This landed in the email today.
We don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note. Only notes that are different can harmonize. The same is true with people.
― Steve Goodier
Life’s like the piano and the violin, it’s about how smart you could play the melodies to make a good harmony.
― Lucy ‘Aisy
The lessons of life often come hard. It takes years and a lot of hurt sometimes to “get it.” And it takes a giant of a human being to “let go.”
Such a man is Arkansas Prince Hall Grand Master Cleveland Wilson.
I know. I have talked with him face to face many times.
The easy way out is to wag your finger, to wall yourself up in your own little world, to bunker down and say the hell with everybody else. But that’s not the way of Freemasonry.
Freemasonry is universal and a light unto the world. Even when there is contention where no contention should exist, Freemasonry can heal the darker side of man if you will just listen to its message.
Grand Master Cleveland Wilson is listening. He knows the true meaning of Freemasonry. And so he is going to take the high road and to be out front as a healer and practitioner of peace.
That’s why Grand Master Wilson has issued a proclamation that the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Arkansas will recognize all and every legitimate Bodies of Free and Accepted Masons who recognize Prince Hall wheresoever dispersed across the face of the globe. Whether that Body recognizes the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Arkansas or not, it doesn’t matter.
42 states now recognize Prince Hall. Very few of them recognize Prince Hall Arkansas. Now Prince Hall Arkansas recognizes them all.
Here is the way I see the thinking of Grand Master Wilson.
We’re going to love you whether or not you love us back. It’s the 21st century. We are moving on. We are not going to be about conflict, contention or competition with anybody. We’re into what Freemasonry is all about – peace and harmony.
Now that’s a man who “gets it,” who has “let go.” That’s a great Mason who is taking the high road.
The text of note, at the end of the document, saying:
BE IT RESOLVED, that it shall be the policy of the M.W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Arkansas to recognize and offer to enter into fraternal relations with any all Grand Lodges which (1) hold a seat in the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America, Inc. and (2) have entered into an agreement, treaty, or compact or recognition with the M.W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge who is a member of the Conference of Grand Masters of Prince Hall Masons, Inc. in their respective state, and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that policy shall be made effective 22, February 2014.
You can view the original Prince Hall of Arkansas Recognition Letter here.
This action taken by Shrine International was not made in a vacuum. You will remember that The Grand Master of Arkansas, as the result of a petty squabble, banned all Masons from being Shrine members.
“As a result of all of the foregoing the Grand Master adopted his “scorched earth” policy against Shriners in Arkansas by issuing an edict that anyone who remained a Shriner in Arkansas had to self-expel himself from Masonry by December 15, 2012 or he, without any trial, would expel them from Masonry. Further he would not allow any Masonic lodge to issue a demit from Masonry to any Shriner (rightly fearing that such Masons would join Masonic lodges in other states). This is Masonry as it is presently practiced in the Grand Lodge of Arkansas.” – Theodore Corsones
In order to survive the two Shrine Temples in Arkansas had to take on additional members and they, by virtue of the Grand Master’s edict, could not be Masons. Now this ruling by the Shrine only applies to Arkansas, no other states, and is the direct result of the actions of a rogue Grand Lodge purging its jurisdiction from all who will not submit to tyrannical rule.
The following is a letter issued by Imperial Potentate Alan Madsen
Imperial representatives of Shriners International voted to make a change to its articles of incorporation regarding membership at the 139th Imperial Session. The prerequisite requiring that members of Shriners International are first members of Freemasonry (Masons) in good standing has been amended to exclude the requirement for the state of Arkansas.
This legislation was brought forth by the two Shrine temples in Arkansas following the Arkansas Grand Lodge edict last November that would no longer allow anyone to remain an Arkansas Mason AND an Arkansas Shriner. Shriners International has always had a Masonic prerequisite and regrets that the actions of the Arkansas Grand Lodge made the passage of this legislation necessary to preserve the existence of the two Shrine temples in Arkansas.
Shriners International is committed to maintaining open lines of communication with the Grand Lodge of Arkansas to encourage amicable relationships for current and future Masons and Shriners. This change does not affect other Shriners across the country, and the organization remains a fraternity based on fun, fellowship and the Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief and truth. Shriners International’s primary focus continues to be its philanthropic mission to support Shriners Hospitals for Children, a world-renowned health care system with 22 facilities in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Yours in the Faith,
Alan “Al” W. Madsen
If this is true, and I would like to see some more verification, then it is a travesty of justice. Some things that a Grand Lodge does cannot be revoked or reinstated as the case may be when Grand Masters change in a Grand Lodge. You cannot play with people’s lives in this manner.
Once the Grand Lodge of Ohio granted PGM Frank Haas asylum it should be permanent and not able to be reversed. What happens to the credibility of the Grand Lodge of Ohio should the next Grand Master re-reverse the decision and reinstate Frank Haas?
The question that needs to be answered is did Frank Haas receive a Masonic Trial from his Lodge in Ohio or was he just summarily expelled? On what basis was he expelled? What was the reason?
Let’s say that in the civil world the District Attorney of Ohio should grant immunity from prosecution to an individual in return for testimony he needs to convict someone else. The individual takes the deal but when a new Attorney General is elected he reverses the deal and throws the individual in jail.
Or let’s say that in the Masonic world that a Grand Master of a certain Grand Lodge decides to heal and admit all the members of a clandestine Grand Lodge. The next year a new Grand Master reverses the decision and throws all the former clandestine members out, expels them without a Masonic trial.
You just cannot do business this way. Your word is no good if you can’t keep it and maintain some constant policies.
