Tuesday, April 13, 2010

'Remember the beginning! Prince Hall plates!', by Bro. Derek Gordon

The following is by Bro. Derek Gordon.

Remember the beginning! Prince Hall plates!

by Bro. Derek Gordon

Someone asked how this whole mess began. So, I thought it would be best to remind people. The issue began with the ARGL barring Masons from purchasing Arkansas license plates because of Prince Hall being involved in their creation. I posted a note on Sebastian Lodge’s website to spread the word as the Letter required; I added a note that we did not condone the Letter because it stunk with racial undertones.

Many writers and bloggers saw this and copied our text in their articles. This sent the ARGL into a major defensive posture, something the ARGL can never be forced to take because it is too righteous. In retaliation, the whole issue with me started. Their latest and greatest charge is that I posted secret Masonic ciphers on the Sebastian Lodge website. In fact, should that have occurred, all data on the website came from the ARGL website and websites it linked to. By the way, they removed their website because so many bloggers mentioned this obvious connection.

But one thing is for certain: ARGL and Grand Master Warren will continue to deny that race has any part in their actions. BUT, this problem came from a racial letter sent out by ARGL. If it was not for that, there would be no action against me.

The website was known to ARGL prior to the RACIAL incident. I spoke with Grand Secretary James Weatherall requesting a link to be made to the site. I wanted him to let me know if content wasn’t acceptable. This of course was in the summer of 2009. Other comments were made throughout the rest of that calendar year. No problems, no complaints. But, amazingly enough the ARGL now has a cause of action against me AFTER the RACIAL incident.

I wonder, did they want to hold onto a cause of action in case it was ever needed? Is this how a Grand Lodge operates to make sure it can remove its dissidents? The ARGL has had its opportunity to make peace with the matter, but there is no desire on their part to resolve this matter in an ethical and moral fashion.

Want to really see how this unraveled? Take an open-minded approach by viewing some of the most prominent articles and blogs that kicked off the ARGL’s attack against me:


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Friday, April 09, 2010

Searching for light in the Arkansas night

The following article is by Bro. Derek Gordon, who is currently awaiting Masonic trial by the Grand Lodge of Arkansas, for purported but unspecified "unmasonic conduct."

The Story of my Search for Light

This is an ongoing, growing effort to provide the history of the a problem in Arkansas.

by Brother Derek Gordon
Last updated April 8, 2010

I became a Master Mason in March, 2008. It took me four days to memorize all of the necessary material to return the Fellowcraft work perfectly, no errors. A week later, I was a Master. In May, 2008 I was sent away on military orders. I returned in October, 2008 and began to get involved with the lodge as much as possible. I was nominated, and accepted, for the position of Secretary.

Due to problems with the previous Secretary, I took over a month early. It was a real mess. Documents weren’t properly kept, money seemed to have gone missing before being given to the treasurer, and what not. I made it my personal quest to sort through and rebuild the lodge’s documentation. After completing my review, I reported to the lodge a list of recommendations. In March, 2009 the recommendations were accepted. One of those recommendations was to build a website.

The website was built in May 2009. In determining the content, I looked at other Arkansas lodge websites linked to on the Arkansas Grand Lodge website. I found that each website listed lodge information and history; but, there was also information regarding the degrees and historical lectures. Some Masonic information was taken from the Grand Lodge of Arkansas’ website as well. Seeing it on several sites that the Grand Lodge personally linked to, and in my opinion gave acceptance via precedent, I decided to post the same information on SebastianLodge.com.

The website was a great success. Being a hobby software developer, I knew how to write scripts to get the website listed on many websites and search engines. We ended up having over 20,000 visits before it was forcibly taken offline. The website became fully active in early July, 2009 after informing the Grand Secretary of it and requesting a link be made to it from the Grand Lodge website. The website met no objections until the license plate fiasco. The link request never came through. No discussion of the website came forward. The other websites continued operation. At the time our lodge lost its charter and I was given a notice of trial for expulsion, all websites remained online except for two that seemingly neglected to pay their bills.

For personal and Masonic reasons, I requested a letter of good standing so that I could enter into Masonic communications in Latin American countries. My request was first made in late September, 2009. The Grand Secretary was very reluctant on being helpful; however, on November 17th, 2009 a letter was finally mailed. It came too late for the trip it was needed for. As numerous brethren know, I decided to do a Masonic good deed in the name of Masonry of Arkansas. At least 350 children freeze to death every year in the Andean region. I decided to develop a network with Masons in Latin America to have coats made and handed out to the young children in a humanitarian effort. That was the sole purpose for obtaining the letter. And, with my upcoming expulsion, the Masonic good deed must be carried on by a good-standing Mason. I doubt the Grand Lodge of Arkansas wants to take on noble causes as that.

