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.
I hope Bro. Chris has the foresight to print his petition on toilet paper because its eventually going to end up at the waste treatment plant. The United States Supreme Court has already weighed in on and ruled on this in 1912 and 1929 which revolves around the issue of Prince Hall Grand Lodges having the legal right to organize due to lawsuits brought about against them by Mainstream Masonry. An excellent article titled: “Duty to the Race: African-American Fraternal Orders in Defense of the Right to Organize” by Ariane Liazos and Marshall Ganz of Harvard University explains in detail this issue. You can read this article in its entirety at http://www.phoenixmasonry.org/masonicmuseum/prince_hall_commandery_photo.htm
To summarize this article the Supreme Court ruled that Prince Hall Masons could organize their own Freemasonic Fraternities because Mainstream Masons wouldn’t let Negro Brothers join their all White Obedience’s. The same thing would happen if Mainstream Masons tried to end Co-Masonic or Mixed Gendered Obedience’s. Hodapp and his racist/bigoted Brethren would better direct their energies towards getting Mainstream Masonry to come into the 21st century and become more inclusive instead of exclusive of minorities and women!
Of course, this would open the courts to suits demanding that the supposed legal documents related to the Grand Lodge of 1717 be produced as evidence, and where would that leave the UGLE? In a similar vein, there might be legal demands to produce the legitimate charter which founded the AASR. All interesting legal questions which would doubtlessly need to be addressed.
In short, the issue is a house of cards, just as the idea of “Legitimate” vs. “Clandestine” Freemasonry is.
Further, where is the proof of sinister hazing, and of course, the “legal” lodges have every bit as many problems if the language of initiation oaths are investigated. The evil actions of “clandestine” Freemasonry are an interesting set of fairy tales, themselves.
Apart from all the above, I also wanted to commend Greg for offering some sensible comments on the issue. Thank you, Bro. Greg!
I cannot publically post the pictures of hazing done within spurious lodges, given to me as part of my research into this epidemic, but I have testimony and pictures of men having permanent burn scars, fractured tailbones, cigarette burns, and etc., not to mention the mental abuse, that will be presented in my current project, due to be released in late July. Brother Greg has presented a good option as well, I will definitely admit, but exploration into what further can be legally done needs to be explored. The establishment of what is legal to be called Freemasonry and what is not could be as easy as establishing who created the first Model T, or the first McDonald’s. Sure ther are numerous car brands now and fast food establishments, and like those, it is relatively easy to establish the world’s first speculative masonic grand lodge, and demonstrate its spread across the Atlantic, and into the colonies that formed states. at the Grand Lodge of Colorado in the library/merchandise store, there sits a poster on the wall that identifies the organizing of every grand lodge in the United States as it expanded from England. A picture is worth a thousand words.
I say pursue both petitions.
Goodness gracious, a government that cannot police our nation’s Southern border is all of a sudden going to find the ability to police Freemasonry for us. While I bemoan the rise of truly bogus Masonic bodies, at the same time there are some truly legitimate and outstanding Obediences outside of Mainstream and Prince Hall Freemasonry. The fact that Mainstream Masonry with Prince Hall seeks here a monopoly on the practice of Freemasonry goes against the very foundation of this great fraternity. Remember that Freemasonry was a product of and a believer in the Enlightenment and as such produced some of the world’s greatest “free thinkers.” Manly P. Hall is rolling over in his grave right about now.
Monopolies are generally autocratic to the point of being tyrannical and feel no need to be responsive to those to whom they are supposed to serve. Grand Lodges today have too much power and many abuse it. Legitimizing the muzzling of any dissent brings Freemasonry far away from its roots. It would behoove Mainstream Freemasonry, in particular, to police itself and remove the corruptions and irruptions of excessive power within its ranks first before trying to tell others what to do.
“How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
It does not surprise me that Hodapp would be for something like this. His “Masonic Society” requires amity with the Conference of Grand Masters as a condition of membership. This disenfranchises 50% of all Prince Hall Freemasons who reside in the remaining states that refuse to recognize Prince Hall.
If Mainstream Freemasonry spent more time on improving its product and elevating the “Masonic experience,” and less time on what other people are doing, it wouldn’t need to have a petition like this. Create a superior product and people will flock to you. Instead what we have here is an attempt to create a MONOPOLY.
Above and beyond all this, who gave the author of this petition the right to speak for all of us? My advice – do not sign this petition.
flmii, there is one inaccuracy in your statement. You state, “This disenfranchises 50% of all Prince Hall Freemasons who reside in the remaining states that refuse to recognize Prince Hall.”
