Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Halcyon Lodge prevails in court case brought against them by Grand Lodge of Ohio

This is post number 1,000 on The Burning Taper. What a long, strange trip it's been.

Just in time for Christmas there's a reason for the brothers of Halcyon Lodge in Cleveland, Ohio to celebrate. Earlier today the following was posted on the Clerk of Courts website for Cuyahoga County.


According to the court's ruling, the brothers of Halcyon Lodge acted in accordance with the Masonic bylaws and in good faith.

Our congratulations to the brothers of Halcyon Lodge.

Case #CV-08-649002
Link: http://cpdocket.cp.cuyahogacounty.us/p_CV_Docket.aspx
Search on "Halcyon Lodge"

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bro. Dean Kennedy interviewed at B2B Expo

Bro. Dean Kennedy, co-creator of the podcast Masonic Central, was interviewed on Oct. 20 by the Canadian website Haligonia.ca at the B2B Expo in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Check it out.

And check out Bro. Dean and Bro. Greg Stewart's weekly podcast at Masonic Central.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

AMC's 'The Prisoner' miniseries debuts Nov. 15

AMC's mini-series The Prisoner debuts Nov. 15-17, 2009. Based on Patrick McGoohan's British television series from the late 1960's, the new version stars Jim Caviezel as Six and Ian McKellen as Two.

According to the AMC website:
The Premise: A man, known as Six, finds himself inexplicably trapped in The Village with no memory of how he arrived. As he explores his environment, he discovers that his fellow inhabitants are identified by number instead of name, have no memory of any prior existence, and are under constant surveillance. Not knowing whom to trust, Six is driven by the need to discover the truth behind The Village, the reason for his being there, and most importantly — how he can escape.
The tagline for the new version is "You Only Think You Are Free."

Find what channel AMC is in your area.

Watch the nine-minute trailer of the new miniseries.

Be seeing you.

Image: Six being pursued by Rover.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Where the tide ebbs and flows?

Police found the beaten and mutilated body of a man in his late 50's, with its tongue cut out, hanging by its neck from a bridge in Tijuana, Mexico on Saturday. There were "cuts on several parts of the body."

Mutilated bodies turning up in Tijuana is nothing new, news reports claim. Nearly 14,000 people have been killed since the Mexican government began a crackdown on drug traffickers in 2006.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Dan Brown's 'The Lost Symbol'

Dan Brown's new novel, The Lost Symbol, hits bookstores tomorrow. Will the wait have been worth it?

He'll sell a zillion copies, probably the first day.

What will be the effect on Freemasonry? Will there be an upswing in people wanting to become Masons? Will there be a groundswell of opposition to Masonry by conspiracy theorists and fundamentalist Christians? What will be the effect on the world?

For fun, go take a look at the "leaked" notes by Dan Brown which our sister site SacredFems.com posted over THREE YEARS ago, in anticipation of this book, whose working title, we all thought, was "The Solomon Key."

Tomorrow we'll know if it was all smoke and mirrors.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Homophobic Florida mega-church boots Pepsi

Who needs comedians when you have Christian mega-churches to make fun of?

Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Florida, is making news today after removing 10 Pepsi vending machines from its property.

Why did they do that?

"We would like to send them a message," said Terry Kemple, president of the Community Issues Council that is organizing a boycott of Pepsi products because he says it "advocates the acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle."

But that doesn't mean the church will become un-caffeinated.

They've brought in Coca-Cola vending machines.

The Coca-Cola Company is as supportive of gay rights as Pepsi is, but apparently facts don't get in the way of a good publicity stunt masquerading as a protest against "diminishment of the ability of Christians to speak what the Bible says."

Thou shalt not drink Pepsi. Yeah, I read that in the Bible.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Jester Ronald Tills sentenced to 18 months, fined $25,000, for human trafficking

In a recent Huffington Post article about human trafficking, Robin Sax, a former district attorney, writes:
Trafficking happens right here at home, not just in poor places by "pimps." Surprisingly, it often involves people you would never expect. For example, just last week, Ronald H. Tills, 74, a retired US State Supreme Court Justice, was sentenced to 18 months in prison on a felony charge of transporting prostitutes across state lines.

In this case, Tills was trafficking a young illegal woman to serve as a prostitute at a convention he was attending. A human trafficking task force investigated the case. Its members included investigators from the FBI, U. S. Border Patrol, and U. S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as well as the Erie and Niagara County sheriff's offices. But this never really made the news — few people heard about it.

As I pondered the case, I couldn't help wondering why most of us hadn't heard about it. Perhaps there were other pressing news bits, but what is more pressing then protecting children and other victims of sexual assault? Is it more important to know whether Dr. Conrad Murray is going to be charged for manslaughter in Michael Jackson's death? Or is it more likely that human trafficking is a crime we simply don't understand — mostly because of a simple problem with semantics?
Former New York State Supreme Court Judge is also a Mason. He was convicted of violating the federal Mann Act by transporting a woman across state lines to have sex with his fellow Masons, all members of the Shrine subgroup the Royal Order of Jesters.

At one time, according to the Buffalo News (as posted by New York attorney Scott H. Greenfield on his blog Simple Justice, "Tills had the reputation as one of the toughest sentencing judges in Western New York during his ten years as a State Supreme Court judge." He was particular hard when sentencing... wait for it... prostitutes!

Former judge and former brother Tills was sentenced in August to 18 months in federal prison and a $25,000 fine. The woman he took with him to a Jester meeting, called a "book," was an illegal alien who could barely speak English.

Tills is a recovering alcoholic and suffers from heart disease. In his statement before Judge William Skretny, Tills talked about the "possible harm" he caused his victims.

"I pray for their help and recovery if there is any damage, and I pray for their forgiveness."

