Thursday, April 01, 2010

Text of letter from GM of Arkansas forbidding purchase of Masonic license plates

In January, 2010 the then-Grand Master of of Arkansas, Ronald Hedge, sent a letter to lodge secretaries forbidding Arkansas "mainstream" Freemasons to purchase or display Arkansas Masonic license plates.

The text of the letter reads:
January 25, 2010

Dear Brother Secretary:

I am sending this letter to your lodge in the hope of heading off a possible problem which has been caused by the State Revenue Department. It has been brought to my attention that the state has come out with a Freemason license plate. The best I can find out is this license plate originates from the Grand Lodge of Prince Hall Masons and part of the money derived from the sale of these license plates goes to a charity sponsored by the Prince Hall Grand Lodge.

After several calls to ascertain what the procedure was for obtaining these plates; [sic] I came to the conclusion that the method of screening individuals, to see if they were eligible to purchase the plates was not sufficient to ensure that our members could not purchase them. We have laws which strictly prohibit communication and Masonic intercourse with clandestine lodges and members of clandestine lodges. It is my opinion as your Grand Master that the purchase of these license plates would be in contradiction to our laws. Thus I am directing that no member of a subordinate lodge under the jurisdiction of the M. W. Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Arkansas purchase the license plates.

I am sending your lodge this letter to be read at your next stated communication. I am further directing that the Worshipful Master appoint a phone committee to contact every member of your lodge, who is an Arkansas resident; [sic] or that a letter be sent out to the same; [sic] informing them that they are not to purchase one of these license plates.

I appreciate your attention to this serious problem and will thank you in advance for your efforts to help ensure that our members are informed and do not inadvertently violate our Masonic law.

[signed] Ronald Hedge
Grand Master
So many questions, thoughts and opinions race through my mind as I read and type this. Some of the issues have been discussed and debated in depth on The Burning Taper before.

The definition of "clandestine" is "hidden or unknown," not "unrecognized." Prince Hall lodges are hardly hidden or unknown, not even in Arkansas. How, in the 21st century, can G.M. Hedge cling to 18th century jargon and call Prince Hall lodges "clandestine"?

And has G.M. Hedge never spoken to a Prince Hall member on matters of Masonry? Maybe not... but if he has, did he commit the "crime" of conducting Masonic intercourse with a clandestine Mason?

How would purchasing a license plate from the state be an act of Masonic intercourse?

Masons take an obligation to abide by "edicts" of their grand lodge. Since when is an "opinion" by a grand master an edict? By tradition, an edict is proclaimed as an edict, and usually given an official name and number.

Is a grand master the presiding officer, judge and jury? By what right does a grand master claim this authority?

What do you think?

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  1. I like the way Ronnie shifts the blame to the State Revenue Department:

    "I am sending this letter to your lodge in the hope of heading off a possible problem which has been caused by the State Revenue Department."

    Yeah, right. It isn't the Grand Lodge of Arkansas that caused "the problem," it's the Arkansas State Revenue Department.

    It's hard to imagine what the Masonic "leaders" of Arkansas are thinking, but they're clearly living in a world that's very different from the world in which the rest of us live.

    In case anyone is academically interested, Arkansas Masonic law contains a specific provision concerning people who sell Masonic paraphernalia. I can't cite the law verbatim, and I don't have my copy of the Digest of Laws handy at the moment (after all, what good is it when the Grand Lodge doesn't pay any attention to it), but it basically says that Arkansas Masons are strictly prohibited from interfering in any way with the sale of Masonic paraphernalia by people who aren't Masons.

    If Masons of the past wrote specific laws to avoid conflicts with people selling Masonic paraphernalia, why have those running the Grand Lodge of Arkansas today chosen to initiate a conflict with their own state and their Prince Hall counterparts, over that exact same subject?

    Isn't that a violation of their own Masonic obligation, to "conform to and abide by the Constitutions, bylaws, and edicts of the Grand Lodge," or are the Grand officers exempt from their obligations?

    One would think so, but unbelievably, when George R. Franks, Jr., was Grand Master of Masons in Arkansas in 2004, he issued an "edict," which was subsequently "approved" by the Grand Lodge, saying: "the Grand Master is not strictly bound in his actions" by his obligation, or by any rule of law.

    In other words, the Grand Master of "mainstream" Masons in Arkansas is free to do anything he pleases, and there isn't anything anyone can do about it.

    I guess that's a pretty good gig, if you can get it.

    No wonder they don't want to share any of that power with Prince Hall Masons, or anyone else.

    It must be nice to be able to do anything you want, with complete impunity.

    -- Diogenes

  2. Oh, Diogenes,

    I feel we must have known one another and sat together in Lodge in a previous life for you have surely said so well what I have only had rattling around in my head.

    Keep it up!

  3. I feel the license plate was a bad idea from the get go. Is the State Revenue office going to contact each lodge to confirm that they are selling the plate to a Master Mason? I feel this was the concern of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas. I do not feel racism played any part in this. It has been made into a something that it is not. If you don’t agree with the edicts that the Grand Lodge hands down then you bring up the discussion in lodge and if agreed upon the Master of the Lodge will voice the lodges’ concerns to the Grand Lodge, but you still abide by them until they are changed. And you sure don’t go on the web and voice your disagreement with the Grand Lodge. I show my pride in being a Master Mason and have earned the privilege to do so. I do not think it is right for anyone to be able to buy a license plate with a Masonic Symbol displayed on it unless the State is going to confirm that the tag is being sold to a Master Mason. And it being a plate issued from the State, Who would think that the person was not a Master Mason or a family member of one.

  4. CommonMan:

    I would like to believe that this has nothing to do with racism, but unfortunately, there is too much evidence to the contrary.

    Your good intentions aside, you have not presented any line of reasoning that makes me believe otherwise.

    Regardless of whether the GL of Arkansas's actions were racially motivated or not the way Brother Gordon's case seem to have been handled in a way that seems unfair, not to mention unmasonic.

    Your concerns about the State Revenue Department selling Masonic license plates to non-masons are a little overwrought in several respects.

    As disagreeable as it may seem to you and I, non-Masons are legally permitted to buy and wear items adorned with Masonic symbols if they so choose. I don't believe that any of the many businesses out there owned by Masons that sell Masonic rings and paraphernalia check anyone's dues card at the time of sale.

    Rings and ball caps are one thing, but I think it highly unlikely that a non-Mason would spend the extra money to get Masonic license plates on their car. And frankly if they did, it would not make them anymore a Mason, just supporter of a worthwhile charity.

    The money generated from the Masonic license plate in my state goes to support a very worthy Masonic charity, so I would think it petty to worry about who is driving around with one. The important thing is that good be done in the world.

    Brother, I pray that you are correct in your estimation of this issue, but in the absence of any solid line of reasoning it appears to be just wishful thinking on your part.

    I also commend you on the loyalty you have to your Grand Lodge, but still the facts seem to weigh against the purity of their motives.

    Neither I nor any Mason has any good to gain if the GL of Arkansas' actions are proven to be racially motivated, yet we do stand to lose if they are. The beauty of our gentle Craft can only be tarnished by such flagrant disregard for its greatest tenets.


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