No Prince Hall Grand Lodge is spurious, or are committing fraud. Only 9 of the 44 Prince Hall Grand Lodges within the United States are currently not in amity with their state counterpart, which would reduce your percentage from 50% to 4.8% of the Prince Hall Grand Lodges, using your example. As the intent of this petition is for spurious masonic organizations, those created by random characters committing assault and battery in the name of the Craft in abandoned garages and dilapidated buildings, all while charging them more than $1500 a year for membership to something they cannot take a part of, and not from an established existing regular grand lodge as determined by the mentioned bodies, which would include all Prince Hall Grand Lodge, mainstream Grand Lodges, the Supreme Council of Louisiana, and the Feminine obediences, as they originate from the Grand Orient of France, though the last two are not regular by the standards, but not spurious either.
I also do not believe the petitioner needs permission as he speaks for himself and his position of what affects the Craft. Perhaps he has spent much time researching options of protecting unsuspecting victims at an unprecedented rate and sought to at least bring national awareness to the epidemic as very little else has stemmed the tide?
Charles M. Harper Sr.
My dear Brother,
In those 9 states rests 50% of the Prince Hall population. I’m not counting Grand Lodges, I’m counting Brothers.
I never said I was in favor of bogus Masonry just as I dislike bogus religions, but there is a difference between bogus and alternative Masonry.
I would like to stop the fraud but believe ruling acceptable only those Grand Lodges who have a lineage to the UGLE as too restrictive. Their are other Obediences, who in many cases do a better job of practicing Freemasonry than Mainstream or Prince Hall, that do not perpetrate fraud but in fact deliver a superior Masonic product. You yourself mention the Supreme Council of Louisiana and the Feminine Obediences as being regular and non clandestine. I wonder if the author of this petition consulted these Obediences as to their support of this petition.
Respectfully, I have never stated that the Supreme Council of Louisiana is regular, nor the Feminine obediences, I stated they were irregular and thus clandestine to regular standards of traditional Freemasonry, but they are not spurious. There is a distinct difference. The Prince Hall Grand Lodges in the southern aspect of the country are not irregular, nor spurious, and have repeatedly established direct lineage to the United Grand Lodge of England, so they would also not be affected.
You stated, “Their are other Obediences, who in many cases do a better job of practicing Freemasonry than Mainstream or Prince Hall, that do not perpetrate fraud but in fact deliver a superior Masonic product.”
That is your belief and in some respects, you are correct. However, most of the rituals these organizations use can be found in the College of Rites and the Allied Masonic Degree Councils. There has to be a distinctive line drawn to protect the person attracted to Freemasonry in the same manner as a consumer is protected from buying a product from a credible store. This is not suggesting that spurious masons be hauled off to jail, or anything of the sort, only that there be a specific distinction be made between Freemasonry, and what they are determined to practice, as courts have upheld in cases earlier in history, so a person searching to become a Freemason who is not one, and who is not a researcher of the sort, cannot be mislead into what they are joining.
It seems to me, as a rational adult, that given the current conditions within the Grand Lodges, it would be far wiser to attempt to repair the ship than to go chasing after boogeymen.
Once again it seems we need to have a lesson in the words “regular” and “clandestine.” Clandestine refers to pedigree much like the difference between an AKA registered dog and a mutt with no papers. Does the Masonic institution have a Masonic charter that is recognized by the UGLE and most other worldly Grand Lodges? Can it trace its lineage back to other recognized Bodies?
Regularity refers to the way Freemasonry is being practiced. Is the legend of Hiram Abiff a part of the ritual? Does the Masonic Body require a belief in Deity?. Is membership restrict to men only?
Now these are the definitions that are adhered to by Mainstream and Prince Hall Masonry but not necessarily by other Obediences who would not agree with all these conditions.
The point is that – they were irregular and thus clandestine – is not necessarily true. A duly chartered Masonic Body could be practicing irregular Freemasonry. And a clandestine Lodge could be practicing regular Freemasonry. On top of that it is possible not to be clandestine and regular but not to be recognized.
I would humbly suggest that sending a petition to the President is a joke.
Most all Masonic Bodies are civil corporations and as such the articles on incorporation they signed in the state in which they incorporated and the civil laws affecting the regulation of corporations supersede the by-laws and Constitution of any Grand Lodge so incorporated.
