Tuesday, January 30, 2007

N.C. Shriners boast membership increase

While Masonic blue lodges and the Scottish and York Rite groups continue to lose members each year, at least one state's Shrine organization has seen a turnaround in the trend.

After losing members for at least the past 15 years, the Sudan Shrine, which covers 42 counties of eastern North Carolina, now boasts over 6,000 members, according to the New Bern Sun-Journal.

"We’ve had a banner year in membership," said Sudan business manager Rick Welborn.

"We’re starting to get more [members] who are in their mid-40s," Welborn continued. "We always budget a certain number of new guys coming in and we exceeded that this year. Plus, we restored a lot of members that got out for either health or financial reasons."

He was hoping that up to 30 percent of those 6,000 members would show up at last weekend's Shrine Convention and parade. He expected at least 800 Shriners would appear in the annual parade.

There was no word on whether the fez-wearing Shriners drove around in funny little cars, or if they amused the crowd by showing off their new UFOs.

Image: Shriners marching in parade in Los Angeles in 1951, about the time UFOs were first becoming a popular meme. From the archives of the Los Angles Public Library

UPDATE Thursday, Feb. 1: In an attempt to be a good reporter and get more information on this story (and to focus more on upbeat stories than the constant parade of negative Masonic news I've been accused of lately), I emailed Bro. Rick Welborn, the Sudan Shriners' business manager, asking him how the event went, how many Shriners showed up for the parade, to what did he attribute the uptrend in Shrine membership, and if he would elaborate on his comment about "budgeting new guys" each year. Bro. Rick responded by saying I was welcome to phone him, as he had "...nothing to hide, [but is] just a little leery of certain email communications. I'm sure you can readily appreciate and respect that in today's society."


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Watching the watchers watch us: FreemasonryWatch.org updates their website

The anti-Masonic folks over at FreemasonryWatch.org have recently updated their formerly dark and dreary conspiracy-laden homepage of anti-Masonic news. Welcome to the 21st century, guys. Er, well, almost.

Their new site's format appears to be based on the layout of The Drudge Report, the ultra-popular news and opinion site that, to my knowledge, hasn't changed its minimalist layout since its inception back during the Clinton years.

Good job, guys. The new layout is much easier to read.

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Slate, Fox Sports weigh in on 'bizarre' Masonic-NASCAR partnership

The online magazine Slate just published an article about the Scottish Rite's venture into NASCAR sponsorship titled "Talladega Rites: The Masons' bizarre NASCAR campaign."

Writer Seth Stevenson lives near the Scottish Rite's House of the Temple in Washington, D.C., and came upon the shiny NASCAR Monte Carlo adorned with Masonic emblems on the day it was being showcased a few weeks ago.

"Why on earth are the Masons advertising on the hood of a stockcar?" he asks.

To find out, he called Stan Dodd, who manages public relations for the Scottish Rite. "Like a lot of other civic groups," he said, "we've seen our membership get a little older, and we've seen some retraction in our numbers. We need some younger members."

The Slate article continues:
Enter NASCAR. Driver Brian Conz (who competes in NASCAR's Busch Series races) is a Mason and helped engineer this deal between his race team and the Scottish Rite. By appearing on the hood of Conz's car, the Rite will reach millions of viewers during ESPN's race coverage. (Up to 30 million "impressions" per race — a figure that calculates the number of people watching, and the number of times a portion of the car appears on screen.) "The NASCAR demographics fit our demographics," says Dodd. When I ask him to be more specific, he just says, "Men."
When asked how much the Scottish Rite was paying to sponsor Conz's car, Dodd said no money had exchanged hands.

Dodd says the Rite's only contribution is "some staff support."

Stevenson then asked Joe Hill, head of public relations for Brian Conz's racing team, to explain what the racing team expected to get from the sponsorship.

"We're aligning ourselves with a dynamic, worldwide organization. We expect access and introduction to their members, who will assist us in meeting executive-level corporate leaders interested in getting involved with racing," said Hill.

Ah, yes. The conspiracy. The cabal. The good ol' boy network. The "brotherhood."

The first question asked of a candidate for Freemasonry is this (emphasis mine): "Do you seriously declare, upon your honor, that, unbiased by the improper solicitation of friends and uninfluenced by mercenary motives, you freely and voluntarily offer yourself as a candidate for the mysteries of Freemasonry?"

