Wednesday, March 19, 2008

West Virginia & Prince Hall Recognition - Where's The Solution?

I was hoping not to have to address this issue. I thought perhaps Masons finally got it, but they didn't. I see plastered all over the Masonic Internet the speech of Frank Hass before the annual national banquet of the Philalethes Society and also much ongoing talk about Prince Hall Recognition. But I don't see any solutions being advanced.

OK, we got a problem. HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM!! Well that's half the battle, admitting that there really is a problem. So we won't waste time debating whether we actually do have concerns. But if we have concerns, er problems, don't we need to address them? Everybody I have listened to and read so far seems to think there is no solution. Most say it is the private problem of the Grand Lodges and their members.

So in regards to all American Grand Lodges demanding a belief in Deity how did all Grand Lodges come to the same conclusion? OK, pick a state, any state. We will call it state X. Now state X decides to change the requirement for a belief in Deity. It will now admit atheists. So will that change Grand Lodge X's relationship with the other 49 state GLs? All of them recognize Grand Lodge X now. What that GL does is its own private affair, right? And any correction is up to the members of that GL, right? So we in the rest of the 49 state GLs will continue to sit with state X's members?

Most of you say we won't. What will we do? Pull recognition from state X's GL? You're kidding! I thought all GLs were sovereign. We would actually mess with sovereignty? But that's just one extreme example you say?

So in regards to all American Grand Lodges excluding women how did all Grand Lodges come to the same conclusion? OK, pick a state, any state. We will call this state, state Y. Now the GL of state Y decides that it will now admit women. So will that change Grand Lodge Y's relationship with the other 49 state GLs? All of them recognize Grand Lodge Y now. What state Y's GL does is its own private affair, right? Who are we to criticize what they do? And any correction is up to the members of that GL. right? So we in the rest of the 49 states will continue to sit with state Y's members?

Most of you say we won't. What will we do? Pull recognition from state Y's GL? You're kidding. I thought all Grand Lodges were sovereign. We would actually mess with sovereignty?

So in regards to Prince Hall Recognition and Black men being admitted to Mainstream Masonry how did we all not come to the same conclusion? OK, pick a state, any state. We will call this state Z. Now the GL of state Z decides to exclude Black men. So will that change the Grand Lodge Z's relationship with the other states that do admit Black men? All of them recognize Grand Lodge Z now. What state Z does is its own private affair, right? Who are we to criticize what they do? And any correction is up to the members of that GL, right? So we in the rest of the states will continue to sit with state Z's members?

Most of you say we will. And that, my friends, tells me that you will discipline another Grand Lodge for violating a belief in Deity and for admitting women but for racism you will do nothing. And all the while you are cloaking your so called reasoned argument in the right of Grand Lodge sovereignty, sovereignty when it suits the argument and no sovereignty when it doesn't.

If a Grand Lodge or a Grand Master is in violation of the moral law, civil law, the by-laws and regulations of said Grand Lodge or the virtues, principles and landmarks of Freemasonry then the Grand Lodge or its representative has overstepped its sovereignty and has forfeited it on that particular issue or action.

To give a Grand Lodge or a Grand Master the power to be un-Masonic is treasonous and self defeating. So does a Grand Lodge have sovergnity? Yes, if it obeys the laws of God and man and the Institution and Principles of Freemasonry.

But to let a Grand Lodge or a Grand Master violate those laws and say that there is nothing that can be done because sovereignty cannot be limited or disciplined is just a foolish and radically unjust position to take and what will ultimately lead to the destruction of the Craft.

So you say again, well that is still a problem of the membership of that Grand Lodge and not mine? Frank Hass said before The Philalethes Society:
"We are one large fraternity divided into grand lodges. What happens to us reflects upon you. What happens to one group of your brothers affects the whole."
And it is not easy for members under the thumb of power to challenge that power and win.

Look at the world governments out there. Was it possible to overthrow Hitler? Has anybody been able to topple Castro? Would the people of Iraq have ever been able to oust Sadaam? We watch the citizens of some of these countries brought before firing squads and murdered. Mass graves hold thousands, even millions. And we sit by and do nothing because it is not proper for the USA to butt into the affairs of another nation? People point out that they are sovereign states and its up to the citizens of that government to correct any wrongs. It's not for an outsider to do. Would you have let the Holocaust go on without stepping in?

Was desegregation in the South accomplished without the use of external force? Did not the federal government send in troops? My God, that was 40 some years ago and we in Masonry will still not do the same. We will not step in with external force and make it right. We will allow Black men to be denied, we will allow good Masons to be expelled without charges and without a Masonic trial, we will allow prostitutes to run amuck in the Shrine, yet we refuse to take any action.

We must stop thinking about the sanctity of Institutions and start thinking about the treatment and rights of people. Tomorrow I would declare the states of WV, KY, TN, NC, SC, GA, FL, MS, AL, LA, AR irregular, clandestine and unrecognized. I would call for a national convention as we had in the Baltimore convention and they would draft up a national Masonic Constitution and Bill of Rights and anybody not signing them would be declared clandestine, that is if I was still in Mainstream Masonry.

We must stop sitting on protocol and find a solution or watch our beloved Fraternity disintegrate before our eyes.


Tom Accuosti said...

Squire, just a couple of points.

The Fed was within its rights to step in because there were already Federal laws on the books. Besides, it is arguably the job of the Fed to step in when the State is doing something wrong. Note, however, that it is the Federal Government that steps in, and not the police forces from 15 other surrounding states.

