Blue State – Red State Freemasonry

350px-Red_state,_blue_state.svgThe United States of America is like no other nation in the world. There are two diametrically opposed cultures within the US where compromise is not possible. Nothing is more evident to the truth of this statement than to watch the nation during a Presidential election year.  Democrats and Republicans, Liberals and Conservatives are in possession of two different world views. These views translate into two different life styles. The positions held by each side are considered basic life core principles that cannot be changed, diluted or compromised.

There are Liberals and Conservatives in other nations but their belief systems are not ingrained into stone and compromise is not a dirty word. Take Canada to our north. There are many different social, political and religious views in Canada and a diversity of culture in some areas while in others a much more sameness. The differences foster much discussion and debate but seldom WAR! Canadians who are not on the winning side of an issue have more of an attitude of, “Oh well, life goes on.” While here in the sates you will find both sides employing deliberate misinformation, loud ill tempered language leading to a radicalization that can give way to outright violence. Ask yourself when was the last time a Canadian Prime Minister or other prominent political figure was assassinated, or there was even a thwarted assassination attempt? In the United States we can point to the recent shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (where 6 others were killed), the attempt on Ronald Reagan, and the successful assassinations of Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

And this is not a new phenomenon. You can go all the way back to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln to see how long this aspect of American Society has been going on. Right from our nation’s inception we were two different worlds joined together. In the beginning there was the small farming, commerce, business and trading North versus the big plantation system of the South practicing self sufficiency and isolationism. There were the slave holders versus the abolitionists.

No other nation suffered such a bitter, protracted Civil War with huge losses of life that left a bitterness that never really healed. Who else in Western Society had a Ku Klux Klan that in its heyday had a larger membership than Freemasonry?

Today we have the Blue States and the Red States.  No matter how bad the nominee the Blue States will always vote Democrat and the Red States Republican. That leaves a handful of swing states to decide the Presidential election.  Most Presidential elections have a voting spread near a 52% to 48% margin. We are nation still seriously divided.

This division is not just political. If it were it would not be so all persuasive. There is also a social, religious, economic and racial division separating Americans into two different camps. You can make a good case for there being two different American cultures. We might call them the heartland culture versus the cosmopolitan urban culture. It is two life styles that view most every aspect of living from a different, opposing perspective.

The role of government in society

How we dress

What language we use

How we raise our children

The role of religion in society

What is taught in our public schools

Dependence versus personal responsibility

Individualism or collectivism

Parochialism versus centralization

How we regard our military

What social behaviors should be legalized

What should and should not be an entitlement


This all pervasive view of society and our role within in it has bled over into Freemasonry. We have Blue State Freemasonry and Red State Freemasonry. Just like the commerce based North versus the plantation South, Freemasonry has grown into two different versions of the same Fraternity. SOME of the differences are:


Evangelical Christians                                   Secular

Wear religion on sleeve                                Many unchurched, some use Lodge

As their church

Prayers to Jesus                                            No prayers to Jesus

Only Holy Bible on altar                               Multiple Holy Books on altar in

Some Jurisdictions

Casual dress                                                  Formal dress

Christians only                                              Any religion acceptable

No foreigners, non English speaking         Any language, any nation

Grand Master supersedes Constitution    Grand Master obeys Constitution

Heavy restrictions on who can use            Light restrictions on who can use

And rent Lodges                                           And rent Lodges

No alcohol in the building                            Alcohol permitted some


No handicapped, no employees in              No such limitations

Liquor business

Frequent expulsions without Masonic      No expulsions without Masonic

Trial                                                               Trial

Some GL control of private Masonic         No GL control of private Masonic

Websites                                                        Websites

GL owns local Lodge building                     Local Lodge owns its own building

Caucasians only admitted                            All races welcome


These and other differences have divided Freemasonry into sometimes warring camps. Our civil government under the Articles of Confederation soon changed into the United States of America under the Constitution and slowly evolved into more centralized control in Washington. From 13 states loosely joined in common cause we transformed ourselves into a united nation where citizens ultimately called themselves Americans.