If you want to involve the government in policing Masonry it needs to be done at the state level. The only other reasonable avenue of approach would be for Masonry to trade mark and copyright what it does and to bring those who violate their trademarks and copyrights to court.Petitioning the President is a flight from reality.
Let’s get real!
The terms ‘regular’ and ‘clandestine’ are nothing more than the vocabulary created to support attempts to monopolize control over Freemasonry. They are now and always have been moving targets. They also are ultimately meaningless, as all functioning obediences of Freemasonry will view themselves as regular by their own lights. The UGLE in fact has no legal documents issuing from the 1717 Grand Lodge upon which to base its claims. Indeed, the first existing mention of it in writing is dated about two decades later, and that was a reference to it, not a legal document. The charter created by the Gentlemen of Charleston, when they invented the modern form of the Scottish Rite was a fabrication, which was later conveniently “lost.” So, even mainstream Freemasonry is built upon sand when it comes to the “legitimacy” of its mythic claims. Fortunately for everyone, should people choose to divest themselves of fantasy, Freemasonry does contain great teachings. It’s just that its Historical institutional structures are based upon the acquisition of power. That very motive is itself entirely un-masonic in principle. This entire effort, apart from the total improbability that it will result in anything – even if the 10,000 signatures are acquired, is nothing more than a tempest in a teapot. It’s an attempt to disparage other forms of Freemasonry with patently ridiculous claims, for no other reason than that some segments of the Masonic community are paranoid and feel threatened by diversity. It really is time to join the adult world. I apologize for being so frank and perhaps dismissive, but really. Do you have any idea how foolish all of this looks to the rest of the world?
I am really not sure why such insulting manners of expression need be used. The merits presented in opposition on the petition are argumentative at best, just as the reasons presented to substantiate the petition. The reasons presented against it have already been proven wrong in the courts. I am not sure if the arguing is against the petition itself, or the current administration of government that the petition is directed towards for assistance.
flmiii, the definition of clandestine used masonically is interpretive and irrelevant to the conversation for we are not disseminating between regular or irregular, but fraudulent thus spurious. To suggest one needs to be educated on a word used only in American ritual, and originally used masonically since the 1750’s to simply describe a masonic jurisdiction one has not established correspondence with, and which no person in the masonic world has cornered the market on the definition, is insulting. Ritually, clandestine can only be used to describe a jurisdiction one’s own is not in amity with and therefore no masonic communication or activity can ensue. Whether it is regular, irregular, or spurious, plays no part in the decision of the person to engage in the activity with the jurisdiction or not. Only the determination of whether amity has been established or not, is to be considered.
Eoghan, I do not think attention really need be given to your statements by me, but addressed by the civil courts that have already ruled in cases involving masonic jurisdictions where the parties petitioning the courts and victories in their pursuit, were able to establish the Grand Lodge of England as being the original speculative masonic grand lodge, to which more than enough primary sources have established it as the first.
The emotions presented in this conversation are a little disconcerting, and displays a lack of insight to the point of this petition, and the horrid actions in the name of Freemasonry that are being committed. Perhaps a little time performing some qualitative research into the dark world of spurious Freemasonry, rather than armchair quarterbacking, may enable some appreciation for any effort in any positive capacity to stem this epidemic. Continual cases brought forth where men are beaten so bad they are urinating blood, or walking on sand baked at 450 F resulting in permanent third degree burns on their feet,, or tied down and beaten in basements of “masonic lodges,” perhaps instead of making insulting criticisms of why a chance a petition will not succeed, one may join the pursuit and generate some actual plausible alternatives similar to what Brother Greg Stewart has suggested. I have signed his petition as well. I will sign a hundred different petitions if it will prevent men from senseless beatings in the name of the masonic institution.
You gentleman have a good day while I head back into the trenches against illegal actions being done in the name of Freemasonry. There is room next to me as one should never fear a laudable pursuit when they have truth and justice on their side.
Charles M. Harper Sr.
Author of Freemasonry in Black and White
So when an American Grand Lodge says that another American Grand Lodge is neither clandestine nor is it irregular yet it refuses to recognize it………….you say?
flmiii, you stated, “So when an American Grand Lodge says that another American Grand Lodge is neither clandestine nor is it irregular yet it refuses to recognize it,” what would I say? There is nothing for me to say as all sovereign grand lodges are free to determine who they will establish amity with, and who they will not.
An ancient Latin statesman once said, “Haec quaestio est de stercore taurus.”