Tills had also once served as a State Assemblyman and head trustee of his church.

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Georgia edict forbids negative references to race of petitioners

On August 19, 2009, the Grand Lodge of Georgia finally moved into the 20th century. (Yes, I know it's the 21st century now.)

Grand Master of Masons in Georgia J. Edward Jennings issued Edict 2009-1, which states, after the whereas stuff, "Be it resolved [t]hat no negative reference be made by any officer or member of any Lodge chartered under the Constitution of the Grand Lodge of Georgia, Free and Accepted Masons, in reference to a petitioner’s race, color or national origin, who believe in a Supreme Being, during any Lodge Communication, conferral of degrees, proficiency practice or proficiency examination...."

Image: Grand Master of Masons in Georgia J. Edward Jennings

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Be seeing you: AMC's 'The Prisoner' trailer

This nine-minute trailer for AMC's mini-series The Prisoner debuted at Comic-Con last month.
The "re-creation" (not remake, they say) of Patrick McGoohan's 1967 iconic British television show stars James Caviezel and Ian McKellen. The mini-series will air later this year.

Be seeing you.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Burning Taper gets racist Masonic hate mail

It's been way too long since The Burning Taper has received hate mail.

Finally, over the weekend, we got one, and it's from an old hater-mongering Mason from way back.... Bro. Robert Williams of Monroe, Louisiana.

We first heard from this Bubba-brother in May of 2006, when he emailed us in response to an article about Bro. Alex Harris's 1999 speech to the Alabama Grand Lodge about racism.

Back in '06, Bro. Williams announced IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, "That doesn't make us racists, we just like our lodges the way they are." (See his entire 2006 email here.)

I can only imagine how our "not a racist" Bro. Williams is feeling these days, with a black man in the White House, a black man the head of the Republican Party, and a black man having become a member of an Atlanta "mainstream" lodge.

Today, Bubba Williams sent us this (grammar and spelling are his):
You would bring a gorilla in the lodge if they would let me. To me, you should have joined a Prince Hall Lodge from the start and be just as clasdestined as the rest of them. Now I see you have some foolish/nosense website called the Burning Taper, what a Farce. Blacks don't need to be in any lodge, I have seen apes in zoos.
It's not clear which recent article on The Taper, if any, prompted our racist Louisiana brother to honor us with another email.

Feel free to write Bro. Williams. I'm sure he'd like to hear from you. His email address is rwilliams25@sw.rr.com.

And we'd like to hear from you, our racist Masonic brethren.

How do you feel about a black man being raised a Mason at Gate City Lodge No. 2 in Atlanta?

How do you feel about the Grand Master of Kentucky having issued an edict in June ordering
[t]hat no negative reference is to be made by any officer or member of any lodge chartered under the constitution of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky, F.&A.M. in reference to a petitioner’s faith, creed or race at any time in the conferral of the Degrees — i.e. lectures, obligation, by proficiency lecturers, etc. — or during any lodge Communication.
Is the South gonna rise a'gin, or is it going to join the 21st century?

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Freemasons arrested for sorcery

"Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?" Glinda asked Dorothy.

Apparently in Fiji, it doesn't matter what kind of witch you are... or even if you're a witch at all. Sorcery isn't allowed there, apparently.

Police arrested 14 Freemasons Tuesday night when their meeting was "interrupted by a banging on the door, and there were these village people and the police demanding to be let in."

Wands, compasses and a skull were also seized from the lodge

One Freemason, after spending a "wretched" night in jail, told reporters "dopey village people" were to blame for the raid.

Police director of operations Waisea Tabakau told Legend FM News in Fiji that the group was being investigated for "allegedly practicing sorcery," the Fiji Village website reported.

The Masons were released Wednesday morning, allegedly at the order of the Prime Minister.

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Cats don't go to Heaven!

This excellent essay was submitted by Bro. James C. Stewart of North Bay Lodge No. 617, in Canada. Thank you, Bro. James.

Cats Don't Go to Heaven!
by James C. Stewart

I was accused of being a Satanist today.

Let me pause to assure you, dear reader, I do not believe in, let alone worship the devil. Those that do are naive, pathetic, confused and/or criminally insane.

My own personal beliefs are pantheistic. I believe God and the Universe are one in the same, that there isn’t anything above or below that isn’t God. I think someone who is looking for proof of God is akin to someone trying to find the sun with a flashlight.

But that’s just me.

As for the devil... well, that’s an excuse. I don’t have time for ‘the devil made me do it.’

That’s a cop out.

You let you do it.

If you’ve transgressed, no one made you except your own dark urges. What some call ‘the devil’ I believe are the baser aspects of our humanity. To place the onus on an outside force or some sort of supernatural temptation is absurd. You are your own devil.

Besides, evil is a relative thing isn’t it? It is, more often than not, a matter of perspective. Consider the cat and the mouse. If a cat eats a mouse is the cat evil? The cat is merely following his instincts. But if we look at the cat from the mouse’s perspective, the cat is most certainly evil; and from our perspective what we see we call ‘nature.’

But I digress.

A Christian called me a Satanist today. Why did the Christian call me a Satanist? Because I made the mistake of telling him I was a Freemason.

The following are my opinions, not the opinions of any organization, group or society.

Now let’s discuss Christianity.

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” — Mahatma Gandhi

By my tenth year on this rock I was having issues with Christianity, and the various horrors that were and are being perpetrated in its name. My mother is an Anglican priest. While no longer a Christian, I myself was baptized, raised and confirmed in the church. And naturally my first brush with Christian intolerance was through the church. Watching my mother become a priest was a sketch... this was in the 1980’s. One can well imagine the interesting (and occasionally cruel) things said to and about a woman attempting to minister “The Word of Christ.” Now that I think of it, the most hurtful acts of intolerance I have witnessed have been committed by Christians. And if I look beyond that, the picture becomes quite grim indeed. One need only type ‘residential schools’ or ‘inquisition’ into Google to see what I mean.