In late October, 2009 it became apparent that Sebastian Lodge was heading for the red financially because of financial losses in the recession. The timeline for the end of the savings account was less than four years away. A decision was made to move to another location which would save approximately $3,000 annually, creating a surplus in our budget. However, the Grand Secretary wasn’t too keen on supporting the maneuver and desired the lodge to dissolve or merge. I didn’t like his attitude of telling me that it wouldn’t happen because there was no legitimate reason to withhold support of this Masonic Endeavour. The Digest rules made it acceptable.

Needless to say, I stuck to my guns. I wrote a strong letter to, then, Grand Master Ronald Hedge regarding the need to move to another location stating the financial crisis and that the lodge had taken a loss in its annual income from the perpetual membership. The annual payments are controlled by Grand Lodge. As I understood it, the Grand Lodge had increased its withholdings from the perpetual interest to maintain its own operations. He responded in a very protective manner, as was expected. However, after much discussion about Masonic good and the like, Hedge granted dispensation and the move happened as of January 1st, 2010.

Upon the mailing the Dispensation to move the lodge’s meeting place, Ronald Hedge phoned me to discuss the issue. He read my letter intently and made sure to defend the actions of Grand Lodge as a necessary move to keep Masonry alive. I outlined that I understood the reasons and had no quarrels with it. However, I wanted him to understand that the financial crisis has taken its toll on lodges; a loss in extra income expected from the perpetual membership interest required that we move. In the end, everyone seemed to be fine. For the time being!

A couple of weeks prior to Grand Lodge 2010, Ronald Hedge sent his last mass mailing to the Secretaries of the Subordinate Lodges. I opened and read it at our February 1st, 2010 stated meeting. It outlined that Prince Hall’s are clandestine and that all lodges were to notify members that they were prohibited from buying Arkansas Masonic License Plates. The letter was poorly written and bled with what seemed to be racial undertones. Our lodge decided to post on the website the basic points and I added a personal note that the lodge didn’t condone the letter. I tried to play a politically-correct position for the lodge because we did not believe in what the letter stood for and did not want to be in a position to look as if we did. The post was made on around February 3rd, 2010.

After the election of the new Grand Master, I sent a petition for reinstatement of a brother who left Masonry in 2006. He left because his pastor declared that if the brother stayed in Masonry, he would not be allowed to participate in his congregation. I sought to resolve the issue promptly to welcome the brother back into our ranks. The secretary for the Grand Secretary explained to me that the petition need not be filled out entirely since it was for reinstatement. I took him for his word and didn’t stress the petition since we had the original from around 1987.

The new and current Grand Master, Martin “Gene” Warren, phoned me on March 10th, 2010. He informed me that the petition was wrong and that we needed to comply with some new digest directives. I said allright and that I would take care of it at the April stated communication. But, I did reiterate the point that the Grand Lodge feeds misinformation and there should be uniformity on these operations. He and I discussed many issues that are going to bring problems to Arkansas Masonry.

I brought up the Arkansas license plate letter and how racially-charged the letter came across. He told me that he understood and that it was a problem everywhere. He said it was all over the internet and causing Grand Lodge grief. I asked him what the lodge should do; he said that he knows lodges have to do things to protect their members and he understood I must do what was necessary.

Further, I suggested that we need to create a committee to open discussion with the Prince Hall Masons of Arkansas. He informed me that the Prince Hall people had no desire to be involved with “us” and that it would “ten years at least” before any communication would begin. I recall being told that the he (the Grand Master) has “a black friend at work” who is a Mason. But, the Grand Master doesn’t speak to him about Masonry.

On Wednesday, March 17th, 2010 I was in an airport flying to Peru. I received a call from our Worshipful Master informing me that the Grand Master has summoned us to a meeting on March 19th, 2010 and that I was required to attend with all lodge records. I said I couldn’t be there and the Worshipful Master said that most of our lodge members couldn’t attend with such short notice. We attempted to change the time but the Grand Master refused to do so. I left messages with his wife and the Grand Secretary informing them of my situation. They never returned a single call.