A blogger on a MSN-Fox Sports site has written a bizarre story about the Scottish Rite's NASCAR sponsorship, full of strange and occasionally funny comments about the SR's Fred Flintstone Racing Team with John Doe as driver.
"The Scottish Rite sponsors 225 speech and language clinics for children across the country, part of the $2 million a day or $750+ million a year American Masonry spends on philanthropy which is just a little less than the value of the amount of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer that they annually consume."

Image: Scottish Rite executive director William G. Sizemore, NASCAR driver Brian Conz, and team owner Frank Cicci

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Fewer Freemasons for the future?

Writing in the Dec. 2006 issue of Masonic Messenger, the official publication of the Grand Lodge of Georgia, Grand Master of Masons in Georgia M.W. Bro. Eli Stafford said: "We have lots of members, but we are weak in quality.... I believe we need to guard our inner door more closely.... If you... were standing in front of our lodge, [and] you could see the ones who come in and hear their conversations and hear the profanity used by some of our brothers, would you still want to be a part of our fraternity?"

I'm not sure what number constitutes "lots of members" to Bro. Stafford. The last time I checked, back in 2003 or 2004, there were just under 50,000 Masons in Georgia, and that number was decreasing by nearly 1,900 each year. Extending that into the future, I recall calculating that the last Georgia Mason would be turning out the Lights around 2027 or so.

Elsewhere in the same issue of the Messenger, it was reported that in 2005, only two Grand Lodges in America reported an increase in membership. The Grand Lodge of Hawaii had a net gain of 11 Master Masons, bringing the total number of Masons in that state to 1,745. New Jersey reported a net gain of 284 Masons, for a total membership of 31,169.

Across the board, the 51 American Grand Lodges reported a loss of 47,220 members in 2005. Membership in the 51 Grand Lodges stood at 1,569,812.

It has often been said, and a visit to any lodge will probably show it to be true, that only 10-15% of Masons actually ever participate in Masonic functions or even attend regular blue lodge communications. The rest just pay dues to maintain their membership. That means that our illustrious institution consists of between 150,000 and 225,000 active Master Masons nationwide. More people than that attend a single NASCAR race.

Nationally, the Scottish Rite boasts of half a million members, but I have no idea how many of those are actually active participants.

York Rite consists of three groups, the Chapter, Council and Commandery. In Georgia, there are 5,227 actual members of the York Rite Council, and 5,272 in the Commandery, and these numbers include men who may hold dual memberships, which makes the actual numbers "something less than that," according to Bro. Joe Turner, writing in the same issue of the Messenger. Fifty-nine percent of Royal Arch (the first level of York Rite) are Council members, so if my algebra is correct, that means there are about 8,900 total York Rite members in Georgia. I assume the 10-15% active members rule applies to the York Rite as well; I've attended Chapter and Council meetings with fewer than 10 members present. In fact, the first time I attended a Council meeting after joining, I was asked to act as an officer though I had no clue what was going on.

"It would be nice to start off the year with a large class of new members," York Rite's Bro. Turner wrote.

Why do 85-90% of the members not participate? Since the average age of a Mason is probably around 65, we can assume many Masons who would like to be active are unable to attend due to poor health. Indeed, 180 brothers died in a two-month period (as listed in the same issue of Messenger).

Doing the math on that gives us an average death toll of 1,080 per year. But that would only account for just over half of the yearly shrinkage. Why are approximately 800 brothers letting their memberships lapse each year?

And why are so few younger men joining the Fraternity? Why is there so little interest in becoming a part of the oldest and (once) most-respected fraternal organization in the world?

Has Freemasonry become irrelevant to today's man? What were those 800 men a year (in Georgia) who don't renew their membership looking for when they became a Mason, and why didn't they find it? What did they find instead?

Image: Grand Master of Masons in Georgia M.W. Bro. Eli Stafford and his lady, Lily Mae.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Big Brother is signing your paycheck

Conspiracy-minded anti-Masons like to believe that 33rd degree "high level" Masons secretly control the world. If those brothers in the Red Caps and White Caps are also the CEOs of major American companies, then perhaps the conspiracy nuts are right.

It seems Big Brother is alive and kicking in the Boardroom these days.