Christians are capable of extremely warped thinking. Anyone who has watched the Oscar-winning documentary Jesus Camp can tell you that. William S. Burroughs put it best when he said, “Christianity is like the inevitable course of some unsightly disease: criminal ignorance, brutish stupidity, self-righteous bigotry and paranoid fear of outsiders.” A former Roman Catholic priest turned Freemason crystallized it for me when I asked him why he’d left the church. “Well,” he said, “it occurred to me I was on the wrong path when I considered the outcry there’d be from Rome if the planes that were dropping napalm on villages at that time were dropping condoms instead.”

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself.” That’s Christ in Matthew 22:37-39. Note he didn’t say, “Unless they’re non-Christian, or homosexual, or something else you personally don’t agree with.”

It’s part of what I like to call the Build Your Own Christianity Syndrome... given the various inconsistencies, vagrancies and outlandish assertions in the New Testament, Christians are forced to pick and choose exactly what it is they believe. Some agree with this part or that, others not so much. A sect of Christians may even decide another sect of Christians is heathen, even though both sects fully believe they have the Way and the Truth. The result is often very bloody. We see this play out in history with schisms within the church, quickly becoming schisms within the churches. Once you pick one piece of scripture over another, anything becomes possible. Just ask the family of an abortion doctor who’s been shot dead by the Pro-Life Movement.

Christianity is a control system. It seeks, first and foremost, to control your mind. It does this by controlling your beliefs with rigid and inflexible rules which in turn control your body, your speech, your ideas, your afterlife and even your sex. Allow me a single example (though there are many) for each:

Your body: the Pro-Life Movement and other like-minded Christians seek to control the female body. Simple. You are not allowed to abort. Therefore, you have no control over your womb. Therefore you have no control over your body.

Your speech: A short quote from a spam email I received. It was the most legible of the bunch, “...Please boycott of the children’s movie “The Golden Compass” and books. Also, pass information along to everyone you know (including church leaders). This will educate parents, so they know the agenda of the movie. I am sending this to those of you who have kids or friends with kids, grandkids or have influence with kids. So many today are darkness concealed in what appears to be innocence....”

Your ideas: Christianity has always opposed new ideas. Think of poor Galileo, confined to house arrest for contemplating that maybe... just maybe... the Earth revolved around the Sun. In the natural sciences, all discoveries and new theories not supported by the Bible were opposed. Sciences that flourished in Antiquity, ground to a halt in the early centuries AD. The church historian Lactantius (ca 250–320 AD) called the natural sciences utter nonsense, and church scholar Ambrosius called natural sciences an attack on God’s magnificence. To this day the concept of Evolution is under constant harassment by Christians.

Your afterlife: if you are a Christian, and you contravene the rules, you are going to hell... a place of unimaginable suffering and pain for all of Eternity.

This brings me to... your sex.

“Christianity: The doctrine that there is an absolutely powerful, infinitely knowledgeable, universe spanning entity that is deeply and personally concerned about my sex life.” — Andrew Lias

I have a desire, a genuine desire, to sit down with one of these Christians and ask them, “Why do you care? What is it about what the rest of us are doing in the bedroom that interests you people so much?”

Christian control in this area starts at pre-marital sex and it doesn’t really end. They refuse to teach their children (and would prefer you didn’t teach yours) about birth control, instead opting for abstinence, then they wonder why teenage pregnancy rates spike. As AIDS ravages Africa, they’d prefer the rest of us not give out condoms. And I seriously believe there is something insanely malicious at the heart of the Christian beliefs regarding homosexuality. I had my first inkling of it in 1987 when I saw a group of Christians outside a hospital having a rally against homosexuality based upon their understanding of the AIDS virus. There, screaming alongside her parents was this girl, maybe eleven or twelve years old, her pretty face twisted with hate and wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan, “Thank God for AIDS... God hates Fags.”

Since then I’ve seen families divided, teenagers forced off to bizarre camps to become ‘straight,’ and in one case a man badly beaten because a group of Christians thought he might be gay (he was, in fact, heterosexual).

Christians are quick to say, or perhaps fanatically shriek, “It’s in the Bible!”

I guess. But your Jesus never said it. Not once.

The symbol of Christianity is the cross... a symbol of execution, a symbol of death. How many blood-soaked battlefields has this flag flown over? I wonder... if Christ had been executed in the 1950’s would Christians be wearing little electric chairs around their necks today?

My guess? Absolutely.

“Christianity is the most ridiculous, the most absurd, and bloody religion that has ever infected the world.” — Voltaire

Christianity seems focused on a man who may have claimed he was God, rather than focused on God. Yet Christianity asserts it’s monotheistic. I debate this. I say Christians have not one, but rather three gods: Jesus Christ, God the Father, and for good measure, The Holy Spirit. The so-called triune god. Now, to be fair, Christians claim the three make one, but you must have faith in all three to be saved. You must believe in three separate entities which mystically make up a single god.

No matter how hard I try, I cannot wrap my mind around God separating Himself from Himself to incarnate as a human being for thirty-three some-odd years. And for God to then concentrate on our dour little rock in a lonely galaxy in a far corner of space?

The Universe is a Big Place.

No, what it seems has happened is they’ve made God into a man. I’m not going too deep into it here, but there are many fascinating books regarding the formation of the early church, the Roman emperor Constantine and his questionable interpretation of the New Testament. In the final analysis, Christians have turned a man into God... it’s only on their faith Christ becomes divine. Frankly, it’s an idea older than Christianity. But again, there are many well-researched and wonderful books devoted to the topic of Christianity as a form of theological-plagiarism.