If this story is true, then it demonstrates once again that some American Grand Masters have too much power and are using that power arbitrarily with no regard for their Constitutions or Masonic law. Such is the sad state of American Mainstream Freemasonry that is slowly dying an agonizing death. One only needs to look at the Grand Lodge of Arkansas where a despotic, tyrannical regime riddled with KKK has reduced that Grand Lodge by attrition to 4000 members. Meanwhile the Grand Lodge of Florida is expelling all who are not members of an Abrahamic faith (mostly non-Christians).
How long are the good Grand Lodges in this nation going to allow Freemasonry to be practiced in this manner?
So what do all you legalists have to say now? If Buffington’s own Lodge found that he did nothing wrong, if the Shrine found that he did nothing wrong and if the Grand Master of Iowa found that he had done nothing wrong and refused to expel him, could it be that the Grand Lodge of Arkansas is wrong and out for a vendetta?
Such action or non action by the Grand Lodge of Iowa is setting a precedent. It follows the Grand Lodge of Ohio giving Past Grand Master Frank Haas sanctuary after being expelled from West Virginia. It looks as if Grand Lodges may not always rubber stamp support decisions by other Grand Lodges. The good old boys network is showing some cracks.
More light is shed by a letter from Theodore Corsones, General Counsel Emeritus of Shriners International and Shriners Hospitals for Children and also a Past Grand Master.
“The fault lies with the Grand Lodge of Arkansas not with Shriners International. The Grand Master of Arkansas has adopted a “scorched earth” policy against the Shrine in his Grand jurisdiction because Shriners International will not allow him to decide who should be a Shriner in Arkansas. A summary of the facts are as follows.”
“Potentate Buffington was asked to run for a second term as potentate of Scimitar Shriners – which is lawful under Shrine law. The Grand Master did not want him to do so because he wanted another Noble to have the office.”
“Potentate Buffington left it to the members of the temple to decide and the temple members elected him for a second term.”
“Social Event. Buffington had a Christmas party at a country club. Other parties were occurring at the same time. One of the other parties had a DJ who was playing extremely amplified music. The DJ was asked to lower the volume. He complied. A member of the other party went to Buffington’s party and complained that they had no right to interfere with the other party. Words were exchanged. The country club looked into the matter and found no wrong doing by Buffington. (This was not pleasing to the Grand Master)”
“Masonic Lodge. A complaint was filed in Buffington’s Masonic lodge in Arkansas alleging that Buffington conducted himself improperly at the Christmas party. The lodge investigated the matter and dismissed the complaint alleging no wrong doing by Buffington. (This was not pleasing to the Grand Master).”
“Scimitar Shriners. Buffington’s temple was asked to look into the matter. The temple did, and found no wrong doing by Buffington. (This was not pleasing to the Grand Master.) “
“Grand Lodge of Arkansas. The Grand Master then, without a trial, summarily suspended Buffington from Masonry in Arkansas and told Buffington he could appeal if he wanted to. Buffington did appeal. The Grand Master then selected the three persons who were to decide whether he was right or wrong in suspending Buffington. Needless to say, his three appointees carried out the execution of Buffington as they were expected to do by their appointment. They found Buffington guilty.”
“Shriners International. Shriners International held a hearing at the 2012 annual session at Charlotte, NC as to whether or not Buffington should be expelled from the Shrine because of being expelled from Masonry in South Carolina. A hearing was held and it was determined that Buffington was a member in good standing in Masonry in the Grand Lodge of Iowa and, therefore, he was eligible to remain a Shriner. (This was not pleasing to the Grand Master of Arkansas.)”
“Grand Lodge of Iowa. The Grand Master then asked the Grand Lodge of Iowa to expel Buffington from Masonry because he, the Grand Master of Arkansas, had done so. The Grand Master of Iowa stated that he would investigate the matter. He did conduct an investigation. He then informed the Grand Master of Arkansas that Buffington had done nothing wrong so he would not suspend or expel Buffington from Masonry.”
“As a result of all of the foregoing the Grand Master adopted his “scorched earth” policy against Shriners in Arkansas by issuing an edict that anyone who remained a Shriner in Arkansas had to self-expel himself from Masonry by December 15, 2012 or he, without any trial, would expel them from Masonry. Further he would not allow any Masonic lodge to issue a demit from Masonry to any Shriner (rightly fearing that such Masons would join Masonic lodges in other states). This is Masonry as it is presently practiced in the Grand Lodge of Arkansas.”
“Now, you have the basic facts.”
“I am proud to inform you that Shriners International is blessed to have Alan W. Madsen as its Imperial Potentate during this unprecedented time. He is standing tall for what is right and proper. He will not allow Shriners International nor Shriners Hospitals for Children to be destroyed by the unconscionable acts of those that have lost all common sense and no longer practice fraternal love and amity.”
“If you have any questions, do not hesitate to communicate with me.”
General Counsel Emeritus of Shriners International and Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Deputy General Counsel
M.W. Past Grand Master
I know that many of you who read the first article on The Grand Lodge of Arkansas versus The Shrine are looking at what has taken place from a purely legalistic and Constitutional view. If a Master Mason has been expelled from his Grand Lodge and The Shrine refuses to expel him also, then The Shrine is guilty of harboring a non Mason. But this only looks at the actions of one of the two parties, just The Shrine. What if the actions of the Grand Lodge were illegal, unconstitutional and un-Masonic in the first place? Then the first action by the Grand Lodge, if illegal, cannot make the response by The Shrine illegal. I urge all to look at both sides of the question. Perhaps this letter from the Imperial Potentate will help explain the situation and will create better understanding of the position of the Beehive when it talks about rogue Masonry practiced by tyrannical Grand Lodges.
Shriners International Response
I now report to you and present you with the facts as they occurred. My report will be a little lengthy but you are entitled to all the facts.