According to a recent Reuters article:
  • In 2004, U.S. employers reportedly spent $9 billion on monitoring devices for the workplace
  • 76 percent of U.S. companies monitor workers Web site use
  • 36 percent of employers track computer content, keystrokes and time spent at the keyboard
  • 50 percent store and review employees' computer files
  • 55 percent retain and review employee e-mail messages
  • Five percent used GPS in company-issued cell phones
  • Eight percent used GPS in company vehicles. Five percent of U.S. companies use fingerprint scanning. Facial recognition is used by two percent, and iris scans by 0.5 percent.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Freedom of speech

For a country with "freedom of speech" guaranteed right there at the top of the Constitutional Amendments, there sure are a lot of people who don't like it when other people talk.

A few recent examples:
  • Rhode Island school bans talking at lunch. School officials claim that if the kids are quiet during lunch, they can hear if anyone is choking. Maybe they should just ban eating at lunch; that would lower the chances of anyone choking.
  • Texas mayor wants the word "nigger" outlawed. Say the n-word, get fined $500. "It's not a particular problem in Brazoria," mayor Ken Corley said, "but it's a national problem." There's a loophole written into the proposed ordinance: It's okay for it to be used by blacks because they use it as a "term of endearment."
  • North Carolina wants to pre-approve scripts of movies shot in their state. This brilliant idea cropped up overnight because some politician read about the controversy surrounding the new Dakota Fanning movie and decided that N.C., which gives huge incentives for movie companies to film there, shouldn't let movies that might offend N.C. citizens enjoy those same incentives. "Why should North Carolina taxpayers pay for something they find objectionable?" said state senator Phil Berger, who is having proposed legislation drafted.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Masonic lodge opens members-only bar in former church

A story from England about a Masonic lodge moving into a former church and setting up a members-only bar got me to wondering about Masonic rules about alcohol.

In the south (at least in Georgia), alcohol use among Freemasons seems to be openly frowned upon, but I've found nothing that says it's banned. In at least one other southern state, I've heard of a brother being expelled for owning a liquor store.

Yet in other parts of America, alcohol seems to be an integral part of Masonic festivities. And in England, of course, it's long been a tradition to imbibe at Festive Boards held after stated communications.

Masonic lodges were held in taverns in England during the 18th and 19th centuries, and for all I know, may still be today.

The duties of the Junior Warden is to see that brothers don't "convert the hours of refreshment into excess," which makes no sense unless it's expected that during refreshment, brothers will be consuming alcohol. Surely it doesn't mean the JW should police the over-consumption of pound cake and hot dogs.

A quick perusal of the Masonic Code of Georgia shows that intoxication, but not the consumption of alcohol, is considered a Masonic offense. Selling an illegal alcoholic beverage (or drug) is forbidden, as is selling alcohol to someone under the age of 21. [Sections 77-115, 77-116, and 77-116.1, sandwiched in between a rule about debts to the lodge or each other and a rule forbidding "exemplification of the Hiramic Legend" to a non-Mason.]

I've heard it said by some Georgia lodge members that it is against Masonic law to bring into or consume on lodge premises alcoholic beverages, but I've never seen it in print, other than a sign posted at my lodge, and in the contract used when the lodge hall is rented by outsiders. I assume this is a rule adopted by my lodge, or is in their bylaws, though maybe it's a statewide edict of which I'm not aware. I have seen brothers enjoying beer at other local lodges during fundraising events.

I'd like to hear from our readers who are Masons: Can you tell us about how the consumption of alcoholic beverages at Masonic events is viewed in your jurisdiction, and if you know, how it came to be so, and why? Is it a part of the after-meeting Festive Board? Do you have a bar in your lodge? Do you drink alcohol at events? Or is it banned?

In your comments, please be sure to include your U.S. state or country of residence. Thanks!

Image: A Scottish Lodge in Thailand toasts a new Master at his installation.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Robert Anton Wilson memorial celebration February 18

Here's a public announcement for the upcoming Robert Anton Wilson Memorial:

Join Together at the Robert Anton Wilson Cosmic Meme-Orial & Lasagna Levitation Celebration!

Hail Eris! All Hail Bob!

