I recently returned from the 138th Grand Session of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Arkansas which was held from February 25-28, 2010 in Pine Bluff. It was a great time with wonderful brotherhood marred by only one disappointing incident not of the making of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Arkansas.
One of the items on the agenda of business was to announce and explain the Arkansas Freemason auto license plate as created by Prince Hall Arkansas. This was a project that had been worked on for more than a year and was completed just a few months ago finally receiving state approval. It was noted that there seemed to be an inordinate amount of roadblocks in the path of the completion of this project. But Arkansas Brother Anthony Johnson, who headed the project, continually redid what was rejected in the submission of paperwork. He dotted every I and crossed every T. A few months before Grand Session the Grand Lodge received notification that the Freemason license plate had gone through and was approved. The Grand Lodge session afforded an opportunity for an announcement and explanation of this program.
Briefly stated, the Arkansas Masonic license plate consists of the Square and Compasses and the word “Freemason” at the very bottom of the plate. It is a generic Masonic plate neither mentioning Prince Hall nor Mainstream Masonry. However, a portion of the sale from each license plate is earned by the Prince Hall Grand Lodge.
Now no one expected a round of applause from the Mainstream Grand Lodge of Arkansas. The fact that Prince Hall thought of the project first and had the perseverance to see its adoption through the many hurdles placed in its path is a credit to the Prince Hall Grand Lodge. A silent boycott by Mainstream would have been disappointing but not unexpected. However, an open, loud denunciation of Prince Hall and the Freemason license plate is most distressing and uncalled for.
Presented below is the letter from the Mainstream Grand Master of Arkansas with its Seal and his signature to all his chartered Lodges. All or portions of this ruling appeared on many Mainstream Arkansas constituent Lodges’ websites viewable by the public which is why I say this was an open denunciation.
On the chance that the inserted letter is nor fully readable I will retype it and print it here below:
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 with a Freemason license plate. The best I can find out is that this license plate originates from the Grand Lodge of Prince Hall Masons and part of the money derived form (from) the sale of these license plates goes to a charity sponsored by the Prince Hall Grand Lodge.
After several phone calls to ascertain what the procedure was for obtaining these plates; 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, or that a letter be sent out to the same; 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.
Ronald Hedge, Grand Master
The first thing I expect from a Grand Master is that he have a credible understanding of the terms he uses. The term clandestine refers to pedigree. As in the case of a dog the question would be are you AKC registered and approved? In Masonry it refers to whether you were properly chartered. The fact that all Prince Hall Grand Lodges can trace their lineage back to The Grand Lodge of England’s chartering of African Lodge #459 either directly or indirectly rules out the possibility that Prince Hall is clandestine. Neither is Prince Hall irregular. Every recognized Masonic authority, even Albert Pike, has stated that Prince Hall practices regular Freemasonry and follows the Landmarks.
Furthermore a license plate cannot be clandestine. It is an inanimate object.
There is nothing more common within the ranks of Freemasonry than the misuse of the word communication. The word communication as is commonly applied in Freemasonry denotes a tyled Lodge meeting not a conversation. So in most jurisdictions it is perfectly lawful to discuss Freemasonry, excluding the signs, tokens , grips, words and obligations, with Freemasons from another jurisdiction or another obedience. The Grand Master knows this for later in his letter he talks about reading this information “at your next stated communication.”
However what is most distressing is the prohibition against Masonic discourse. I know that some Grand Lodges on both sides have this ruling yet most carry its application to an absurd degree. If an Arkansas Mainstream Mason meets an Arkansas Prince Hall Mason at the grocery store is it against Masonic law to say hello?
Does my Christian church say to me that another denomination does not follow Christian Theology correctly, therefore you are to have no discourse with them? Does a Republican refuse to talk to a Democrat or vice versa? Is this conduct rooted in the teachings of Freemasonry or the Teachings of the Holy Bible which rests upon the Masonic altar? Or could there be another motivation for what the Grand Master of Arkansas calls “a possible problem?”
I’m going to let the reader draw his/her own conclusions. You are all adults and adept at reading between the lines. But I, for one, am going to ask this Grand Master and others to stop calling Prince Hall Masonry bogus, spurious and clandestine. For a Grand Master to do so is just plain ignorant. Grand Master Hedge, Prince Hall is not irregular or clandestine or bogus it is just unrecognized. You just refuse to recognize Prince Hall. Why can’t you be a bit more gracious in your disagreement?
But I don’t think the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas is stupid. He knows what he is doing and why. It seems that this Grand Master just wants to name call and thereby hurt, demean and degrade other Freemasons. He is acting like a third grade bully. I would point him to our ritual which says, “By the exercise of Brotherly Love we are taught to regard the whole human species as one family.” And I would invite him to crack the Holy Bible once in awhile, that work of God which adorns every American Masonic altar. There are numerous verses that are our rule and guide but the one that comes to mind is, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”
Finally it becomes incumbent upon me to once again for the umpteenth time to ask when Mainstream Masonry is going to police itself? Recently we can point to Frank Haas’ expulsion in West Virginia and the nasty actions of Georgia Mainstream Masons when a black man was raised in an Atlanta Lodge. There are many more examples too numerous to catalog here. I am fully aware of the tradition of one jurisdiction not messing in the affairs of another jurisdiction. But what ever happened with whispering wise words of advice into the ear of another Brother? Could not a few other Grand Masters pick up the phone? And if push comes to shove, rather than interfere, those Mainstream Grand Lodges that are following the moral authority could wash their hands of these matters by just pulling recognition from what are really rogue Grand Lodges.
And finally I cannot help but ask do you see or hear about such outlandish behavior from Prince Hall Grand Lodges? Do they scream and yell discrimination? Do they impose such rulings on their brethren? Will the Prince Hall Grand Master of Arkansas strike back? I know he won’t, but I will.