“What is Freemasonry? A beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.” — A Mason

It has been said no man needs a priest to find God, and nowhere is this truer than within The Craft. And perhaps this is truly what lies at the heart of Christian hatred toward it. My grandfather was a Mason, as is my father. I became a Mason after realizing Freemasonry was the most reasonable, if not most fascinating, institution I’d come across. Just a couple of points I’d like clear up:

Freemasonry is not Satanic. In fact, all discussion of religion and politics is forbidden within a Masonic Lodge.

Freemasonry is not a religion, nor has it ever claimed the prerogatives of religion, yet Freemasonry’s detractors continue to believe since Freemasonry doesn't define God, it cannot be their God. Freemasonry believes that men of all faiths can dwell together in peace. Freemasonry requires its members to believe in God but will not dictate those beliefs.

One of the more insidious falsehoods I’ve heard regarding Freemasonry holds it responsible for, or directly involved with, the Third Reich. For Masons who are veterans of World War II, including my grandfather, I can’t imagine a larger slap in the face. I’ve seen this lie repeated on various anti-Masonic and Christian websites. Incidentally, on fundamentalist Islamic websites, I’ve seen Freemasonry referred to as Jewish-Zionist front. Amusing when you consider I have witnessed Christian, Islamic and Jewish brethren sitting side-by-side within the Lodge.

In fact, on Hitler’s rise to power, the ten Grand Lodges of Germany were dissolved. Many among the prominent dignitaries and members of the Order were sent to concentration camps. The Gestapo seized the membership lists of the Grand Lodges and looted their libraries and collections of Masonic objects. Much of this loot was then exhibited in an “Anti-Masonic Exposition” inaugurated in 1937 by Herr Dr. Joseph Goebbels in Munich.

Hitler’s hatred of Freemasonry is clearly documented. In 1931 Nazi party officials were given a “Guide and Instructional Letter” that stated, “The natural hostility of the peasant against the Jews, and his hostility against the Freemason as a servant of the Jew, must be worked up to a frenzy.”

To say Freemasonry was behind the Third Reich is tantamount to saying Judaism was behind the Third Reich.

What a hateful and offensive piece of stupidity.

“If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” — Benjamin Franklin, writer, humorist, ambassador, inventor and Freemason

The following is a short list of famous Freemasons for your perusal:
  • Sir John A. MacDonald
  • George Washington
  • Giovanni Giacomo Casanova
  • Sir Richard Burton
  • Tommy Douglas
  • Harry Houdini
  • Mark Twain
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Voltaire
  • Mozart
  • Robert Service
  • Oscar Wilde
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • Sir Alexander Fleming
  • Salvador Allende
  • John Glenn
  • Harry S. Truman
  • Peter Sellers
And so many, many more....

The following is a short list of groups and people opposed to Freemasonry:
  • Pope Benedict the XVI and the Roman Catholic Church
  • Pat Robertson and the Christian Coalition of America
  • Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich
  • Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority
  • The Palestinian Islamist Movement Hamas
  • Ted Haggard and the National Association of Evangelicals
Interesting. Compare and contrast. I showed these same lists to a Christian once. He looked it over, looked at me, and declared, “Well, I’m on the list with the Lord.... I’m on the list for paradise!”

Christians say my cat can’t go to heaven. He has no soul therefore he cannot find salvation through Christ. It’s an idea I chose for the title because I find it indicative of the entire faith. It reminds me of something I read once, and maybe it’s the most appropriate way to close…

“No heaven will Heaven ever be,
If my cats are not there to welcome me.” — Epitaph in a pet cemetery

© James Stewart 2009

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Monkey burglarizes Texas gardening store

This just in to our All-Monkey News Network news desk:

Owners of a Richardson, Texas gardening store were burglarized by a monkey, surveillance video shows.

"You can see the back legs, the front arms and the white head, co-owner Jerry Duncan said while pointing the monkey out in the dimly-lit video.

About 40 plants were missing, and pieces of concrete were shattered in the parking lot, according to primate-pun-riddled news reports.

"They need to train him better," Duncan said. "Especially if he is going to do the big jobs."

Image: The alleged monkey in his getaway car.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

'For the children': Shriner Potentate arrested on child porn charges

Shriner and former Potentate Ray Highsmith, of Khedive Shrine Temple in Hampton Roads, Virginia, is in federal custody after agents discovered over 1,000 images on his computer of child pornography, some of it showing acts of sadomasochism, NewsChannel 3 has reported.

Highsmith admitted to having not one, but two memberships to an online child porn site.

Highsmith, 68, was first arrested in 2007, and was ordered by a judge to keep away from the Internet and from anyone under the age of 18. Apparently he couldn't keep his fingers off his keyboard. When he didn't show up for a court hearing, he was re-arrested, and investigators found his new stash of kiddie porn on his computer.

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Masonic racism in Georgia

For years, Bro. Chris Hodapp of Freemasons for Dummies fame and I have had an unofficial competition going on, even if he didn't know it, to see who could write first about unusual breaking Masonic news. Back in the heyday of The Burning Taper, sometimes I won, sometimes he did.

That was before I became a real Traveling Man. I'm on the road to somewhere, or coming back from somewhere, 10 to 14 hours a day for the past several months. No longer do I have the luxury of net-surfing my way through my day.

It's now nearly 1 a.m. Tuesday, and I just read a story about Michael Jackson's doctor having allegedly become a Freemason to enlarge his network of potential patients.

I wasn't terribly surprised to see that Bro. Chris had scooped me on that. Besides being offline as much as I am, I have purposefully avoided as much Michael Jackson "news" as has been humanly possible. Still, I was tugged into reading the story because of the headline saying his doctor, Conrad Murray, was not authorized to prescribe certain drugs in California.