On Saturday, March 20th, 2010 I noticed a message from the Worshipful Master. He said the Grand Master spoke the “politically correct” language in assuring him that what was going on was “for the good of Masonry.” What was that you might wonder? The Grand Master demanded the charter of the lodge at the end of the meeting. This took everyone by surprise. We were led to believe it was just a general visit sit a Grand Master has not visited our lodge in several years. The Grand Master ordered the WM to notify me to remove the website immediately.

Rumors started circulating that I was to be expelled. No person at the Grand Lodge would return my phone calls. I called the Grand Master at home on March 24th, 2010. His wife answered; and when she heard my name, she got very quiet and her voice became shaky. This reaction told me that the rumors were true and that I would not receive an ounce of fairness and that my dignity would be wiped away.

Upon receiving the letter of expulsion, I had no further information was to what the real reason was. All it stated was for un-Masonic conduct in the “purchase, sell, or use of” Masonic ritual ciphers. Here I must note that the letter was not sent to me. The lodge treasurer received it (on March 25th 2010 approximately) and directed it to the Worshipful Master (WM). Then, the WM forwarded it to me. I received a copy on March 27th, 2010. The WM read it to me over the phone so that I would have an understanding quickly. Originally, various sources told me that the action was related to the website and license plate issue. Again, I reiterate that all website information came from other Arkansas lodges and the Arkansas Grand Lodge itself. However, the racial issue grew as I explain ahead.

After over twenty attempts at reaching the Grand Master via telephone, he returned my phone call from a phone on SPEAKER on Saturday night at 9:50pm. He tried several times in a row; he left a hateful voicemail that the last call, which I answered, was going to be the last one and then “it’s over.” Upon answering, I explained I was out with friends and didn’t have my questions in front of me. I requested that he return my phone call sometime on Sunday. He demanded to know the questions and laughed at the idea I didn’t know them all by heart. I asked a few of the main questions; he refused to furnish answers.

I was told that the COMMISSION has many questions for me and that I better be at the trial. Should I not be able to attend, I “better send someone” in my place. I explained that I didn’t know the charges, evidence, or testimony against me. He remained silent. I told him that this was a very un-Masonic reaction and this was beneath that of a Grand Master. He said “good bye.” I can only imagine who else was listening on the other end; one would bet that it was the upcoming COMMISSION as backed up by background noise in the voicemail left.

On Monday, March 29th, 2010 the Grand Master informed the former Worshipful Master of Sebastian Lodge that the website was not entirely offline. The Grand Master said that the lodge failed to comply with his mandate. The WM immediately notified me to remove all information, namesakes representing Sebastian, and to shut down the website immediately. Sebastian Lodge’s website expired on April 3rd, 2010. Immediately, I moved the letter and other information to my personal website.

During a discussion, with several friends, on Tuesday March 30th, 2010, the real issue came to light…the only issue that the Grand Lodge could use against me that no other Arkansas Mason has admitted to doing. In a prior conservation with Grand Master Warren Martin (Wednesday, March 10th, 2010 at 8:23 PM), I spoke of attending lodges in which Black Masons participating. I openly shared that I shook their hands and had other Masonic ties with them. These I was and will be happy admit. Some of those lodges were in Oklahoma and Texas, others were overseas. Nevertheless, all of the lodges were mainstream lodges. I have not had the honor to visit a Prince Hall lodge, though I hope to in the future. In the end, I told Grand Master Warren that no Mason can force me never to recognize another Mason because of his race, religion, or origin. I know he wasn't pleased by that statement.

The sole accusation poised is based upon entry 4.0.61 in the digest. That states:
The... use of cipher rituals of the three Symbolic Degrees of Masonry is forbidden; and ANY Mason who shall hereafter... use anything purporting to be a cipher ritual or written, printed or otherwise delineated ritual or exposition of Masonry shall be expelled from Masonry.
After debating any method of breaking such a by-law aside from the apparent Arkansas license plate and website stance, I realized that I overlooked one of the most obvious arguments. I gave the Masonic handshake (and another common sign of brotherly affection) to well over twenty Black Masons. I have sat in lodge with at least thirty Black Masons. I have spoken and had Masonic discussions with a Prior Grand Master of a Prince Hall jurisdiction. I have long-running Masonic relations with several Black Masons who served with me in the United States Air Force. They are some of my dearest friends and brothers.

If this comes down to expulsion because I have admittedly supported and fraternized with Black Masons (Prince Hall Masons), then I deem it to be a worthwhile adventure. Let's take a historical journey: it has been well over 250 years since the United States was given its freedom from tyranny. The Civil War took place 150 years ago. Importantly for Arkansas' racial crises, it was 59 years ago that the 101st Airborne drooped into Little Rock, Arkansas to force integration of Central High School.