Floyd R. Buffington (herein “Buffington”), a Master Mason, was elected potentate of Scimitar Shriners for 2010. Under Shrine fraternal law he was eligible to serve a second year as potentate if elected. He chose to seek a second year. This did not meet with unanimous approval. Among those disapproving was a past potentate of Scimitar. This past potentate was supporting and nominating another Brother and Noble for the office of potentate. Efforts were made to dissuade Buffington. He chose to let the membership of Scimitar Shriners decide the issue by their ballot. They did, and chose Buffington as their potentate for a second term.
Buffington invited several of his friends to a dinner at a local country club. This was during the Christmas season and other dinners and parties were being held at the country club on the same evening. In another room there was a party for teens and the music was being provided by a disk jockey. The amplified music was very loud and was disturbing other patrons in the country club. A guest of Buffington met with the DJ and asked him to please lower the volume and then he returned to the Buffington dinner. Shortly thereafter, a mother of one of the teens (who was not a wife of a Mason and who had no Masonic affiliation) became irate at the request to lower the volume and entered the Buffington room. A verbal confrontation took place, i.e., “she said and he said.” The mother then left the Buffington room and returned to the teen party. These events at the country club were not “Masonic” events nor were they “Shrine” events.
Soon thereafter, the past potentate mentioned above communicated his displeasure with the reelection of Buffington and his “conduct” at the country club to the Grand Lodge; and the “conduct” to the directors of the country club.
Country Club Action
The directors of the country club referred the matter to the club’s investigation committee. It reviewed the entire matter and, at the conclusion of its investigation, it determined no wrong doing by persons in attendance that evening. However, a letter of reprimand would be placed in the file of the aforesaid past potentate (who was a member of the country club and who obtained permission for the dinner) as his responsibility of “hosting” the dinner required that he should have been at the country club at the time of the dinner.
Masonic Lodge Action
The disappointed past potentate mentioned above, then filed a complaint of unmasonic conduct in the lodge of Buffington. The investigating committee consisted of three Past Masters – none of whom were Shriners.
I want you to hear their own words.
“The party at the Country Club was neither a Masonic function nor a Shrine function. The party was held after the election of the new potentate for 2011. There was another party going on at the country club for teenagers and the music was intolerably loud. Different people had gone over to the loud party and asked them to please turn the music down a little. A mother of one of the girls attending the party became irate over being asked to turn the music down. She came over to the party of the Shrine people (Floyd’s party) and (she) was using foul language and there was a confrontation of words. No one could say for sure what was said. We are sure that the confrontation was not very pleasant. Under the circumstances we probably would not be very pleasant either.”
The findings of the lodge investigation committee go on to say:
“The charges brought against Floyd Buffington have a threefold problem.
“First, the man bringing the charges was not even there. Anything he knows is hearsay.
“Second, he was backing a man for potentate that lost the election (against Floyd Buffington).”
“Third, this (man who bought the charges against Floyd Buffington) received a reprimand from the Country Club over the confrontation at the Club.
“Brother Buffington was also threatened that charges would be brought against him if he did not resign as Potentate.
“It is plain that Brother Elder (the man who brought the charges against Floyd Buffington) could have underlying motives for preferring charges against the man who won the election (for potentate).
“It is our belief that this is not a Masonic problem but a Shrine problem and the Shrine should handle any problems that occur at their functions.
“It is the committee’s recommendations that (this) lodge take no action on these charges.”
As a result of this report, the Blue Lodge declined to bring any charges against Buffington.
Scimitar Shriners Action
The Shrine looked into the matter and found no cause for disciplinary action against Buffington.
At the 2012 annual session of Shriners International, the Grievances and Appeals Committee reviewed the matter and made to its report to the Representatives stating that Buffington was a member in good standing in a Masonic lodge located outside of Arkansas and that no action against him was warranted. The Representatives, by their unanimous vote, concurred and the matter was concluded.
Grand Lodge of Arkansas Action
The rumblings from Grand Lodge continued and, finally, Buffington received a letter from the Grand Lodge stating that he was suspended from Masonry – “effective immediately” because of the Country Club situation. The suspension letter went on to say:
“While every Freemason has a right to express himself, we must each maintain the responsibility of doing so in a behavior consistent with our Obligation and in a moral and upright manner. You have “allegedly” consistently failed to meet these standards of conduct and proven to be reprehensible in your general behavior and language.” The letter went on to say “you are hereby ordered to remove all Masonic emblems such as rings, lapel buttons, car emblems, etc. immediately upon receipt of this notice or if caught additional charges will be filed.”
So, by virtue of the pen of a Grand Master, without any hearing of any kind, by the Grand Lodge of Arkansas, the potentate of Scimitar was suspended from Masonry. The letter went on to inform Buffington that the Grand Lodge would subsequently convene a trial to hear his case. It did not mention, however, that the trial commission would consist of members personally selected by the Grand Master – the same Grand Master who suspended Buffington from the Grand Lodge.
Later, Buffington received a letter from the chairman of the Grand Lodge Trial Commission. He stated that he had been appointed by the Grand Master to serve as chairman of the Grand Lodge Trial Commission to conduct a Masonic trial on charges of unmasonic conduct in that he allegedly used foul and inappropriate language in front of women and children. And that these charges were filed by the Grand Master of Arkansas. So, the Grand Master files the charges and then this same Grand Master appoints the members of the trial commission to try Buffington.
This letter concludes that the “Trial Commission’s proceedings are not governed by Rules of Law, and character witnesses will not be allowed.” The last sentence then foretold of the outcome of the Trial Commission appeal by saying, “Should you choose not to be present at the trial, I have enclosed a “self-expulsion form.