Celebrate the life, work and continued multi-dimensionality of Robert Anton Wilson by joining us in a giant, jammin' Translation Celebration and 8th Circuit Soiree!
  • Reconnect with old friends. Make new, like-minded friends. Share ideas. Exchange email addresses. (It's like the Internet, only in person.)
  • Be a part of Bob's Raucous Processionary Send-Off as his ashes sail out of the cove and rejoin his beloved's in the Pacific!
  • Watch continuous video clips of RAW from Deepleaf Production's "Maybe Logic" documentary and from his numerous Trajectories videos.
  • Expand your mind (and your tummy) with hors d'ourvres, soft drinks, and a cash bar.
  • Expand your neighbors' minds by sharing remembrances and anecdotes at the open mic! (Brevity and levity are appreciated!)
  • Mingle, nosh, remember, appreciate, celebrate!
  • And above all, Keep the Lasagna Flying!
Where: The Cocoanut Grove, on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, CA

When: Sunday, February 18, 2007, 1 - 6 PM

Tickets: $23 each. [Proceeds go to Amnesty International] Limited number available! To purchase tickets, or for additional information, click here.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

NASCAR fans more loyal to sponsors than in any other pro sport

After reading recent comments on the previous "Scottish Rite sponsors NASCAR driver" article on this blog, and looking at an anti-SR blog showing photos of beer-swilling rednecks at NASCAR races, I decided to do some research on the true demographics of NASCAR fans.

Talk about a confusing mass of data!

A lot of the demographic info is provided by NASCAR itself, and seems to reflect data collected on site at races, which is vastly different from television viewership.

NASCAR and NASCAR-related websites conveniently don't mention their demographics are for race attendance only. At the races, 60% of the attendees are male, 40% female. For televised races, fans are "predominately males (78%), married (73%), with an average age of 42 years, who owns a home (81%), with 3.4 cars per household. The median household income range is between $35,000 and $50,000 and almost all are employed full time (87%)," according to an independent study by Performance Research, a company specializing in collecting and analyzing sporting demographics.

Both NASCAR and Performance Research paint NASCAR fans as predominately middle class, earning slightly more than the average American. A high percentage say they've had "some college," but I could find no stats showing what percentage were actually college graduates, and none showing a breakdown in types of employment.

Performance Research also points out that they found three types of fan — those with high, moderate or low interest. NASCAR's stats would reflect what I would call a high-interest fan, one who actually attended races.

You can google "NASCAR fan demographics" and look at them yourself.

What I found most interesting is that self-described NASCAR fans are much more likely to buy logo'd merchandise than fans of other professional sports. Seventy-two percent of NASCAR fans say they buy products because they have the NASCAR name on them. Tennis fans are number two at 52%, followed by golf fans at 47%, NBA at 38%, Major League Baseball, also at 38%, NFL at 32% and the Olympics at 28%.

And 40% of NASCAR fans say they will switch brands in order to own the brand that has the NASCAR logo on it.

I would assume this not only refers to brands of auto parts and motor oils and even cell phone providers, etc., who custom-brand their products, but also to gas station coffee mugs and bobble-head dolls with a NASCAR logo imprinted.

Does this tell us that 72% of NASCAR fans are brilliant and loyal, or are they simply blind sheep led to the checkout counters of America?

I mean, I understand a 5-year old wanting a certain brand of cereal because his favorite cartoon character is shown on the box. But adults...?

Is it a masterstroke of genius that the Scottish Rite is now putting their cartoon character, er, I mean, their logo, on a box-shaped automobile? Apparently, NASCAR fans don't think about their consumable purchases; they buy whatever is attached to the logo. And blindly trust what they see advertised on their favorite NASCAR cars.

Is this a good thing for the Scottish Rite? Will thousands of NASCAR fans (or at least 72% of them) line up at lodges and temples to "buy" themselves some of that Scottish Rite Freemasonry they're selling?

Does Freemasonry need more blind followers? Isn't that how the Fraternity got into the shape it's in today, by opening to West Door indiscriminately to bobble-heads who just want to "belong" without studying, understanding, or contributing?

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Mass. Masonic Home pays outstanding sewer bills

After a two year battle, the Masonic Home for senior citizens in Charlton, Mass., officially known as the Overlook Life Care Community, has paid the city over a quarter million dollars in back payments for sewage service. Additionally, they have agreed to pay an additional $1.88 million, plus interest, in betterment fees over the next 20 years.

The $253,155 payment covered disputed portions of sewer bills dating back to April 2003 and unpaid bills from July 2005 through the date of settlement, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette News reported.

The Masonic Home also paid nearly $6,000 in fines and fees for an oil discharge the city said came from the Overlook campus. The Home denied the discharge came from their facilities, but paid anyway "to reimburse the town to complete the settlement."

The Water and Sewer Commission and the Masonic Home had been in dispute over the volume of sewage discharge coming from the campus. The Home's quarterly bill has now been adjusted from $6,423 to $36,302.