Hodapp, 1. Widow's Son, 0. No biggie.

What I am ashamed of and, sadly, alarmed by, is that the entire Masonic blogging universe scooped me on the news from my own home state about the legal and Masonic wrangling regarding an Atlanta "mainstream" lodge raising a black man.

I'm still catching up on the published events about the brouhaha over Atlanta's Gate City Lodge No. 2 raising Victor Marshall to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason.

Coverage of this has been extensive, in the mainstream news [Associated Press, New York Times, even the Georgia Insider Advantage] as well as in the Masonic blogosphere and forums, since late June.

I missed it completely until yesterday.

Everything I've ever written about Georgia Masonry, and everything you've doubted about what I've written about Georgia Masonry, was leading up to this story...

And I missed it.

All that stuff I wrote above about scooping and being scooped is just good-natured fun. I don't really care who breaks what.

But I feel that not only have I let down you, the reader of The Taper, for not being on top of this story, but I have let down myself.

For years, I have been a sometimes solitary voice in Georgia, at least online, decrying the institutionalized racism and bigotry of Georgia Freemasonry. I've been in Georgia lodge after lodge and heard the same racist comments. I've called out every new Grand Master by name shortly after his "election," urging him to offer recognition to Prince Hall Masons.

But I have of late neglected all that, online and offline. I haven't participated in Georgia Masonry in a long time. I haven't darkened the door of my own lodge or any other lodge in so long, I doubt I can remember the due guard and sign. I probably cannot remember some of the names of one-time friends in the lodges I used to attend. While still a Mason in my heart, I have become a Mason in name only.

I'm exceedingly proud of my brothers at Gate City Lodge No. 2 for doing what is right. I had no idea a lodge as progressive as Gate City existed in Georgia.

And I'm exceedingly disgusted by those members of Metro Daylight Lodge No. 743 in Chamblee, and Philologia Lodge No. 178 in Conyers, who brought their complaints about Bro. Marshall's raising to the Grand Lodge. If ever charges of unmasonic conduct should be brought against brothers, this is the time. Questioning the legitimacy of a man lawfully and properly raised by a chartered lodge, and demanding that lodge's charter be revoked, is truly unmasonic. It defies what Freemasonry purportedly stands for: Universal Brotherhood.

I welcome Bro. Marshall to our brotherhood.

Image: Brother Victor Marshall, flanked by two brothers of Gate City Lodge No. 2, Atlanta

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Footloose: Christian school suspends student for attending public school prom

A few weeks ago Toldeo, Ohio's Heritage Christian School principal Tim England suspended 17-year old student Tyler Frost after Frost took his girlfriend Becca to the prom at her neighboring high school. England banned Frost from the Christian school, and would not let him participate in graduation ceremonies.

Frost was warned this would happen. Frost's family has threatened a lawsuit against the school and the principal.

England shared his bizarre reasoning with a television reporter in Toledo before the prom, but has refused to give more on-camera interviews since Tyler and Becca "disobeyed" him.
At a prom, there will be many young ladies who'll be dressed in the current styles, which will be low-cut dresses and things like that. There will be dancing.
Twenty-five years ago, Rev. Shaw Moore, played by John Lithgow, said pretty much the same thing in the film Footloose:
Even if this was not a law, which it is, I'm afraid I would have a lot of difficulty endorsing an enterprise which is as fraught with genuine peril as I believe this one to be. Besides the liquor and the drugs which always seem to accompany such an event the thing that distresses me even more, Ren, is the spiritual corruption that can be involved. These dances and this kind of music can be destructive, and, uh, Ren, I'm afraid you're going to find most of the people in our community are gonna agree with me on this.
Principal England told FoxToledo that Jesus wouldn't approve of Tyler going to the Findlay High School prom with his girlfriend, that Tyler should be more like Jesus.
Christianity is a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, and if you're gonna grow and be more like him, you gotta be obedient to what he says.
Didn't Jesus hang out with the "common people" and not with the pious? Didn't he thumb his nose at the "moral police" of his day, the Pharisees? Didn't he count among his closest confidantes a temple harlot?

Jesus never forbade dancing, best I can tell from my many readings of the Bible. In fact, Jesus's multi-great granddad King David, "wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets."

In Jeremiah 31:4, God Himself tells the nation of Israel to "take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful."

Principal England, with his Puritanical mindset, disgraces not only the educational system but also millions of rational Christians.

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Living with War: Memorial Day 2009

So we're now living in the Era of Change, are we? New president, new vice president, new name for the War in Iraq.

For the past three Memorial Days [2006, 2007, 2008], I've honored the memory of those who have died in the War in Iraq, now known as simply a part of the Overseas Contingency Operation. George Orwell would have been proud of the way the name of the War in Iraq has been changed to lessen the reminder that our young men and women are still dying for no obvious Cause.

Other than the name, has anything changed?

Yes. Its results are increasingly doubleplusungood.

The American death toll in Iraq has now reached 4,300. Since last Memorial Day, another 219 Americans soldiers have died in Iraq. Another 219 American families will never again see their sons and daughters, their fathers and mothers.

We can no longer blame the War in Iraq on George W. Bush's oil tycoon friends or on dastardly Dick Cheney's secret identity as Dr. Strangelove, or on the non-existent WMD's non-possessed by a now long-dead Saddam Hussein or even on our national need for revenge for 9/11 against a country that wasn't involved in those horrific attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.

The responsibility now firmly rests on Barack Obama, who has already waffled on his own timetable for troop withdrawals from Iraq.

As I've said before: Bring 'em home, now!

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'Freemasonry's use of hip hop to deceive and destroy souls'

I'm perplexed as to what the point is of this video (see below).

