Chris Hodapp posted today about a petition to prevent (prohibit, bar, ban, make illegal by presidential power?) clandestine Grand Lodges. Note – the post is now archived.
The text of the petition, which you can read at petitions.whitehouse.gov, says:
Grand Lodges of Freemasons began in 1717, in London, England. All Grand Lodges in the world must have a direct lineage to this Grand Lodge to be Masonically legal. This process in proving legitimate origins has been upheld in the case of Supreme Grand Lodge Modern Free Accepted Masons of the World vs. Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Georgia Docket no. 14374, United States Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit. Other courts have established this precedent as well. There are only 94 legal Grand Lodges in the United States, the Prince Hall Grand Lodges, and the State Grand Lodges, all having legitimate origins from the Grand Lodge of England, but more than 450 fraudulent Grand Lodges exist, unregulated, committing extreme hazing and fraud on unsuspecting men. Stop the fraud.
Hodapp closes his post with an appeal to “Sign the White House petition…by August 4th. to be considered by President Obama, the petition requires 100,000 signatures (with roughly 400 at the time of my writing).
Your decision to sign is your own. But, before you put finger to keyboard to commit your pixelated signature I thought it would be good form to consider some of the aspects included in the petition itself.
All Grand Lodges in the world must have a direct lineage to [the Grand Lodge of England] to be Masonically legal. I suppose, in a broad context, which would be the case assuming that the UGLE is the chief franchiser of the Masonic Brand. But, since when is the President the arbiter of brand recognition? I’m sure the Supreme Court could weigh in on the matter, but ownership aside, it seems like a Masonic disagreement would be outside the scope of their jurisdiction. Lineage is only important to those who believe it to be so. Would saying all protestant churches are breaking Christian law by not following the lead of Rome?
Historically speaking, it sets the 1717 foundation of the Grand Lodge system as the chronological benchmark for legitimacy. Given that the foundation of a “grand lodge” out of severally existing lodges suggests that the incorporation of the fraternity is where our lineage begins.
The petition mentions a civil case from 1954, Supreme Grand Lodge Modern Free Accepted Masons of the World vs. Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Georgia. That proceeding as essentially about:
This action was instituted by appellee, a Georgia corporation, to enjoin appellant, an Alabama corporation, from engaging in conduct alleged to constitute unfair competition against appellee, and from holding itself out as a Lodge of Freemasons or as a member of the Masonic Fraternity. It was further prayed that appellant be enjoined from using the name ‘Supreme Grand Lodge, Modern Free and Accepted Colored Masons of the World.’
History and jurisprudence was the outcome. I’ll leave it to you to decipher the legalese. My take, neither site had a writ or warrant, instead “…both plaintiff and defendant trace their legal origin to a charter issued by a state court [in 1890].
Ironically, a search on Google for the 94 legal Grand Lodges turned up another legal brief involving two ‘clandestine’ Grand Lodges from 1949 – Most Worshipful Lodge v. Sons etc. Lodge – 94 Cal. App. 2d 25
Two actions involving conflicting claims of rival colored Masonic organizations were consolidated for trial. The first was an action for conversion in which a cross-complaint was filed asking damages for fraud. The second action was one brought by the Hiram of Tyre Grand Lodge against the Sons of Light Grand Lodge to enjoin the latter from conducting a grand lodge of colored Freemasonry in California. fn. 1 The trial court found against Light in both actions. Thereupon Light attempted to appeal from both judgments. However, this court heretofore granted a motion to dismiss the appeal in the conversion case on the ground that the judgment [94 Cal. App. 2d 28] was not final, an accounting being required. (Most Worshipful Sons etc. Lodge v. Sons etc. Lodge, 91 Cal. App. 2d 582 [205 P.2d 722].) The present appeal deals only with the injunction action and the first action will be disregarded.
While not delving into the legalese, the outcome, in so far as I can discern from that legal action was:
The position of the courts as regards rival fraternal organizations is well stated in Cuney Grand Lodge v. State (1926), 142 Miss. 894 [108 So. 298, 302]: “The court cannot judicially know what the principles and degrees of free Masonry are, or of any particular brand of doctrine known as free Masonry, if there be differences of organization and principles. That is a matter with which the state is not concerned so long as [94 Cal. App. 2d 35] no fraud is used to deceive a person solicited to join or be received into these orders.”
 The injunction in this case went too far. It should have been limited to prohibiting defendant, its officers, agents, servants and employees from representing that its grand lodge and its subordinate lodges were or are the only bona fide grand lodge and subordinate lodges of Freemasonry in California, or making any representation or performing any act which would tend to confuse, in the minds of the public, or prospective members, its organization with plaintiff and its subordinate lodges, or by misrepresentation to attempt to lure away plaintiff’s members…
The findings of Cuney Grand Lodge v. State State said:
State may forfeit charter of fraternal corporation soliciting members by falsely representing that they will be received into regular Masonic lodges throughout the United States, and may restrain re- ceiving members by such means pending trial of forfeiture proceedings. Cuney v. State, 142 Miss. 894, 108 So. 298 (1926) page 31.
So, where does that leave us. I suppose it means if an organization solicits members “by falsely representing that they will be received into regular Masonic lodges” the state can withdraw their incorporation. But, what if no claim is made? And who has the time, or money, to enforce these kinds of actions when it would be an uphill battle to prove who owns the Masonic trademark. But, at the same time, it seems a petition like this deliberately hurts other organizations that may share the name Freemasonry, which takes us into a whole ‘nother debate on what it means to be clandestine. Why lose the trees for the forest when the real issue is violence and hazing.
What the petition comes down to is a plea to stop malicious and dangerous hazing. So, in light of that, I’ve created a petition to make hazing of any kind illegal. Perhaps you’ll consider adding your signature to this petition instead.