A printed media distributed over a wide area of Georgia called The Sunday Paper has published a long story on the Gate City Lodge 2 situation titled, “Letting In A Black Man, Atlanta Freemason Lodge Fights For Equality.” The paper tells the story of Victor Marshall the soft spoken Black Army Reservist raised by Gate City 2 who has become the center of a controversy being reported across the nation and to the world.
As we all know now the charges have been dropped but Attorney Brother David Llywellen explains the continuance of the Lodge’s counter suit.
“The apparent lack of foundation for the charges filed against Gate City, as well as a fear of losing their charter, led Bjelajac and Gate City to file a lawsuit in DeKalb County to stop the Grand Lodge of Georgia from taking internal action against the lodge and its leader. Llywellen contends that the Grand Lodge had an obligation to dismiss the charges leveled by Hicks and Etheridge as soon as they were filed. Instead, says Llywellen, the Grand Lodge, including a South Georgia attorney named Franklin Aspinwall, who was to chair the Masonic charges and is named in the suit, violated their contractual obligation to Gate City members by putting their charter in jeopardy based on “spurious” charges. Although the internal charges made by Hicks and Etheridge have been withdrawn, the Gate City Masons want some assurance they will not be subject to similar charges in the future before they withdraw their suit.”
And as The Sunday Paper reports there was also some high level Georgia Masonic support for Gate City 2.
“ The controversy surrounding Gate City Lodge has resulted in two resignations at the state level. David Herman, a member of Gate City Lodge, resigned from his post as district deputy to the Grand Master. ‘As a District Deputy, I must be the Grand Master’s representative; nothing more and nothing less. Yet, as a Freemason, I could not sit on the sideline and be a passive witness to these events. I resigned so that I might stand with my [Gate City] Brethren.’ Gate City fell under the jurisdiction of District Deputy John Holt, an 82-year-old retired machinist and salesman, when Victor Marshall became a Master Mason. Grand Master James Jennings asked Holt to tender his resignation after the controversy broke.”
So far this is a rehash of what most of us know. But this writer would like to contend that it is the heroic efforts of many Masons across North America in putting pressure on the Grand Lodge of Georgia that has been influential in returning a positive outcome to a divisive and despicable action foretelling enormous consequences.
From Greg Stewart’s breaking fully documented story, “My Brother’s Keeper. Open Racism in Georgia Freemasonry,” to my own efforts and articles, to the articles and intercessions of Terence Satchell, we at Freemason Information have been a leader in bringing to you the reader the story in all its components and aspects and to adding our voices working for an amicable solution based on brotherly love and the virtues of Freemasonry.
“As the drama between Gate City and the Grand Lodge plays out, it is likely to have effects beyond a shake-up of Georgia’s Masonic officers. South Dakota’s Mt. Rushmore Lodge No. 220 has petitioned the Grand Lodge of South Dakota to ‘issue a formal, public statement that it will not accept racial or religious intolerance, prejudice, or bigotry in any of its subordinate lodges.’”
Added to this effort of Brother Satchell has been the efforts of Chris Hodapp as reported by The Sunday Paper.
“’It’s humiliating for the rest of the world of Freemasonry,’ he says. ‘I contacted my Grand Master and said, ‘If it turns out that these charges go through and if something happens to Gate City Lodge or its members because of it, I would strongly recommend considering withdrawing recognition of Georgia.’”
“Despite the stickiness of the situation, Hodapp feels there are things the Grand Master could do to resolve deeper problems surrounding the Gate City situation. A statement denouncing racism in Georgia Freemasonry would help erase any confusion over the role of race in Georgia Masonry, says Hodapp. The Grand Lodge, he says, could also move to recognize Georgia’s Prince Hall Freemasons. The predominantly African-American group sprang up as a response to the segregation inherent to nearly all social groups in the United States before the mid-20th century, and is recognized by most Grand Lodges in the U.S. Recognition of Prince Hall Masons by Georgia’s Grand Lodge would make Prince Hall Masons welcome at meetings of Masonic Lodges across Georgia and blur the implied color line that comes from having two separate grand lodges in the state.”
There is an opportunity here that already has been seen by some. That is a chance to move into high gear the breakup of the KKK influence in Southern Freemasonry and the adoption of racial mixing with the recognition of Prince Hall Masonry throughout the region. If the Mainstream Grand Lodge of Georgia were to issue a proclamation of racial harmony as a policy of the Grand Lodge and if they were to accompany that with Prince Hall recognition they would break the back of racism in Southern Freemasonry and blow wide open the continued discrimination of Blacks and the non recognition of Prince Hall.
If you look historically at important changes in life, of new courses chartered in unfamiliar waters, in most cases you will not see them just sort of falling together of their own free will and accord but rather being driven by an outspoken leader or group who rallies public opinion to the extent of overwhelming all who disagree.
We have just such an opportunity today if many of us will just come out of our little insular Masonic shell and view the Craft in the U.S.A. as one fraternity not 50 different societies. There is no reason that Freemasons from every region and every state cannot be united in seeking enforcement of certain basic principles of righteousness taking heed of the methods of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King to bring about change and acceptance of basic human and civil rights. There is no reason today in the Information Age Society in which we live to be restricted from speaking out against human wrongs and working actively for human rights because you belong to another Masonic jurisdiction. Non Masons are going to look at and judge Freemasonry as a whole not selectively differentiating between what the Grand Lodges of Minnesota and Vermont do in contrast to how the Grand Lodges of Georgia and Louisiana operate.
There are other Brothers working in other jurisdictions to bring about peaceful reconciliation. They feed off and are inspired by our support. If the Grand Lodge of Georgia were to close Gate City Lodge 2 and pull its charter then that would be a setback for development in other jurisdictions, for Grand Masters who seek to keep things as they were 100 years ago would be emboldened. It is the sharing of information and the encouragement we give that can motive those caught in a seemingly hopeless situation to nevertheless continue on. And it is important for all of us in the Fraternity to recognize that we are in the Information Age where ideas are exchanged, information published and discussion made available. This is no longer your Grandfather’s Chevrolet.
Most important of all is the ability for us to recognize that we are all one. Californian Masons and Kansas Masons and Michigan Masons and Maryland Masons and South Carolina Masons and Florida Masons and Kentucky Masons and Arkansas Masons and Colorado Masons and Alberta Masons and Ontario Masons and Nova Scotia Masons are all one, all Brothers of the same Three Degrees, all children of God working for the Brotherhood of man under the Fatherhood of God. We are all one.
The story in The Sunday Paper, Letting in a black man – Atlanta Freemason lodge fights for equality, has since been archived and the site disbanded.