Freemasonry never evolved like our civil government did. It has remained stuck in the Articles of Confederation stage. Each state Grand Lodge is like a nation unto its own. As the years have gone by the differences have become greater and magnified.

This is not a call for a National Grand Lodge nor a reinventing or remaking of American Freemasonry. But at the same time we must recognize that there is too much strife and discord, too many ill feelings and too much unmasonic conduct within American Freemasonry. Maybe 51 Grand Lodges are too many for the United States, leading to too many differences, too many rivalries with not enough cooperation. Perhaps there might be some voluntary consolidation.  Canada with somewhat the same area has much fewer Grand Lodges. Whatever American Freemasonry does voluntarily The Craft must find a way to come together with some commonality, reducing friction and strangling tight control while still permitting states their jurisdictional powers. It must find a way to bridge the gap between a Blue State and a Red State mentality. American Freemasonry needs to become a fraternity, a way of life, which embraces free thinkers as it has in the past, frees up Masonic creativity, and becomes a Craft of principles and virtues not of men.

Posted in The Bee Hive and tagged , , , , , .

Fred is a Past Master of Plymouth Lodge, Plymouth Massachusetts, and Past Master of Paul Revere Lodge, Brockton, Massachusetts. Presently, he is a member of Pride of Mt. Pisgah No. 135, Prince Hall Texas, where is he is also a Prince Hall Knight Templar . Fred is a Fellow of the Phylaxis Society and Executive Director of the Phoenix Masonry website and museum.


  1. I sometimes think calls for “compromise” are ill-founded and border on subterfuge for groupthink.

    In Canada, for instance, budgetary “compromise” is usually found between two parties that both want to raise spending. So one party proposes and extra $100B in spending and the other a mere $50B. It’s easy to accept this as , “Oh well, life goes on” when you know that another government next year will also raise spending and you’ll get your $100B eventually. Nowhere is there any opinions that say spending should not be raised and indeed cut drastically. That sort of compromise just doesn’t exist there (unlike here in the States), and I think indicates that there is a dearth of political diversity in the country (and others like it).

    Applying this to Our Profession, I see (mostly) in the list that you built a great diversity to be celebrated. I laughed when I saw that you put racism in the same list as formal dress. Clearly, you are off base on what you consider differences and what I would call travesties. Our Freemasonry cannot countenance racism, bigotry, and totalitarianism. But we could do just fine with more tuxedos in some lodges, and more local sports team sweatshirts in another.

    Despite your objections to the contrary, it very much seems like you are advocating a National Grand Lodge and the same problems accompany that as do calls for greater Federalism — the seductive thinking that if just the right, smart person is put in charge of the whole thing, then utopia will ensue. Its delusional thinking, and more focus on distributed government (both politically and in Freemasonry) will bring the greatest benefits and freedoms to the greatest numbers of people.

  2. This is an interesting post, and definitely drums up a lot of thought and discussion. As a member of lodges in two different jurisdictions, it’s surprising to note some of the differences between the two, and even those differences compared to other grand lodges around the country making news.

    My take on most of these items listed are that if the topic underlines an agenda that is not stated in the ritual or obligation (racism, alcohol, religious topics aside from belief in a supreme being, etc.) than that topic shouldn’t be forced onto Masons within a specific jurisdiction by that jurisdiction, by a lodge, or by fellow Masons.

    As long as a man is of good character and obeys his obligation, everything else is irrelevant in regards to whether or not I accept him and/or his ways as Masonic.

    Kudos for the great post and topic.

  3. A very interesting read. Here in Australia each state has its own GL, but they are much closer in thinking that the “Blue and Red” GLs you describe. Great article, thanks.

  4. i think===brother evan mcgee===needs to be closer to things going on in freemasonry—i was expelled with out a trial from grand lodge—-after something happens to you like that—you will look at things not the smartest mason in the world===but===i know when something is not right

  5. I would certainly agree re: the gulf between Red & Blue America but NOT the alleged Masonic divide. I visit many lodges in multiple states due to my profession and see both types of lodges within each jurisdiction. Before I’d submit a statement there is such a ‘divide’ by state (Grand Lodge) I’d want an objective survey; i.e. more research-driven than opinion.