"I am very happy with the outcome," David C. Turner, the Masonic Home's CEO, said in an interview.

The 450-acre mountaintop campus offers cottages and apartments to seniors age 62 and over. "A variety of community areas serve as an extension of your home, including several dining venues featuring chef-prepared meals, an extensive library, 280 seat performing arts center, hair salon, swimming pool, tennis court, athletic club, nature trails, ponds, gardening areas and more," according to the Masonic Home's website. Also provided are "a variety of dining rooms and cuisines, a library, an auditorium, woodworking shop, an indoor heated swimming pool, a spa and fitness center, and much more." A medical facility is also on campus, and home nursing care is offered.

Residency appears to be open to anyone 62 and over who can live independently and who can pay the entrance fee and monthly fees. Masonic membership or relatives do not seem to be a requirement.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Road race features beer and chili

My local lodge hosts the 5K "Hot Biscuit Run" every summer. The lodge and the Eastern Star (OES) ladies provide big tasty home-made biscuits smothered in butter and jelly to all the runners upon their return. The proceeds of the event are used by the OES for Christmas charity work. I'm not a runner, but I have worked at the event a few times as a road-blocker-offer.

Newport Lodge No. 455, F. & A.M. of Newport, New York
, has found an even better draw than biscuits. It's unclear from the article if this is a Masonic-sponsored event, or if they're just renting out the lodge building, but up there in the cold — on Feb. 3 — there is a 5K and 10K run along with a 5K walk where you get beer and chili upon your return.

"We have been rumored to have Bloody Mary's available at the 5K turnaround," said race director John Slocum.

The proceeds go to the St. John's Church food pantry in Newport.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Scottish Rite turns its back on performing arts

Ironic in its timing (relative to the Scottish Rite's new mission of NASCAR sponsorship) and its location (Indianapolis, home of the Indy 500), the Scottish Rite has announced it is getting out of the business of producing theater seasons for the public, the Indianapolis Star wrote today.

After staging 1776, Sweeney Todd and Miracle on 34th Street, Scottish Rite will not extend its 2006-07 season. There had been talk of opening The Philadelphia Story in May.

The Scottish Rite's productions at the Scottish Rite Performing Arts Center began in 2005 with Annie Get Your Gun to help save the theater building. Some shows made money, some didn't.

"Scottish Rite is no longer going to produce a full season of shows," said Jeffrey K. Saunders, the organization's chief executive officer.

The main reason for the change, Saunders said, "is to turn back to the fraternal mission of Scottish Rite."

Like auto racing?

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Correction: Scottish Rite's NASCAR car does indeed bear the Masonic Square and Compasses symbol

In a comment (now deleted) and in the article about the Scottish Rite's sponsorship of a NASCAR driver, I incorrectly stated that the car bore only the Scottish Rite double eagle symbol, not the Square and Compasses.

A kind reader of this blog just sent me the accompanying photo. Look just above the man's head and you'll see the Masonic Square and Compasses.

My thanks to the thoughtful and observant brother who sent me this photo.

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Jewish lesbian chit-chats with 'Shriner lady' at the roller derby

I found an interesting little blog today called "What I Think." Nothing earthshaking, just someone's personal experiences, shared on their blog.

The article I found tells of the writer's experience of meeting a "Shriner lady" at a Shrine-sponsored roller derby match.

She wrote:
I love secret societies. They amuse me endlessly, with their exclusiveness and special handshakes and antiquated symbology. I suspect they’re all hiding a big fat nothing.
Impressed by the Shrine's philanthropy, I think the writer would like to join the Shrine, but she's a "highly-educated Jewish queer who rides a bike," and suspects Shriners might be a little too conservative to accept her.


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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Congress honors Freemasonry

The 110th U.S. Congress recently sent to committee a resolution by Rep. Paul Gillmor, a Republican representing Ohio's 5th district, recognizing American Freemasons. My thanks to W. Bro. Tom Accuosti of the Tao of Masonry for the heads-up on this.

The Freemasonry described in this resolution is the group I thought I had joined, and I hope the description is apt of most Masons.

Numerological-conspiracy fans should take note of the Masonic-related number of the Resolution.

110th U.S. Congress (2007-2008)

H. Res. 33: Recognizing the thousands of Freemasons in every State in the Nation and honoring them for their...



1st Session

H. RES. 33

Recognizing the thousands of Freemasons in every State in the Nation and honoring them for their many contributions to the Nation throughout its history.