On April 5, 2010 at 12:02pm I finally had a chance to speak with the COMMISSIONER of my pending trial. He refused to answer any of my questions about the cause of action and told me to figure it out on my own. I requested documents to assist in understanding the charge and he refused to send them. In the end, he said that so long as I provide proof that I’m in the military and was at drill, the trial date would be changed. I quickly offered to send him my calendar to ensure that the dates would be acceptable to everyone without any risk of conflicts on my end. This was outright refused. The phone call was enlightening in regards that I will not write about at this point, but may choose to do so once the verdict has been passed down. As of April 8, 2010 the new trial date has not been established and I cannot determine what will come next.

One can say that the Grand Lodge has always appeared been hostile. From the get-go, everything was difficult. However, I did my best to follow the rules and tried to get clarification at times when it was needed. I find that the lack of brotherly love was always apparent and I have no doubt that many more Arkansas Masons, expelled or good standing, feel the same way. Unfortunately, many are afraid to stand up and demand the change necessary to continue mainstream Masonry in Arkansas.

— Bro. Derek Gordon

Image: Bro. Derek Gordon

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The handshake of expulsion

The following is by Bro. Derek Gordon, a young Freemason from Arkansas. The Grand Lodge of Arkansas has charged him with unmasonic conduct. If "convicted," he will be expelled from Masonry.

The Handshake of Expulsion: The true story about “un-Masonic conduct*” of a respectful brother

by Brother Derek Gordon Last updated on: April 5, 2010

After much reflection, I have concluded that the true crime for which the Grand Master wishes to accuse me has come to light. And it is a violation that I take no shame in committing.

As my brethren around the world have now seen, I did not provide secret information on the Sebastian Lodge website but used information from other Arkansas lodges and as well as the Grand Lodge itself. The Grand Master’s claim has been defeated by the massive trove of evidence gathered by many Masonic brethren in support of me.

As I was denied my right to due process, I am left to my own devices to determine why on this great earth and in this great country I would considered for expulsion. And then it occurred to me…what my violation will be. In a conversation with Grand Master Warren Martin I spoke of attending lodges in the presence of Black Masons. I openly shared my reflection of the warm conversations we had. The lodges were not in Arkansas but rather in two other states as well as overseas. All were mainstream lodges. I have not been invited to a Prince Hall Lodge; however, because of this process I can say that I would be honored to do so.

I realize now that I overlooked one of the most obvious arguments. I gave the Masonic handshake (and another common sign of brotherly affection) to well over twenty Black Masons. I have sat in lodge with at least thirty Black Masons. I have spoken with a Prior Grand Master of a Prince Hall jurisdiction. I have long-running Masonic relations with several Black Masons who served with me in the United States Air Force. They are some of my dearest friends and brothers.

The sole accusation poised is based upon entry 4.0.61 in the digest. That states: "The... use of cipher rituals of the three Symbolic Degrees of Masonry is forbidden; and ANY Mason who shall hereafter... use anything purporting to be a cipher ritual or written, printed or otherwise delineated ritual or exposition of Masonry shall be expelled from Masonry."

There is only one possible way to accuse me of violating the above quote from my Notice of Trial letter. Simply put, I would have to be accused of knowingly sitting in a lodge, mainstream aside, with Black Masons. And, being that the brothers were Black Masons, it is reasonable in the eyes of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas to assume those men must be Prince Hall. I must humbly point out to the Arkansas leadership that Black men can be Mainstream or Prince Hall; Arkansas tends to frown upon certain races, religions, or origins, yet this does not mean that all other Mainstream jurisdictions must act as a unified bigot.

These United States have stood in solidarity against tyranny for greater than nearly 250 years. The Civil War and great Abraham Lincoln brought emancipation to all nearly 150 years ago. Just over 50 years ago, Arkansas was at the epicenter of the death of segregation when “The Little Rock 9” entered a high school for white students supported by the 101st Airborne Division. How can it be that Arkansas is one of the three states that still forces segregation of the brotherhood? Why is this tolerated? Who will stand up to such hatred?

Let your voices be heard along with mine. Tell Grand Master Martin Warren and Grand Secretary James Weatherall what is truly “for the good of the Masonry**.” As the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called out, “Let freedom ring,” and this time let it be from the capital of Little Rock, Arkansas.

Whether the Grand Master still believes that my expulsion is “for the good of the Masonry” is for him to determine. In my heart and with a clear conscience, I can say that I will always hold the values of the Free Masons... the truly “free” Masons.