As to the F&AM jurisdictions being sovereign, well, they are, and it's obvious. If Minnesota chooses to recognize a JD that no other US GL recognizes, nobody is telling MN what to do - how can they? However, should the other GLs decide to withdraw recognition, they're doing so because they choose that option.

It's a fine, but distinct point.

Furthermore (staying with the case of MN), a GL needs to ask itself what it hopes to gain from making such a significant change, vs what it gets from keeping the status quo. It's not just the GL officers, it's also the vague mutterings of the Craft at work. If 30% of the members expect to visit another state in which they can attend a lodge, then they'll want to keep the status quo.

Where does that leave MW Haas and the GL WV? I'm not sure. I don't see states choosing to drop recognition over an internal matter. Most GMs would be asking themselves "What's next?" Drop recognition because your state doesn't have a CHild ID Program? Because you allow 18 year old members? Because you break your eggs on the big end instead of the small end?

Gingerman said...

Bro. Tom,

Boy, much of what you said is right on, but then, I agree with the Squire's points as well (ain't I a good little liberal?). I agree with you up until the last three sentences. You've trivialized important issues. The WV situation, and PH(A?O?) recognition are more central than CHIP programs, and we all know what end of the egg to open!

The real problem with Squire's solution is: is it likely that it can even be done? This kind of pressure worked on Washington when they recognized African American Masonry, and were forced to recant by pressure from the other GLs, but how do you go about pulling together these groups now?

How can you convince your GL to do such a big, controversial thing? How can you call a conference that could have any sway over even a majority of Grand Lodges.

Possibly the time for rhetoric is over and the time for practical action is here. What does it look like, and how is it gone about?

bobbydale said...

Just like many others, I have been following this topic for the past few weeks. I kept telling myself that I wouldn't comment on it and would only see what everyone else has to say, but I need to speak up this time.

I am not a Mason yet. I need to make that point clear; however, I have submitted my petition and it will be read in the lodge tomorrow night. (I am excited about that!)

I acknowledge the fact that racism is still alive in well in many rural areas of Tennessee (See Pulaski, TN or Nathan Bedford Forest State Park). However, that doesn't make all of us racists. I can say from experience that being racist in Tennessee is much, much less common than it was 30 years ago.

Whether or not my future GL recognizes PH is outside of my control and many others at the given moment. If the leaders of a particular GL were that passionate about seeing recognition in another GL, I think a better approach would be to open the lines of communication with the GL in question. To take away recognition to an entire group of people is unfair.

Here is another point: I have heard that some PH GLs in the South could care less whether or not another GL recognizes them or not. I cannot verify this though.

mike said...

I think this is much more of a cultural issue than it is a racial issue. Until we address the hazing that goes on in many PH lodges, I don't think they can ever be considered mainstream. Punching or spanking candidates is just not acceptable.

mike said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Theron Dunn said...

Sorry Squire,

While I am with you on the abhorrence I have for racism, my argument equating racism and atheism was flawed when I first offered it, and repeating it does not make it right again.

One of the original tenets of freemasonry, a landmark if you will from Anderson's Constitution is that a man have faith in g-d and a bible open in lodge while at labor. As much as I hate to say it, there is nothing in Anderson's Constitution which says Prince Hall Lodges should be recognized.

In the case i offered originally, if one grand lodge withdrew the requirement for a Volume of Sacred Law and a profession of some kind of faith (interesting, that last, because some require a specific recognition of YHWH/Jesus, while others allow a VERY generic affirmation of faith at least in a generative principle...) the other grand lodges would withdraw recognition.

Now, i think not recognizing Prince Hall as regular in all respects is just a manifestation of racism. I have expanded my definition to be not allowing men of color or other faiths to join/visit instead.

Yet, how can my grand lodge tell another grand lodge, you must recognize prince hall? There is a valid if specious argument about multiple grand lodges in a jurisdiction. Also, you must know this is true, not all prince hall grand lodges see the need to be recognized as regular, or want to put so many restrictions on recognition as to make it words on paper only.

Prince Hall is not the issue we should be focusing on, but its an easy one. How can you measure allowing men of color to join a lodge as long as there is a secret ballot, so focusing on Prince Hall recognition is the easy way out, frankly.

And as I noted in my blog, the race issue in freemasonry:

withdrawing recognition, while viscerally satisfying in a punish the racists kind of way, it is my belief that we really WOULD have that masonic civil war you wrote about several years ago, and two freemasonries. I do not believe the racist grand lodges would do anything more than retrench and ignore the recognition issue.

The brethren in the lodge who are not racists and working to change the situation would have their legs cut out from under them, because the old guard would retrench and fight against the overbearing grand lodges.

Time would pass, and we would end up with a dual grand lodge system in the US, and no solution. Eventually, the regular grand lodges would start chartering lodges in the territories where there were no longer regular grand lodges.

It would be ugly, and would double the time it takes for this issue to be laid to rest. Frankly, the younger men ARE working toward changing the rules. look at West Virginia. One of the reasons the votes were set aside is they voted to recognize Prince Hall as regular!

The old guard are fighting against the change that they KNOW is coming, trying to stave it off at least through their lifetimes. Time, Patience and Perseverance WILL see this asinine racism put to bed forever.

Gord said...

Regarding 'Anderson's Constitutions' read the 'real' story here:

by Bro. LIONEL VIBERT, Past Master Quator Coronati Lodge No. 2076,