Well, Buffington did attend the hearing before the trial commission with Masonic Bro. Larry Holt as his counsel, knowing full well that the outcome would be in accordance with the wishes of the Grand Master. Buffington presented the facts as they actually occurred and responded to all questions asked. You would be proud of the manner in which he faced this special trial committee of the Grand Master.
It was, of course, to no avail. The members of this special trial commission found in favor of the man who appointed them – the Grand Master.
Since that date, there have been many expulsions of Shriners from Masonry by the Grand Lodge. All the elected officers of the two Shrine temples in Arkansas have been expelled for attending Shrine meetings; or for allowing a fax machine in an office to be used to transmit a message about the treatment of brothers by the Grand Lodge; and others have been forbidden from driving Shrine children to and from Shrine hospitals.
Finally, Bro. Larry Holt who defended Floyd Buffington before the Grand Lodge was expelled. He received a letter to appear at Grand lodge on a date certain at 1:00 p.m. No reason for his attendance was given to him. He arrived at 1:00 p.m. and at 1:05 p.m. he received a letter of expulsion from the Grand Lodge.
Let me read just a few paragraphs of a letter that was written by a worthy and respected Mason about the situation in Arkansas:
“Brethren, I am not here to defend or condemn the Shrine, the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, or the Grand Lodge. I am here to defend a Master Mason who is no different than you or me. Is he perfect? No. Has he made mistakes? Yes. But so have you and I. He has done nothing worse than things that you and I have done? Jesus said “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”
“Some of you may think that Floyd and I are real close pals. Nothing is farther from the truth. I hardly know Floyd. I have seen him in lodge a few times and we are friends but not close friends. However, I do know when a man is being railroaded. I would defend any Master Mason that is treated in this manner.
“This whole mess stems from disgruntled Shriners who are upset over losing the election for Potentate in 2011. There was a man appointed to the Grand Lodge investigation committee who once told Floyd that if he did not resign as Potentate that charges would be brought against him. I don’t know how he got on the investigation committee, but I know it insured that charges would be brought.
“The man who brought the charges originally is a Shriner and a board member of the Country Club. He was very upset because Floyd won reelection as potentate and that his man lost. So, even though he had arranged the party at the Country Club, he did not attend. When the Shriners would not remove Floyd the only other thing he could do was to personally bring charges against Floyd in his Blue Lodge. When that didn’t work his last alternative was the Grand Lodge.
“The actions at the Country Club are not why this brother is being charged. Floyd was told by the member of the investigation committee that if he would resign as Potentate that charges would not be brought.
“When the matter was sent to his home lodge, I was on the investigation committee along with two other Past Masters. Our findings were the same as the Supreme Shriners findings. There is no wrong doing here and a trial is not warranted. That should have been the end of it.
“Ego, ambition, politics, wealth, domination, power and superiority are the driving forces behind all wars and even disagreements between two people. Master Masters are supposed to be above all of this. Question: What came you here to do? Answer: To learn to subdue my passions and improve myself in Masonry. Are we learning to subdue our passions here? No, we are learning how to dominate others.
“I think that the action taken by the Country Club was all that was necessary. They reprimanded the man who was not there to supervise the party that he set up.” The same man who brought charges against Floyd Buffington.”
My fellow Nobles, according to my best judgment the Grand Lodge has already suspended or expelled numerous Masons who are members of Scimitar and Sahara Shriners. More are in the pipeline. The Grand Lodge has brought these two temples to their knees but they continue to believe in the greater good of human nature. It is no exaggeration to say that you are their last hope.
There are literally hundreds of examples that I can recite to you about the attitude of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas toward Shriners, but I will instead move on.
The seemingly prejudicial Grand Lodge of Arkansas is at it again.
Once again a Grand Lodge, this time the Grand Lodge of Arkansas, has taken steps to make Freemasonry exclusive rather than inclusive; parochial instead of universal.
In past moves around the Masonic spectrum we have seen African Americans blocked, Pagans and non Christians ejected, those employed in the liquor industry removed, women obviously barred, Democrats and Liberals prohibited access, Catholics and Jews prohibited. Now it seems members of Shrine International are out. Pretty soon, if you stand there and let them get away with this nonsense, you will be out.
This is the Grand Lodge that declared a generic Prince Hall produced Masonic license plate clandestine. This is the Grand Lodge that prohibited its members from E-Mailing or communicating with one another electronically with one another. This is the Grand Lodge that deliberately shut down its own website (you can see a review of the original site here).
Notice once again that if you violate the Grand Lodge you must SELF EXPEL yourself.
If you choose not to then they will expel you WITHOUT A MASONIC TRIAL . That’s the same choice they offered Derek Gordon.
Do northern Grand Lodges not see the light after Florida? And now this? What will it take to create some kind of mutuality of purpose and means?
These rouge Grand Lodges are practicing a kind of bogus Freemasonry AND MAINSTREAM MASONRY NEEDS TO PULL RECOGNITION FROM THEM!
The letter from the Arkansas reads:
The M. W. Grand Lodge of Arkansas
Free and Accepted Masons
November 1, 2012
M:.W:. Robert L. Jackson
700 Scott Street
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
To: All Master Masons of Arkansas
To: All Subordinate Lodges in Arkansas
To: All Appendant Masonic Bodies in Arkansas
To: All grand Jurisdictions
To: Shrine International
After carefully considering the facts, I have made the determination that the Imperial Shrine has essentially engaged in the creation of clandestine masons. The reasoning is that the Imperial Shrine requires as a prerequisite to membership that the person be a Master Mason. When this Grand Lodge, and others, has taken action to expel a man from the Fraternity, the Imperial Shrine has made provision to keep him as a member. Essentially, they create the expelled person a Master Mason. This very action is in conflict with the Ancient Landmarks, and the Laws of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas. As a mason creating organization, the Imperial Shrine is not a setting member, or recognized by the Conference of Grand masters of North America, and is therefore itself clandestine.