It seems to be something produced by your typical conspiratorial "Freemasons Rule the World" crowd, and accuses the Masonic/Illuminati cabal for creating urban hip-hop music to keep the black community in poverty.

I found the video linked on a website that proclaims itself "Your hip hop music culture and lifestyle portal." They're proud to say "We eat breathe & sleep hop hop."

The article containing the video is titled "Freemasonry's Use of Hip Hop to Deceive and Destroy Souls."

Frankly, the video is a nine-minute mishmash of interviews and music that isn't worth viewing, in my opinion. Don't bother watching it all unless you've got time to burn. It includes weird statements such as Bill Gates' father created Planned Parenthood to lead to the elimination of the black race. How'd that work out?


The material between roughly 5:45 minutes and 7:00 minutes is kind of intriguing, but not necessarily from a conspiratorial point of view.

Apparently at least one hip-hopper, KRS-ONE, has taken his cue from the same idea that led to the book and movie The Secret. Here is a line from his rap:
When someone says the rich get richer
Visualize wealth and put yourself in the picture.
If you're not familiar with The Secret, it is simply this idea: "Your thoughts create your reality." It's a simple philosophy, and it's true, as I've found in my own life. When I focus on the negative, more negative comes along. When I focus on positive, happy things, then positive, happy things and events appear in my life.

It's a secret I personally too often forget, but thankfully, usually I catch myself before I've created too much negativity and can turn things around by changing my perspective and beliefs and thoughts.

The conspiracy-minded video producer doesn't see anything positive about thinking positive. KRS-ONE's rap is followed on their video by these words:
Here KRS is pushing the "New Age Agenda," that says you are poor because of your thoughts (Translation: BLAME THE VICTIM!)

It is a way of thinking that leads to a lack of care and/or empathy for others who are suffering, because you are rationalizing it as, "Oh... it's their fault they are poor, or starving, or homeless, or raped, etc... due to their thoughts...."
One the one hand, the video-maker is saying that there is poverty in society because the Grand Cabal keeps it that way, and on the other hand is saying that to encourage those in poverty to think their way out of that poverty creates a "lack of care and/or empathy."

Confused? Me too.

Which is solid proof the Discordians must be the real Men Behind the Curtain.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Doing the dog

The sadness in Robert John Ward's eyes in this photo reminds me of the look on the face of alleged Mason and alleged murderer Leroy Tellgren, shown in the previous article on The Burning Taper.

Perhaps the lives of both of these elderly gentlemen could have been redirected into less destructive channels had they been invited to become members of the Royal Order of Jesters (search "Jesters" on The Burning Taper), where they could have played out their sexual fantasies behind closed doors.

Ward, 66, has been charged with sexually abusing his family dog.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Texas Mason charged with murder of younger woman

An "alleged" Texas Mason has been charged with murder in the disappearance of his female friend.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the Coppell (Texas) Police Department need the public's help. If anyone saw {Leroy] Tellgren, [Kathleen] Garza or Tellgren's vehicle along the Texas/Oklahoma border or in the state of Oklahoma around April 16th, please call the OSBI hotline at 800-522-8017.

Tellgren's vehicle is a dark green 1997 Chevy S-10 extended cab pickup with a Texas license plate of 46XWC5. A Masonic Lodge insignia is on the driver's side back of the truck.
Leroy Tellgren, 74, and Kathleen Garza, 49, had for the past five years been buddies from work in the local school district. Tellgren was a school bus monitor; until last May, Garza was a middle school business and computer skills teacher.

They met for coffee-to-go just before 9 a.m. on April 16th, video surveillance cameras at a grocery store coffee shop show. An indoor camera shows them together at the counter; an outside camera shows them walking toward and then getting into Tellgren's pick-up truck.

That's the last time anyone saw Kathleen Garza.

Police have charged Tellgren with her murder, though her body has not been found.

Garza's husband said that his wife looked up to Tellgren as a "father figure." An employee at the coffee shop where they were last seen says Garza and Tellgren were regulars there, and had been seen on occasion holding hands and acting "romantic," something Garza's husband Raul strongly denies.

Tellgren was taken into custody by police who were at his home talking with his wife when he returned late that night. He gave police permission to search his truck. They found that the passenger seatbelt, along with patches of material from the passenger seat, had been cut out. Blood was present on areas that had not been removed. A large bloodstain was found on the shirt Tellgren was wearing.

A few hours later, police found bloody seatcover material and a bloody seatbelt inside a trash bag in a dumpster less than a mile from Tellgren's home.

Two rings and a watch that have been identified as belonging to Garza were found in his pocket.

Tellgren has been uncooperative. He remains in custody with bail set at one million dollars.

Police and the OSBI are asking anyone who may have seen Tellgren, Garza or his truck on April 16th to call them with any information.

Google the news stories.
Read the OSBI statement.
Read the Coppell Police arrest warrant.

Image #1: Leroy Tellgren
Image #2: Kathleen Garza

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Jester Michael Stebick avoids jail time for role in prostitution scandal

Here's more television footage from Buffalo's WIVB on the Royal Order of Jesters scandal. This one is about former law clerk and prosecutor Michael Stebick's sentencing.

If you prefer to read the news story rather than view it, click here.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

TV footage of Jester's court appearance

Here's a video news report about Royal Order of Jesters' members Ronald Tills, John Trowbridge and Michael Stibeck, from WIVB-TV, Channel 4 in Buffalo, NY.

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Trends in Masonic blogging

Our blogging brother at The North Eastern Corner wrote the other day about how the face of Masonic blogging has changed over time. He notes three trends: centralization, blog fatigue, and extraction.