* I stand accused of “un-Masonic conduct” for reasons that the Grand Lodge of Arkansas refused to delineate. The Grand Inquisitor (Chairmen, Grand Lodge Trial Commission), John Penrod, was kind enough to inform me that I must determine the causes of action the Grand Lodge of Arkansas has against me. And, the Inquisitor refused to provide materials that might shed light on such issues.

** The Grand Master assured the Worshipful Master and other brethren of Sebastian Lodge that revoking its charter, and my expulsion, was "for the good of Masonry." I would disagree with that statement; but, I'm unworthy in their eyes of being a Mason.

Added note: The phone call discussing Prince Hall Masonry with the Grand Master of Arkansas took place on Wednesday, March 10th, 2010 at 8:23P.M. CST.

— Bro. Derek Gordon

Images: Bro. Derek Gordon

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Friday, April 02, 2010

Letter from an expelled Arkansas Freemason

The Burning Taper receives many emails from Freemasons and others interested in Masonry. With the writer's permission, I'm sharing with you a recent email from an expelled Mason from Arkansas.

Dear Brother WS,

I read the posts regarding the recent events in Arkansas Masonry with great interest and consternation for I had hoped this sort of thing was finished in Arkansas following the debacle of the schism of 2004-2005, sparked by the refusal of then Deputy Grand Master Franks to answer to the brethren their questions regarding the rules of succession in the event the Grand Master is unable or unwilling to fulfill his duty as specified in the Digest of Rules, Laws, and Edicts. I should clarify that statement: DGM Franks didn't "refuse" to listen to the questions of the Brethren — his reply simply consisted of an attitude of "because I said so" followed by a speedy threat of suspension pending Masonic trial. If one were so bold as to ask again, he would be met with stony silence and could expect a letter in the mail specifying time and place for his trial. Expulsion was the guaranteed outcome.

I should know, for I received trial in their kangaroo court.

Now, we find that Bro. Gordon is suffering the same fate, all because he chose to communicate via the internet to his Brothers the edict issued by the GL regarding the purchase of Masonic license plates for their vehicles.

I was always told that only the esoteric work of the Fraternity was never to be published in any form whatsoever and that anything found in print offered by the Grand Lodge was open to all. After all, the Fraternity is not a "secret organization" but an organization with secrets. Evidently, the GL of Arkansas has decided to close all communications to the "profane" or un-initiated unless it be spun, washed, and manipulated in such a manner to meet approval of the powers-that-be. I pity those who would choose to subjugate themselves under such a tyranny and would hope the eyes and minds of the Brethren in Arkansas and elsewhere be opened to the truth of such self-serving actions by those who are supposed to lead the fraternity.

As you might expect, I must ask that my identity be withheld as there are some I am proud to still call Brother and do not wish to cause them any harm from retribution by the Grand Lodge of Arkansas.

Please feel free to contact me at your leisure if you have any questions.

Fraternally yours,
[name deleted]
Expelled Mason
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What is the purpose of Freemasonry?

"The purpose of Freemasonry is not charity nor is it a fraternal society. These are but attributes which have developed. The real purpose of Masonry is the eternal search for truth, the truth about God, and the immortality of the soul. The various degrees represent the different levels through which the human mind passes while moving from ignorance to knowledge. The collecting of all the symbols and mysteries throughout the ages is but man's search for the divine truth. As we say in our ritual, 'from darkness to light.'" — Rt. Ex. William Adrian Brown (Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Virginia), "Facts, Fables and Fantasies of Freemasonry," Missouri Lodge of Research, 1968

The above quote is the basis for an excellent article titled "From Darkness to Light," on one of my favorite Masonic blogs, Three Ruffians.

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Bro. Hodapp on Masonic racism

In the comments section to his own March 30 blog article "Grand Lodge of Arkansas Pulls Charter, Files Charges Over Website," Bro. Chris Hodapp posted the following words, which I found especially direct and meaningful. With his permission, I am reposting his comments as a guest article here.

I have stacks of emails from Masons in many states with stories about frankly appalling decisions, actions and behavior by grand lodge officers over the last dozen years. I'm sure Fred Milliken and Widow's Son have them as well. I have no desire to drag them across the internet — much of it is gossip, much of it is hearsay, much of it is hard to prove. But much of it is not.

What is fast becoming clear is that some grand lodges have recently become nervous about embarrassing statements and edicts being leaked to the public, and worse, being posted on the internet. Funny thing about this technology, the way it shines a bright light on things that don't look so good when they are all lit up.