Given our long-established prohibition against clandestinely made masons, it is my decision, and I so order that no member of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas may fraternally associate or communicate with, or be a member of any club, temple, center, or subordinate body of the Imperial Shrine. Further, according to past affirmed decisions of the Grand Lodge, to do so constitutes the penalty of immediate expulsion from our Fraternity. I remind you that each Master Mason is charged by his Obligation to safeguard the Fraternity.
A copy of the Masonic agreement with the Imperial Potentate Al Madsen, Shriners International and the Grand Master of Arkansas is being sent to each Lodge Secretary in this Grand jurisdiction for your reading. It s a document we had agreed to, but Shriners International would not allow him to sign the agreement.
Therefore, Master Masons of this Grand Jurisdiction must make a choice to either be a Master Mason or Shriner by December 15, 2012. If you choose to be a Shriner, and you are a Master mason of only the Grand Jurisdiction of Arkansas you will be required to Self-Expel to avoid violating Masonic Law and being Expelled from the Fraternity. If you are a Master Mason who holds dual masonic Membership with another Grand jurisdiction as well as your Arkansas membership and you want to remain a shriner in another jurisdiction, then you will be required to withdraw membership from the Arkansas lodge or Lodges. Thus no Arkansas Mason will be a member of the shrine. This must be done to safeguard our membership from violating our Masonic Law.
Robert L. Jackson
Grand Master of Masons in Arkansas
The Shrine International made their case in a video published on December 11th, 2012, on the matter, which is no longer on the web.
You can find the full report of the Shrines reaction in a report published on the Shriners Hospital website.
The line of development in Arkansas has risen to an overly heated debate outside of those involved. Like a gladiator battle, its true, the dirty under workings of both sides are showing as the gears turn violently towards their ultimate seizure.
We want blood, from someone.
In this, no one will be the winner. Only losers, on both immediate sides in the loss of a passionate member and the loss of credibility to a former “customer”. Both Derek and the Grand Lodge of Arkansas will be losers in this.
But then, so will the rest of us.
Not because of any public wronging or injustice, or in any flaming arrow of outside criticism. All you need to is read the breadcrumbs of comments littered on both sides of the fence. Its painfully obvious, nobody is happy.
This has a parallel with something else on my mind recently, and that has to do with Authority.
Is there an Authority to Masonry, and ultimately if so who has it?
In the realm of membership organizations (where you pay to be a member) is Freemasonry (the lodge, the Grand Lodge, the apendant bodies) truly a democracy, a co-operative (see co-op) which exists for the mutual benefit of its members like a bank credit union, a Non or For-Profit Corporation, or is it something else? Is it a corporation, designed only to facilitate an experience to its paying members like a Club Med, but with a leadership structure in place to manage and govern said experience (essentially a for profit managed corporation whose motive is to raise money to expand and grow financially with stake holders and beneficiaries). We know for a fact that it is NOT a Mutual Benefit Society, as that is something early on impressed upon us.
A Cooperative is defined as autonomous associations of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprises. Further, its definition on Wikipedia says of it: A cooperative may also be defined as a business owned and controlled equally by the people who use its services or who work at it.
I would interject here that the nature of the organization seems to most reflect the definition of a mutual benefit society, in that the tenets of Masonry mirror the attributes of such a society.
Which raises a big question as to who then owns Freemasonry. Even more so, who speaks for it?
But lets stick to Authority for the moment. Wikipedia says of the word: authority derives from the Latin word auctoritas meaning invention, advice, opinion, influence, or command. Essentially authority is imposed by superior hierarchy superior upon inferior either by force of arms structural authority or by force of argument or sapiential authority. Usually authority has components of both compulsion and persuasion.
One could suggest that authority is compelled by the idea of Leadership, which is defined as:
Leadership is stated as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.
The difference being a Leader is able to compel people to action vs. an Authority forcing them. Taken a step further, does a Co-Op have an Authority or does it have Leadership? Is it compelled into action, or is it forced?
On Hodapp’s Freemasons for Dummies blog, he recently quoted from L’Express, a French publication, about a meeting of French Masons where in their displeasure more than a 1000 Masons showed up to show their discontent. Did they show up because they were compelled, or because they had an active part in the overall process?
The problem with all of this is who are beneficiaries and who are the victims.
Those who see themselves as part of a Co-Op prefer the transparency – they see an open society as a win win for all involved and want to know what is going on to be a part of the conversation. And those who see themselves as under an authority feel that there is a violation of the institutions sanctity, that open dialog violates its privacy, secrecy, and so on, such that to even bring the conversation up is revealing its secrets. (First rule of fight club…)
I won’t mince words, I’m in the Co-Op camp. I want my Secret Society to be open to me, not governed by another internal secret society with its own motives which leans back to the corporate vs. cooperative issue.
So my big unanswered question is this: is Freemasonry a Co-Op or an Corporation? Do we, as members have a universal say in it? Or is it because so few come to lodge to vote, the say has been usurped by our own internal Patriot Act (I’ve linked an explanation of the Patriot Act for those not in the US).
So then, using the fuller definition of Authority from Wikipedia: In government, authority is often used interchangeably with the term “power”. However, their meanings differ: while “power” is defined as “the ability to influence somebody to do something that he/she would not have done”, “authority” refers to a claim of legitimacy, the justification and right to exercise that power. For example, whilst a mob has the power to punish a criminal, for example by lynching, people who believe in the rule of law consider that only a court of law has the authority to order punishment.