He points out that the trend towards centralization tends to sublimate the personality of the individual bloggers, and I agree. Part of the pleasure of surfing Masonic blogs is in noting the design, graphics and layout of a particular brother's blog, as well as seeing which links he chose to put on his blog, and what, if any, advertising he showed. All these things, together with his writing, created the individual blogger's online identity and "personality." The centralizing of blogs, such as has been done recently at Bro. Greg Stewart's Freemason Information, lessens the appeal of reading Masonic-theme blogs, for me anyway. I'm not knocking the trend; I'm just adding to the discussion of it on The North Eastern Corner.

Personally I've been suffering blog fatigue for while. Regularly pumping out interesting stories is hard work. My dwindling interest in local Masonic events coupled with my growing knowledge of "improprieties" related to Shriner and Jester activities simply led me to abandon my keyboard for a while.

The North Eastern Corner article points out a third trend in Masonic blogging: extraction, or Masonic blogs going dark or totally disappearing from the web. We've seen a lot of that. For a while there were many newly raised younger Masons who eagerly jumped into blogging with an impressive enthusiasm. Most of these blogs didn't last long; there's only so much a new Mason can say about "next Tuesday I'm returning my Fellowcraft catechism."

The most notable "extraction" in the past year was the unexpected death of well-known Masonic know-it-all Bro. Theron Dunn. Next Wednesday will mark one year since he moved on to the Celestial Lodge.

Bro. Dunn and I seldom agreed on anything.

And I liked that. I found him pompous and self-righteous and often unmovable in his opinions and stance. In that, he was a lot like me.

Debating and arguing with him kept me on my toes. Publicly disagreeing with him helped me hone my writing and my logic skills and often made me think long and hard about an issue. Our "confrontations" strengthened us both, and made us both better Masons. Masons don't have to like each other — we never did — but Masons should ultimately respect each other and treat each other as brothers.

And that we did, even if sometimes it was begrudgingly.

The world of Masonic blogging, like all of life, is constantly changing. I'm glad I'm still here to enjoy it.

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Retired police captain sentenced in Jester-prostitute probe

One of the three Masons who pleaded guilty to transporting prostitutes across state lines to service brothers at Royal Order of Jesters' weekend "Books" has been sentenced to two years probation for his crimes, the Buffalo News reported today.

Former Lockport, NY police captain John Trowbridge said he was sorry.

"The more I thought about it, the more I didn't like it," Trowbridge told U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny. "They [the illegal alien women] come here with great expectations.... These people are way too often overlooked. They're victims."

"When confronted with the ugliness of his actions, [Trowbridge] did the right thing," U.S. Attorney Robert Moscati said.

One of Trowbridge's partners in crime, former law clerk Michael Stebick, was sentenced in December, 2008 to four months of home confinement, 250 hours of community service, and a $5,000 fine. I hope he didn't spend those 250 hours standing at an intersection wearing a fez.

Former New York Supreme Court Justice Ronald H. Tills, the Moe to Stebick and Trowbridge's Larry and Curly (those rascally imps!) returned to court today for his slap on the wrist.

U.S District Judge William M. Skretny called the crime a "very serious matter," but went easy on the former police officer because he cooperated in the Jesters probe.

"It's not a matter to be taken lightly," Skretny said of the crimes. "It involved the dehumanization of victims of human trafficking.... What you did was a disgrace to you, an insult to your wife and a disgrace to your profession."

Human trafficking is the politically correct term for slavery. This "very serious matter" is apparently punishable by four months' of having to stay home and a bit of community service, or at most, occasionally reporting in to your probation officer who is probably already a friend.

Of passing interest: The March 2008 press release by the FBI announcing Trowbridge's guilty plea

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

You can't have a light without a dark to stick it in

Last weekend I was driving home from the grocery store. As I approached an intersection, I noticed a fez-wearing Shriner standing in the road, shaking his paint-bucket at drivers as they crawled past him.

Arm after arm appeared from a car or truck, each dropping coins or bills into his bucket.

"It's for the children," I'm sure most of the brains attached to those arms rationalized to themselves, as they blew their own kids' lunch money in an attempt to feel charitable.

"Brother, don't you know where most of that cash is going?" I wanted to cry out.

"Somewhere between two and twenty-five percent of what you collect might make it to 'the children.' The rest is for the parties, for the booze, for the hookers... and you, good brother, probably won't even be invited!"

Yeah, I'm still jaded. Ignorance is bliss, and I'm no longer ignorant about some of the "secrets" of Freemasonry.

The financial misappropriations and the sexual improprieties in the Shrine and in their subgroup the Royal Order of Jesters are no longer secrets. Investigative reporter Sandy Frost, as well as the New York Times and the Buffalo News have splashed their findings across their front pages.

Three Masons/Shriners/Jesters — a judge, a former police captain, and an attorney — have pleaded guilty in upstate New York to transporting prostitutes across state lines to service "brothers" at Jester parties. Gary N. Martin, the head of the Jester organization, claims the group knows nothing about such activities, and says that the actions of these men were "extremely isolated events."

While the ROJ leadership denies everything, more and more Jesters and former Jesters have been spilling the secrets about what goes on at a "Book": humiliating hazings including having to walk around naked all weekend carrying a brick tied to a string tied to your penis, fellatio contests, rampant alcohol and drug use, and more.

Is it true? I can't say; I can only report what I've read and what I've been personally told by brothers who were members of the ROJ.

According to an article in the May 4 Buffalo News:
Retired State Supreme Court Justice Ronald Tills; his former law clerk, Michael R. Stebick of Orchard Park; and retired Lockport police Capt. John Trowbridge all pleaded guilty to transporting prostitutes across state lines. Trowbridge is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday in Buffalo’s federal court, and Tills is scheduled for a pre-sentencing conference Thursday.
The FBI is still investigating a "human sex slave" network that involves a "massage parlor" where prostitutes who are said to have been at Jester functions "worked."

