nourishes liberality.

    you must change the way of thinking because race purity is nazi/hitler esq, not american and does not unite us as a family.

  20. Frankly, Grand Lodges should be like a McDonald's or any other franchise business.

    If Mainstream Masonry is McDonald's, does that make GO Masonry Burger King?

  21. No our lodges have quite a bit of independence so they are more like McDonald's. Burger King has quite a few corporate owned stores IIRC so they more resemble the GL's. :0)

  22. I never thought about BK being similar to Freemasonry as there is more independence in the governance. I believe that is a brilliant observation. The reason I made this point is that Grand Lodge's should maintain the brand, however, if they are not helping the local Lodges, then they stand in the way of progress. In the case of West Virginia, the Grand Lodge rules over the local Lodges. In Minnesota, the local Lodges are deemed very important and the Grand Lodge bolsters these Lodges through a recognition program where individual Lodges meet different criteria and are recognized for their accomplishments. It is very much a carrot type program but I believe it has been very effective.
    I think Grand Lodges should encourage local Lodges, instead acting with iron fist tactics.

  23. Mill. Mason.. of course Grand Lodges "rule" over local Lodges. A Lodge receives a warrant from a Grand Lodge. In turn, the Lodge, and its members, must follow the rules. A Lodge doesn't get a warrant to do whatever someone feels like in certain predetermined areas.

    If one has a problem with GL rules, one changes the rules with a vote at the annual jurisdictional meeting. If most people there don't favour the change, one lives with the fact the majority rules and tries again perhaps.

    I'm not going to speak to any case in particular, but the biggest gripe to some is when they believe a GM has overstepped his Constitutional authority, ie. he isn't following the GL rules.

  24. When I meant rule meant using oppressive tactics against local Lodges. Actually there needs to be a point of distinction, however. Grand Lodges exist because of local Lodges just as local Lodges created after the Grand Lodge come into existence from charters granted by the Grand Lodge. The relationship is symbiotic and it is necessary that both local Lodges and Grand Lodges must realize this intimate connection. Trust me, I have talked to brothers who fear that if the local Lodge closes, the Grand Lodge will take everything, and they look for anyway to prevent this from happening. The road goes both ways. The major point that I was making is that Grand Lodges need to know their role, fostering the growth of the Fraternity, controlling state charities, etc., while local Lodges need to be willing to accept instructions laid out by the Grand Lodge; however, there need not be iron fist tactics to maintain "conformity" and ignore reforms.

  25. If one has a problem with GL rules, one changes the rules with a vote at the annual jurisdictional meeting. If most people there don't favour the change, one lives with the fact the majority rules and tries again perhaps.

    The concern is that most Masons aren't sure of the process, and that they would need to go through the GL itself in order to change a rule. If the GL officers are not in favor of changing it, then it's possible that they will sideline the change. Since most GLs only meet once or twice a year, a brother could well become discouraged from making too many attempts.

    In Conn, a brother can make a motion from the floor. If it's a big change, the chances are that the GL would want a committee to study it and then submit the findings at the next GL - 6 months later. I've seen some things pass when they've come up, but none of them have been changes with an adverse impact on the GL itself.

  26. There is no such thing as Grand Lodge elections. Masons are appointed to positions by their ability to say "Yes Sir would you like another." Once appointed, that makes eligible to be placed "on the ballot" one day --much like election in Iraq before 2003 or in the former U.S.S.R.

  27. Tom wrote:
    The concern is that most Masons aren't sure of the process, and that they would need to go through the GL itself in order to change a rule.

    The concern is very easy to end. People simply need to educate themselves. What's that saying about ignorance of the law?

    As they say in the local PH Lodge here: "Know your code." Wise advice.

    I don't know about where you are, but each new M.M. here gets a copy of the GL Constitution. It clearly outlines what one must do to amend it.

    If the GL officers are not in favor of changing it, then it's possible that they will sideline the change.

    It's also possible Freemasonry is a World Domination Satanic group, but I'm not much on theories about people conspiring.

    YMMV, but here all Constitutional changes go to a Committee, which checks the wording, and then reports on them to the GL for vote. The proposed changes are sent several months in advance to each Lodge for discussion (sometimes ad nauseum).

    Since most GLs only meet once or twice a year, a brother could well become discouraged from making too many attempts.

    In my jurisdiction, some felt we should go back to how we did things before 1893 and permit business in the First Degree. It took more than 20 years, but it finally got changed.

    I suppose people could have given it up and moaned and bitched about "the system" or "Grand Lodge" or some other scapegoat to be found when people don't get their way. But no, some people stuck to it, and others who agreed with them picked up on the idea and eventually, it was approved.

    Justa Mason

  28. The problem is that so many Masons are old blue collar guys who brought their racist attitudes with them. It is a lack of sophistication that makes them who they are. In Masonry, they can become grand poobahs, but they are still old rednecks. Things will change only when they are replaced by a new generation. In the meantime, I find it very difficult to take the whole enterprise seriously (so I don't).


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