Authority then comes from a belief in law. Our belief in the law. We give an institution authority because we choose to exist and live by its laws.
Thankfully in the U.S. the first amendment protects our right to speak freely in the public space, to question authority (when necessary) and be publicially vocal because no other means exist to communicate cooperatively.
Because every action has a reaction, and in a Co-Op organization a disgruntled customer speaks poorly of the whole organization, and non disgruntled members should cooperatively have a right to know what Authority(Leadership) is being exercised.
Maybe I’m wrong. Is the corpus of Freemasonry not a Co-Op by definition? Is it a Non Profit? Is it a for profit? Does it in practice operate like a Benefit Society? Is it something else entirely, indefinable by civil law? Does it matter?
If no man speaks for Masonry, is there such thing as an authority that can through it?
You will remember that in their first letter to Gordon, which the Grand Lodge never sent directly to him either, stating the charges against him were: –
The sole accusation poised is based upon entry 4.0.61 in the digest. That states: “The…use of cipher rituals of the three Symbolic Degrees of Masonry is forbidden; and ANY Mason who shall hereafter…use anything purporting to be a cipher ritual or written, printed or otherwise delineated ritual or exposition of Masonry shall be expelled from Masonry.”
Now Gordon cannot remember ever having knowingly violated this provision of the Grand Constitution. So he asks for an explanation of the charges. He states that:
I stand accused of “un-Masonic conduct” for reasons that the Grand Lodge of Arkansas refused to delineate. The Grand Inquisitor (Chairman, Grand Lodge Trial Commission), John Penrod, was kind enough to inform me that I must determine the causes of action the Grand Lodge of Arkansas has against me. And, the Inquisitor refused to provide materials that might shed light on such issues.
Again after many attempts to reach the Grand Master by telephone Gordon finally is successful. He poses the same question. Please be specific and tell me where, when and how I have violated 4.0.61. The Grand Master refuses to answer. The Grand Master demanded that he come to the trial and answer all of their questions. At that time he would find out the details.
Now if you know Masonic procedure and basic legal procedure and civil rights, not to mention common decency, you know right away that the Grand Lodge of Arkansas is not handling this process correctly.
For something to compare how the Grand Lodge of Arkansas is conducting itself, here is a manual from another Grand Lodge on how to run a Masonic trial: http://www.grandlodgeofvirginia.org/education/publications/Masonic_Trial.pdf
“Aside from everything else, the internal judicial process of GL of Arkansas appears to resemble more the traditions of the Soviet Union than the best principles of the Common Law and legal heritage of England, which informs all public and other judicial process in both our countries.”
An accused person must be so under a pre-existing statute or rule (That is, no law no crime.)
- What is not forbidden is permitted
- All charges shall be clearly stated and given to the accused well in advance of any further process or trial
- The accused is presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty
- In civil law on a preponderance of the evidence and in criminal law beyond a reasonable doubt
- The accused is entitled to full disclosure of all evidence known or collected well before a hearing or trial
- The accused is entitled to know all the prosecution has, whether it is to be used in court or not
- The accused is entitled to subpoena witnesses and compel their attendance and testimony under oath
- The accused has the right of appeal to a superior bench or tribunal on points of law or new evidence
- The accused has the right of professional or expert counsel or representation
- The accused has the right to know all his/her rights at the time of arrest or at the start of any proceedings
* Evidence itself collected illegally or improperly cannot be admitted in the case against the accused
Perhaps GL of Ark. needs a course in basic civics.
Gordon thought at first that he was being charged with violation of a brand new Grand Lodge ruling made in the 2010 Grand Session because that is what Sebastian Lodge #706 was charged with.
The sequence of events and their close proximity to their execution hold the whole Grand Lodge process in suspect. First you had webmaster Gordon posting the Grand Master’s directive prohibiting the purchase of Arkansas Masonic license plates on Sebastian Lodge’s website with provision that this was not necessarily the point of view of Sebastian Lodge. Just a few days, literally 3 days, later Grand Session convenes and a new anti electronic law is passed followed by in just a few more weeks until the closing of Sebastian Lodge by the Grand Master and the initiation of charges against Gordon. A good case could be made that the Grand Lodge of Arkansas instituted the new legislation for the sole purpose of expelling Derek Gordon.
The Grand Master uses this new law to pull the charter of Sebastian Lodge and close it down.
What is on Sebastian’s website has been put there by Gordon. So it is only natural for him to initially think that the charge is related to the posting of Masonic information for public view. But Gordon is able to demonstrate that all that he has posted on Sebastian’s website he has drawn from the Grand Lodge website and other chartered Lodges of Arkansas linked on the Grand Lodge website.
THEN THE GRAND LODGE OF ARKANSAS PROMPTLY CLOSES ITS WEBSITE. So, there is no lasting proof that Gordon can point to. (The website has since relaunched)
And to further weaken the validity of its position the Grand Lodge of Arkansas is prosecuting, using a brand new law, before it has informed all its constituent Lodges that the new law was made. Sebastian Lodge receives the notification of the anti electronic communication addition to Grand Lodge’s by-laws along with the letter of charges filed against Gordon and a Masonic trial date all at the same time. That means that the Grand Lodge is proceeding against violators of its new law before anybody has been notified that the new law exists. That fact strengthens the position that the only reason they created the new law was to prosecute Gordon.
Gordon searches for another reason the Grand Lodge might be prosecuting him and remembers associating with Black Masons at Mainstream Lodges in Oklahoma and Prince Hall Masons in the military service. Since he has so informed Grand Lodge of these activities and suggested to Grand Lodge to pursue Prince Hall recognition he wonders if this is the real reason for charges being filed against him.