There is no question that not every grand master is perfect. The level of imperfection varies wildly, but there is a certain type of person who believes he has absolute power to rule with an iron whim, exact revenge, and in short, behave in ways that absolutely fly in the face of everything our fraternity teaches us. Fortunately, such men with a misunderstanding of their position and duties don't often make it to the Grand East. Unfortunately, enough do that there are Masons who live in fear every day for their dues card, who fail to stand up for what is right and proper because it's hard to do if the choice is shut up or be expelled. But allowing politics, revenge, racism, criminal misconduct, and worse to enter into the highest levels of the fraternity is something no Mason should stand by and allow to happen without demanding better leadership.

Both of my folks are from Louisville, Kentucky, and I have lived part of my life in Virginia. My father lives in Georgia now. I've seen racism in the Deep South, and in the North. Ignorance knows know boundaries, and I learned long ago not to get fooled one way or the other by accent and diction. I don't see "South" and automatically think of banjo music and rotten teeth. But there is no dodging the fact that all of the states left in the US that do not recognize their Prince Hall counterparts are, with the exception of West Virginia, members of the Old Confederacy. There are states where lodge officers and grand lodge officers are trying hard to make changes. There are other states where an entrenched old guard would rather that Freemasonry die than let a man of a different race pass the Tyler's door. And the same is true on both the mainstream side and the Prince Hall side.

We've all heard the excuses, and it's embarrassing that they are the same ones trotted out back in the days of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. You'd have thought the least that could happen would be some new ones invented. The point is, it's not 1954 anymore. I had an Atlanta police officer (much younger than I was) who was a Mason literally poke me in the chest and tell me I was destroying Freemasonry by allowing black men to join my lodge, that black men could NOT be Masons because of the Ancient Landmarks, and that "down here we know how to treat 'em." I'm sorry, but that cop needs to be up on Masonic charges (and possibly before a civilian review panel, as well). The same goes for any grand lodge officer who shares those sentiments. There is no place for it in a fraternity that trots out the cardinal virtues and proclaims universal benevolence in one breath, and then proves they know nothing about the subjects in the next. And I have no illusion that there aren't Prince Hall Masons who would rather open a vein than let a white man in his lodge, as well.

Our petitions are color blind, and our fraternity should be too.

I'm not a big one for demanding that other grand lodges use the nuclear option and drop fraternal relations with the openly racist jurisdictions. It only hurts sojourning brethren, and it threatens the sovereignty of the grand lodge system. In the 1870s, New York accused Indiana of destroying the fraternity by prohibiting alcohol in lodge rooms, and threatened to withdraw recognition over it (They were probably right.). More recently, the imbroglio over the Grand Lodge of France and Minnesota brought down the wrath of Michigan, New York and other GLs, when clearly they had absolutely zero justification. One man's justifiable reason is another's personal grudge.

But the time HAS come for grand masters outside of the Confederacy to start making noise and whispering good council in the ears of their Southern brethren. Prince Hall recognition has been an issue since 1948. It's been 62 years, and for nearly 20% of the United States to still be having this argument is a disgrace. Young professional men don't find discrimination in their businesses, housing, transportation, or lunch counters. For it to exist in their fraternity is appalling.

— Bro. Chris Hodapp

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

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

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

The text of the letter reads:
January 25, 2010

Dear Brother Secretary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

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Tell the Grand Lodge of Arkansas what you think

If you would like to make your voice heard to the officers of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas, here is their contact list, adapted from the Arkansas Grand Lodge website, where you can see the full list of 2009 officers.

Grand Lodge of Arkansas
700 Scott Street
Little Rock, AR 72201

Martin Warren, Grand Master
529 Ridgecrest Rd
Heber Springs, AR

Garry C. Jones, PGM Grand Treasurer
17810 Middle Ridge Rd
Ozark, Arkansas 72949

Robert L. Jackson, Grand Senior Deacon
5617 Applewood Dr
North Little Rock, AR 72118

Richard Gambill, Grand Lecturer
1769 CR 342
Jonesboro, AR 72401

Myles Oliver, Deputy Grand Master
503 Indian Bay Dr
Sherwood, AR 72120

Image: M.W. Martin Warren, Grand Master of Arkansas, 2010

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Comments welcome!

Because of the huge amount of robot spam postings during the time The Burning Taper was temporarily dormant, the comment feature was deleted for a time.

The settings have now been changed, and we once again welcome comments to our posts.