January 5, 2007

Mr. GILLMOR submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform


Recognizing the thousands of Freemasons in every State in the Nation and honoring them for their many contributions to the Nation throughout its history.

Whereas Freemasons, whose long lineage extends back to before the Nation's founding, have set an example of high moral standards and charity for all people;

Whereas the Founding Fathers of this great Nation and signers of the Constitution, most of whom were Freemasons, provided a well-rounded basis for developing themselves and others into valuable citizens of the United States;

Whereas members of the Masonic Fraternity, both individually and as an organization, continue to make invaluable charitable contributions of service to the United States;

Whereas the Masonic Fraternity continues to provide for the charitable relief and education of the citizens of the United States;

Whereas the Masonic Fraternity is deserving of formal recognition of their long history of care-giving for the citizenry and their example of high moral standards; and

Whereas Freemasons have always revered and celebrated St. John's Day, June 24th, as dedicated to their patron saints: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives recognizes the thousands of Freemasons in every State in the Nation and honors them for their many contributions to the Nation throughout its history.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

'Victory party' to be held at closed Masonic children's home

A recent story in the Dallas (Texas) Star-Telegram baffles me. Not because it's about anything deep and meaningful, not really, but it involves Masons, racism and more political correctness than I can stomach.

Star-Telegram writer Bud Kennedy tells us there's going to be a "victory party" on Monday, Jan. 15 (the Martin Luther King, Jr., federal holiday), at the old Masonic children's home and school in Fort Worth. A victory party!

What are they celebrating?

Sue Regian, widow of Joe Regian, who served as the school board's president and who was instrumental in getting the Masons to allow black children to live at the home and attend the school, recently recalled some of the hate mail her husband received.

"Some Masons didn't want black people there," she said. "A lot of letters were really, really hateful. They said, 'Masonic Home is going to the niggers.'"

In 2000, after 101 years of operation, the school and home accepted its first black child. By 2005, the school and home had closed, in part because the donations from white Masons dropped off tremendously, and in part because the Masonic home settled a $6.9 million lawsuit from the 1990's alleging abuse of children.

On Monday, black leaders are meeting in the chapel of the now-closed school to celebrate "victory." Was this Martin Luther King's legacy? Who is victorious here? The white orphans who once lived there? Or who were abused there? The black orphans who moved in in 2000? Are the Masons who stopped donating to the home the winners here? Are the black leaders who are using the chapel on Monday to whoop it up over a nearby highway being renamed for King the victors?

Nope. The real winner here is Michael Mallick, head of local real estate development company The Mallick Group, who bought the 200-acre college-style campus last year.

The developer plans to build more than 500 homes around the historic 1920's school and dormitories and the beautiful, cut-stone 1958 chapel.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Complete Idiot's Guide to Freemasonry: Brent Morris's booksigning tonight

Under the headline "A passion for Freemasonry's Traditions," the Baltimore Sun announces tonight's booksigning by W. Bro. Brent Morris's of his magnum opus, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Freemasonry." You gotta laugh.

What are some of the traditions Morris mentions?

Freemasonry is a social organization and a gentlemen's club, Morris told a reporter. "Freemasonry appeals to men who want to have fellowship with other men with high ethical and moral values, and who acknowledge the importance of God in their lives."

Becoming a Mason "becomes a shared experience," Morris said. "But it's an experience that I have shared with George Washington, with Robert Burns, with Bob Evans.... It's a brief asylum from the outside world.... A lodge meeting is very relaxing.... Some members come for the pie and conversation after the meetings."

"And now we can watch NASCAR races and drink beer while we eat our pie," he might have added, but didn't, at least not publicly.

While the mere association with alcohol, even working at a store that sells alcohol, once in some jurisdictions of American Masonry would get you brought up on charges of unmasonic conduct, Morris's Scottish Rite organization has apparently sold (actually, paid for) the "rights" to use commercially not only the Scottish Rite's Double Eagle symbol but the Masonic Square and Compasses and the Shriners' logo to Frank Cicci's Busch Racing Team. You'll find these three symbols cozied up next to the Busch (beer) Racing logo on the Frank Cicci (owner of the racing team) website.

Ah, yes... "a passion for traditions": The gentlemen's club sponsors Busch Bavarian Beer. Adam Weishaupt would be proud.