When you sift through all this information you have to ask yourself if this is a normal manner for a Grand Lodge to act. If you are a Mainstream Mason in say Vermont or Illinois or California or Iowa or Minnesota would your Grand Lodge be going through these contortions to purge members? And I will play a little Bill O’Reilly here – “And you say?”
The Grand Lodge of Arkansas proudly announces its purge of others also.
There are other more overriding issues here. It is not just about racism, although that surely is a component. It’s just as much about the abuse of power, un-Masonic conduct by Grand Masters and Grand Lodges, in short tyrannical leadership.
From the earliest of Speculative Masonic ages the Royal Society and Freemasonry were connected. From 1640 into its formal formation in 1660 Freemasons like Elias Ashmole, Sir Christopher Wren, Sir Robert Moray and Dr. Desaguliers brought the Royal Society and Freemasonry together in the pursuit of light. Free thinkers, leaders in the arts and sciences, political and societal action in behalf of the worth of the individual, the philosophy of the Enlightenment all characterized what Freemasonry was all about and its unique ability to harmonize many diverse elements in one body under one roof.
But as practiced in America, many Grand Lodges are no longer receptive and accepting of different opinions, practices and lifestyles. They are exclusionary not only purging Blacks, Jews and Catholics but casting out anybody who wishes to think for themselves.
Some Mainstream American Grand Lodges refuse to allow a Master Mason in their jurisdiction to express what Freemasonry means to them, to talk about Freemasonry or to think for themselves. They demand that their Brethren shut up and let the Grand Lodge do their thinking for them. They squash openness and reforms at every opportunity they get.
The power that American Mainstream Grand Lodges possess today is far stronger than 50 years ago. Before 1960 Grand Lodges were more like equal partners with their chartered local Lodges. The Local Lodge and its Worshipful Master stood supreme in the governance of its own affairs. Oh, yes there were Grand Lodge requirements, Grand Lodge forms to fill out and send in and a Grand Constitution to uphold. But rarely did a Grand Lodge attempt to mess in the affairs of a chartered Lodge under its jurisdiction. The Worshipful Master was supreme in his own Lodge and the Grand Lodge handled affairs on a District or state level while also offering advice and help when a local Lodge asked for it.
The 1960’s saw American Masonic membership take a nosedive. In response to what Grand Lodges saw as the sluggishness of its constituent Lodges to take the necessary measures to boost membership, Grand Lodges jumped in and began making demands on subordinate Lodges. Grand Lodges made the case that only they could, by pooling resources, initiate large expensive programs to attract new members. They used this excuse to then make more demands on local Lodges and take over some of their Lodge’s decision making.
The result of this power shift also had a profound influence on the financial well being of local Lodges. As Grand Lodges assumed more and more power they not only were able to reap the rewards of giant, state-wide fundraisers which only they could afford to finance but also financial backing, donations and gifts bypassed local Lodges and went directly to the coffers of Grand Lodges. Subordinate lodges became more and more financially strapped and Grand Lodges refused to send any money back down to them. As local Lodges pleaded for financial help, Grand Lodges would only provide help with strings attached. Those strings enabled them to make decisions in local Lodges that in days past would never have been allowed.
There is an old saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Now Grand Masters always have had supreme power, but the boundary line of their duty was always spelled out so that there were many avenues that were off limits to them. Once any limits to Grand Lodge power were eliminated it paved the way for a small Oligarchy to control a whole jurisdiction.
There are benevolent dictators and there are oppressive dictators. The latter sitting in the Grand East act like the potentate of a Right Wing Masonic Militia. There are many examples of this abuse of power, among the most recent are:
1) The Grand Master of West Virginia expels Past Grand Master, Frank Haas without a trial, for his reforms and policies while he was Grand Master. The Grand Master calls Frank Haas a few days before his Lodge’s Communication and asks him if he will be attending as he is going to visit the Lodge, but he gives no hint as to the nature of his visit. Then before Brothers and friends he blindsides Hass with an expulsion by edict. This Grand Lodge prohibits any discourse with “clandestine” Masons. If you can’t even speak with Prince Hall Masons it makes it pretty hard to start the process of recognition. But what is most distressing about this Grand Lodge is not just its racism but its ability to stop Master Masons from speaking out or discussing any Masonic matter.
The Millennial Mason had this to say about the situation in West Virginia at the time:
“As I am sure most of you are aware, it is a terrible, repugnant state of affairs within the borders of West Virginia for the average Mason. If he voices support for M.W.B. Frank Haas’ case, he is expelled through edict. The Grand Lodge is using hidden codes within their communications to flush out critics of their policies if that critic should give the communication to the Masonic Crusade. It is truly a story that even a fiction writer could not have invented.”
2) The Grand Lodge of Georgia through devious means convinces two Worshipful Masters to prefer charges against Gate City Lodge and its Worshipful Master for raising a black man in direct violation of the Grand Lodge statue that says non whites cannot become members. This method demands a Grand Lodge trial and bypasses the local Lodge handling of this affair. It also shields the Grand Master from direct involvement in taking this action. Eventually the charges were dropped after Gate City Lodge sued the Grand Lodge in civil court.
This brings us to the present state of affairs in Arkansas. The Grand Lodge of Arkansas is bringing Derek Gordon to trial and possible expulsion, but they refuse to be specific about what he has done wrong. In so doing they follow a pattern illustrated by Georgia, West Virginia and a host of others before them. The pattern may involve racism and, also, cultural and religious discrimination all of which are abhorrent and un-Masonic. Yet the overriding ability to act in such an un-Masonic manner can be laid at the bed of the enormous all-pervasive power Grand Lodges have assumed.