  6. As a further comment relative to disputes within American Grand Lodges: one needs to look thru 100-200 years worth of Grand Lodge Proceedings before making an informed statement that there is “too much strife & discord” today within our GL’s. I’d agree obviously that ANY discord is too much but the essay implies it’s more of a problem today than in years past. Where are the footnotes, research and references to support this contention? (Living in Iowa near the world-renowned Iowa GL Library one can access ALL GL proceedings, here and abroad; their Constitutions, By-Laws, etc) From those GL’s proceedings I have examined there was MORE dissension decades ago than today. To make that statement one must first define strife & discord. For the sake of argument I would submit the expulsion of GM’s/PGM’s, suspension of Lodge charters and Masonic trials would be primary examples; agreed? If so, it’s simple math (and a lot of reading) to see how many such events occured in a particular GL since its inception. In the case of Iowa, a GM or PGM has not been expelled in the past 125 years BUT several were prior to that. There were also far more suspended or arrested Charters from the 1850s to 1900 and far more Masonic trials. (and for that matter more ‘cloudy’ ballots). So on that basis one could factually say in Iowa there is far less discord today then in the past. (but those present at GL Proceedings just a few years ago when the presence of alcohol within a Lodge Hall was debated might have, at the time, stated ‘the GL of Iowa is in discord, worse than ever!”. Now do the same research for West Virginia or Arkansas to make an informed statement as to whether a specific GL today is more or less in harmony or discord than 50, 100 or 150 years ago. One thing we can agree on; communications today are instantaneous as opposed to postal methods of even just two decades ago. Thus problems, real or percieved, are instantly communicated, other anonymously and famously one-sided. Too often one needs to look at Lodge of Research articles to see truly objective, unbiased, factual statements. (not too mention more gentlemanly language) Similarly how many Masons in 1860 or even 1960 were aware of significant problems in any GL other than their own? (unless they attended other GL sessions or obtained copies of Proceedings). The Internet has changed that, for better and for worse. Before we make blanket indictments or applaud current GL actions or inactions, let’s do our homework. It takes time and objectivity but then one can attain truth, not mere opinion. In that regard the red/blue political divide in America is not a lot different than Washington’s day (he was subject to fiery denunciation due to his handling fo the so-called Whiskey Rebellion). Andy Jackson was also subject to major dissent even in his own political party as was Andrew Johnson (impeachment!); Teddy Roosevelt and distant cousin FDR, Brothers all, were also subject to intense criticism in some media in their day. The past is prologue and as we have heard, those who ignore their history are condemned to repeat it. Let’s know our history!!!

  7. Interesting article with some great points, however, I’m going to disagree with you on a couple facts. The Grand Lodge of NC and the Prince Hall Grand Lodge passed a legislation for mutual recognition in 2009. Our lodge, started by a confederate general, has many African American members. Actually, when I was raised, we had a PH Mason involved in the degree work. Also, most lodges in NC actually own the lodge building; this may be different in other southern states, but that is the case here. Christianity is not the only religion allowed in lodges here, our lodge was founded by, and is still frequented by, Christians and Jews. And keeping with this, we do not pray to Jesus Christ. We also have a past PH master who has a membership in our lodge who is from Africa.
    While, I will concede, these changes are probably behind the times of the northern lodges, many steps are being made to bring Southern Masons into the present day. I feel that your article, while well intentioned, makes sweeping generalizations that may or may not be true. Granted, we are but one lodge, but there are many lodges who are making the leap. Yes, there are plenty of lodges that may be correctly described in your differences, there are just as many lodges that do not prescribe to these schools of thought. Just like the nation, as the older members cease to hold the power, the new generation is making the changes needed in this day and age. I respectfully disagree with many of your assertions, it seems as though your article is demonizing the practices of southern masons. Please, give us a chance. We are all brothers.

  8. Well said Bro. Clay. Lodges, churches, service clubs, Vet’s groups etc are a lot like people because they are indeed made up of people. Most evolve, some wither & die, some prosper. It appears your Lodge is exactly what we would expect from an entity that espouses the Brotherhood of man, charity, integrity, ‘making good men better’, etc.

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