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Robert Anton Wilson left his body for the last time Jan. 11

Cosmic voyager, writer, cyber-shaman... Robert Anton Wilson died January 11 at his fnord by the sea in southern California. He was 74.

It's not the first time he's died. In 1994, a Los Angeles Times obituary declared him dead, and news traveled the then-new Internet fast. Bob found that great fun, to be declared dead when he wasn't even sick.

When word went out last fall that Bob was this time really sick and dying, and near-destitute, thousands of fans sent over $68,000 to help him pay medical and tax bills.

Robert Anton Wilson was the author of many books, both fiction and non-fiction. Of special note to Freemasons is his Historical Illuminatus Trilogy, comprised of The Earth Will Shake, The Widow's Son, and Nature's God.

Back in October I wrote about some of my memories of Bob Wilson and the impact his works had on me; I won't go into it again. I'm sure excellent articles will be written about him over the next few days, and indeed, will be written forever... Wilson and his ideas had a profound effect on many, many people, and he'll never be forgotten.

A memorial service is expected in February, according to his website. Details have not been announced.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Police fatally wound man outside L.A. Masonic lodge

Los Angeles police shot and killed an unarmed man outside a south L.A. Masonic lodge in the early hours Wednesday. A second man, already wounded by gunfire, emerged from the lodge when police arrived, KNBC reported.

The building houses the Mt. Nebo Grand Lodge. About 200 people were attending a party in the lodge building.

At least 50 officers responded to the call of a group disturbance. As they drove up, they heard gunfire, and then shot and killed an unarmed man who walked out of the building with his hands "on his waistband." Chief William Bratton said the case was gang-related.

Officers searched the building and found four guns inside.

Reports have not stated whether the gathering was a Masonic-related function, or if a group was simply using the premises.

According to bessel.org, Mt. Nebo Grand Lodge is "of Prince Hall origin (National Compact)," but not an official Prince Hall lodge.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Scottish Rite sponsors NASCAR driver

What do Budweiser, Jack Daniel's, Crown Royal and Chex Party Mix have in common with the Scottish Rite?

No, we're not talking about drunken parties. That's the Shriners.

The Scottish Rite has joined Bud, Jack, Crown, Chex and other companies as a NASCAR sponsor. The Scottish Rite announced on Saturday they have become the sponsor of Frank Cicci Racing's No. 34 Busch Series Chevrolet and driver Brian Conz, who is a Scottish Rite Mason.

"We are so excited and privileged to have such an honorable organization associated with us; we look forward to a long-lasting relationship with the Scottish Rite and Brian," team owner Frank Cicci said in a news release.

Brian Conz, 32°, is a member of Thomas Hughes Lodge No. 574, Livonia, Michigan, the Scottish Rite Valleys of Detroit, Michigan, N.M.J, and Charlotte, North Carolina, S.J., and is a Shriner in Detroit.

Financial terms of the sponsorship were not announced. A 2004 article on nascar.com reported that companies were paying around $10 million ($10,000,000.00) for a primary sponsorship that placed logos on the upper hood area, the quarter panels, part of the TV panel, and some of the B-post and deck lid.

"This isn't just about paying $10 million to put your logo on the hood of a car," said Roush Racing's Geoff Smith. "You have to realize that this goes beyond just the car — it includes uniforms, transporters and the rights to use the drivers for company marketing purposes."

And what do you get for $15,000,000?

"You have bought the car," said Smith.

Driver Bro. Brian Conz's official website is now adorned not only with the Scottish Rite Double Eagle symbol, but also with the Shriners' curved sword symbol and the well known Masonic Square and Compasses symbol.

Here's the press release from the Scottish Rite:
Scottish Rite Masons Announce Newest NASCAR Racing Team

Washington, D.C., January 4, 2007 - The Scottish Rite Racing Team will be officially announced and introduced by NASCAR, BC Motorsports, and the Frank Cicci Racing team at the Scottish Rite House of the Temple on Saturday, January 6, 2007, at 11:00am. NASCAR representatives, the Racing Team, and members of the Masonic community will be available to the media. The House of the Temple is located at 1733 Sixteenth St. N.W., Washington, DC.

The Scottish Rite racecar will be driven by veteran driver Brian Conz, who himself is a 32° Scottish Rite Mason. Brother Brian, who began his career in 1988 in the Street Stock Division, later moved to the ARCA/REMAX Series in 1996. Brian has 15 wins, 79 top fives, and 108 top ten finishes to his credit and will be in the running for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors.
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