This absolute power has led some Grand Lodges to act in an arbitrary manner including some or all of the below:
- All Masonic trials are initiated by the Grand Master
- All Masonic trials are conducted by a Grand Lodge tribunal
- The Grand Master can expel by edict or on sight without a trial
- The Grand Master can pull the charter of a Lodge and close it down without having a reason or giving prior notification
- Masonic discourse outside the jurisdiction is prohibited
- Publicly discussing Masonic matters is prohibited
- Using electronic means to discuss Masonry is prohibited
- Disagreeing with the Grand Master is grounds for immediate expulsion
- Owning operating or posting on a Masonic website is prohibited
- Organizing and creating a group, club or organization of Masons outside of Lodge Communications for whatever purpose without the approval of the Grand Master is strictly prohibited.
- Writing and publishing Masonic articles, papers or books that haven’t been first approved by Grand Lodge is disallowed.
- Submitting to an interview by the press or going on a radio or TV show dealing with Masonic matters must have prior Grand Lodge approval.
The theme that runs through all this is fascism which is anathema to Masonic tradition. Those members of the Royal Society who were also Masons centuries ago were not stopped from speaking their mind. Freemasonry has always prided itself on being inclusive, not exclusionary, of permitting differences in all aspects of society to co-exist in a big tent philosophy. Some of the great free thinkers of the world, some of the greatest mystics, some of the greatest spiritualists, many of whom were never conformists, were Masons and were never expelled for their views.
Here is another way in which the Grand Lodge of Arkansas wants to cement its control as was passed in the 2010 session.
Again I have to ask is muzzling Masons a proper use of Masonic authority? And you say…………………………
Is ethnic (or individual) cleansing a permissible Masonic policy?
And you say……………………..
Should any racism be tolerated in a Masonic jurisdiction?
And you say…………………..
Do we all live on a Masonic island or is American Masonry all interconnected?
And you say………………………………
American Freemasonry has failed Derek Gordon. There are too many Neros in American Freemasonry who will fiddle while Masonry burns.
And you say………………………
If you want to help Gordon don’t write to him or waste your time addressing the Grand Lodge of Arkansas. Write, call, E-Mail your own Grand Lodge and ask them to put a stop to this kind of Freemasonry.
The true story about “un-Masonic conduct*” of a respectful brother.
By: Brother Derek Gordon Last updated on: April 5, 2010.
“After much reflection, I have concluded that the true crime for which the Grand Master wishes to accuse me has come to light. And it is a violation that I take no shame in committing.”
“As my brethren around the world have now seen, I did not provide secret information on the Sebastian Lodge website but used information from other Arkansas lodges and as well as the Grand Lodge itself. The Grand Master’s claim has been defeated by the massive trove of evidence gathered by many Masonic brethren in support of me.”
“As I was denied my right to due process, I am left to my own devices to determine why on this great earth and in this great country I would considered for expulsion. And then it occurred to me…what my violation will be. In a conversation with Grand Master Warren Martin I spoke of attending lodges in the presence of Black Masons. I openly shared my reflection of the warm conversations we had. The lodges were not in Arkansas but rather in 2 other states as well as overseas. All were mainstream lodges. I have not been invited to a Prince Hall Lodge; however, because of this process I can say that I would be honored to do so.”
“The sole accusation poised is based upon entry 4.0.61 in the digest. That states: “The…use of cipher rituals of the three Symbolic Degrees of Masonry is forbidden; and ANY Mason who shall hereafter…use anything purporting to be a cipher ritual or written, printed or otherwise delineated ritual or exposition of Masonry shall be expelled from Masonry.”
“There is only one possible way to accuse me of violating the above quote from my Notice of Trial letter. Simply put, I would have to be accused of knowingly sitting in a lodge, mainstream aside, with Black Masons. And, being that the brothers were Black Masons, it is reasonable in the eyes of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas to assume those men must be Prince Hall. I must humbly point out to the Arkansas leadership that Black men can be Mainstream or Prince Hall; Arkansas tends to frown upon certain races, religions, or origins, yet this does not mean that all other Mainstream jurisdictions must act as a unified bigot. “
“These United States have stood in solidarity against tyranny for greater than nearly 250 years. The Civil War and great Abraham Lincoln brought emancipation to all nearly 150 years ago. Just over 50 years ago, Arkansas was at the epicenter of the death of segregation when “the Little Rock 9” entered a high school for white students supported by the 101st Airborne Division. How can it be that Arkansas is one of the three states that still forces segregation of the brotherhood? Why is this tolerated? Who will stand up to such hatred? “
“Let your voices be heard along with mine. Tell Grand Master Martin Warren and Grand Secretary James Weatherall what is truly “for the good of the Masonry**.” As the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called out “Let Freedom Ring” and this time let it ring from the capital of Little Rock, Arkansas. “
“Whether the Grand Master still believes that my expulsion is “for the good of the Masonry” is for him to determine. In my heart and with a clear conscience, I can say that I will always hold the values of the Free Masons… the truly “free” Masons.”
* I stand accused of “un-Masonic conduct” for reasons that the Grand Lodge of Arkansas refused to delineate. The Grand Inquisitor (Chairmen, Grand Lodge Trial Commission), John Penrod, was kind enough to inform me that I must determine the causes of action the Grand Lodge of Arkansas has against me. And, the Inquisitor refused to provide materials that might shed light on such issues.
** The Grand Master assured the Worshipful Master and other brethren of Sebastian Lodge that revoking its charter, and my expulsion, was “for the good of Masonry.” I would disagree with that statement; but, I’m unworthy in their eyes of being a Mason.
Added note: The phone call discussing Prince Hall Masonry with the Grand Master of Arkansas took place on Wednesday, March 10th, 2010 at 8:23P.M. CST.