And Brazilian authorities have now brought charges against an American who allegedly organized "fishing trips" for Jesters which were really alcohol-drug-sex party cruises with underage Brazilian girls.

Why bring this up again, and why now?, you might be asking. Didn't I write months ago that I was done talking about the problems within Freemasonry, and that I would only write about "good stuff"?

Apparently, no news has been "good news," because I haven't written very much on this blog since I said that in early March.

In hindsight, though, I realize that despite my disgust, The Burning Taper exists and always has existed as a Point of Light in the Masonic World, a Light that has for nearly four years shined on the good and the bad within Freemasonry.

For most of its existence, The Burning Taper had one or the other, sometimes both, of these quotations as its masthead:
  • You can't have a light without a dark to stick it in. — Arlo Guthrie

  • And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. — John 1:5
It's time these powerful statements were placed back into their positions of prominence, and time for The Burning Taper to return to its mission of shining the Light of Freemasonry upon Freemasonry.

Be Seeing You.


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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tornado kills Eastern Star sister in Arkansas

The powerful thunderstorms that had my son and me in my basement playing cards by candlelight Friday evening pummeled north Georgia as far south as Atlanta, but didn't produce any major damage here even though we were under tornado warnings for hours.

But those same storm cells reeked havoc a day earlier as they passed through Arkansas.

A brother from Arkansas sent in these reports on Saturday and Sunday:
Last night (April 9, 2009), a tornado struck the town of Mena, in western Arkansas, devastating a large part of the town. One of the buildings that was apparently destroyed was Dallas Lodge #128, which was located at 1601 Hamilton Street.

As I understand it, the lodge was a cinder block building, and it was razed to the foundation while an Eastern Star meeting was in progress. One survivor said that about 20 people had been inside the building, but no word has yet been released about the total number of casualties.

It's probably safe to assume that all of the participants were injured, and it's very likely that some may have been killed. The most recent reports from the area say that at least one person has been confirmed dead, while more than 20 are reportedly injured, but it will be after daylight before a complete assessment of the damage can be made.

By all accounts, it would appear that a lot of people in Mena, Arkansas, could use some relief right now. I have no idea if the Masonic fraternity will attempt any sort of organized relief effort, but if they do, I presume donations would be accepted through the Grand Lodge of Arkansas, Most Worshipful Brother Ronnie Hedge, Grand Master.

Their contact information is available at the following link:


His follow-up a day later reads:
The latest word I've heard is that three people were killed by the tornado in Mena, but only one of those deaths occurred in the Masonic lodge. Apparently, a 70-year-old woman there was crushed beneath rubble of the building.

I haven't heard of any Masonic relief efforts, but the Shriners at Scimitar Temple in Little Rock have made the local news repeatedly seeking contributions for their efforts to assist the victims, presumably Masonic and otherwise.
The Press Association ran a story about the Mena tornado, but did not mention the Masonic lodge.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Gathering of 8,000 Drums

This Saturday, March 21, is the first day of spring. You are invited to celebrate the season by participating in The Gathering of 8,000 Drums, a continent-wide day-long event to "reactivate cosmic energy, heal historical wounds, and heal our Mother Earth...."

The local event will take place in the Cohutta Wilderness near Ellijay, Georgia. Other events will take place simultaneously at several locations across the United States and Mexico.

My friend Monika Ponton-Arrington, wife of a brother Mason, is coordinating the event here in the north Georgia mountains.

Children are welcome, as are all members of the brotherhood of humanity. I will be there with my 10-year old son to enjoy the spring equinox.

From the flyer:
You Are Invited

The Indigenous First Nations, Peoples, Communities and Organizations of the World and all Humankind According to a Prophecy of all Indigenous Peoples.

It is time to re-unify ourselves and rediscover for ourselves all the Seeds of the Four Directions in order to reactivate cosmic energy, heal historical wounds and heal our Mother Earth by respecting life and the liberty and dignity of our Peoples.

Coming together of all Peoples.

Indigenous Keepers of the Ancestral, Ceremonial and Medicinal
Sound of the Sacred Drums; Councils of Elders, Sages and Leaders of all Indigenous Nations, Peoples and Organizations; Indigenous Guides, Guardians and Spiritual Leaders, and All Traditions of Humankind and Elders of Georgia.

There will be a central fire.

On March 21, 2009, 11:00 a.m. to ? We will begin Drumming in Prayer and Song

Please bring your Drum.

This will be held on Old Cherokee Ball Field in the Cohutta Wilderness outside of Ellijay, Ga.
  • There will be "Primitive Camping"!! No Electricity. There are local hotels. Please call for more info.
  • You will be able to have your own personal area among the trees.
  • Please bring your own firewood, food and water.
  • This is a Gathering, not a Pow Wow. No vendors.
  • This event is not limited to just Native Americans. All people are welcome.

Directions: Hwy 52 West toward Fort Mountain. From town circle of Ellijay, Ga. Go 5.0 miles to Gates Chapel Rd. on right. Stay on Gates Chapel till you hit gravel, then bear right on Wilderness Trail F 90 to Forest Road 68. Make a sharp right towards lake. Go to top of a large Y. Turn left going toward to Consuaga Lake. You will see signs stating the area. It is exactly 13.5 miles from Gates Chapel. Bring your tent or camper, or reserve a room at one of several hotels in the area. There is camping near a lake about a mile down from the Gathering area, with bathrooms. Please note this is the Wilderness area, with the nearest town 14 miles away. [Map]

Please email questions to drums8000@yahoo.com or contact Monika at 706-636-4919 and leave a message.

Note: This will coincide with other Nations and with Mexico's ceremony of Mayan, Aztec and Toltec traditions on the Otomi Grounds.
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