After a scattering of comments here and there that I was painting a false picture of the West Virginia situation and that I had failed to consider that Frank Haas had violated his obligations and also the rules and regulations of the Grand Lodge of West Virginia, I stopped to reassess my position and take stock of what I had said. Could I be missing something in all this? Had I failed to realize the extent of the requirements of the Grand Lodge of West Virginia?
Well I must admit I do not have a copy of the Constitutions & By-Laws of The Grand Lodge of West Virginia and so I do not know all the ins and outs of its rules and regulations. So, ya, maybe you got me. But, however, if a Grand Lodge is going to divorce itself from the common traditions of American Freemasonry and operate outside the spirit of universal American Masonic governance, then while critics may be legally correct, I am still not going to be sympathetic.
Let's take the issue of Campaigning. In all the jurisdictions I know of that have a prohibition against campaigning (and not all do), what they are talking about is the electioneering of an individual human being aspiring to elective office. They are not talking about issues, programs or reforms. The idea that any championing of causes, reforms or programs is illegal under the No Campaigning rule just doesn't fit into the spirit of American Freemasonry.
Brothers have often said to me that if I don't like the way my Grand Lodge is operating that I should get involved, run for office and seek to change it. The idea that in so doing I would be performing an illegal act which was contrary to my Masonic obligations would not only be foreign to me but would entirely defeat the purpose of trying to make things better.
I have been told that in the Grand Lodge of West Virginia the only person that can introduce proposals to be voted on is the Grand Master. No one else can propose any legislation, programs or reforms. So the criticism that Frank Haas was visting many Lodges across the state to champion the very issues that he would introduce as Grand Master and thereafter to reintroduce the very reforms that were passed by a majority vote but rescinded by edict of another Grand Master is not something that most American Grand Lodges would find fault with.
I would say that removing legislation by edict that was just passed by a majority vote of the Grand Lodges members present in Grand Session to be something if not violating the letter of the law, certainly violates the spirit of the law. Why permit any voting at all if the Grand Master can negate anything he doesn't agree with? And how is an individual supposed to try to make his Grand Lodge better and work for immprovements if he cannot introduce any issues nor speak out for any programs or reforms? Is operating a private Masonic website in West Virginia also illegal and a violation of one's obligations? Does E-Mailing Brethren around the state or posting public essays on blogs or Masonic Internet Forums also fall into the same category? Perhaps West Virginia's slogan might be - "Don't Think, Your Grand Master Does That For You".
Next let's deal with the charge of "Giving Away Masonic Secrets". It is so charged by critics that Frank Haas did that by meeting with Prince Hall officials and that in so doing he was talking with a clandestine Masonic organization which was against the rules and regulations of his Grand Lodge and violated his obligations. Now there was no Masonic Communication here, just Masonic discourse. It is my understanding that they met at a hotel to discuss the possibility and lay the groundwork for recognition.
All the American Grand Lodges I know of have a proibition against sitting in a tyled Lodge meeting of a Lodge that has been declared clandestine by that Grand Lodge. Very few have gone to the extreme of prohibitng Masonic discourse - talking with a clandestine Mason. Which means that I can talk to my sister-in-law or a stranger at the grocery store more about Freemasonry than I can one who is clandestine. Furthernore it gives to a Grand Master the right to tell you in your private life outside the Lodge who you can associate with and who you can talk to, rights that are guaranteed to be our own decision by the Constitution of The United States. I fail to see where this type of rigid control merits itself to be in the spirit of common American Masonic usage.
If you can never, ever, ever talk to Prince Hall how are you going to work out the details of recognition with them? I suppose that's the point.
Furthermore I find the policy of The Grand Lodge of West Virginia prohibiting Lodges from any association with DeMolay or Rainbow either in providing a meeting place, advising or financing and its refusal to join in the Conference of Grand Masters an indication of just how far divorced from mainstream Freemasonry this Grand Lodge operates.
Lastly if there was merit to the charges against Frank Haas and agreement that the letter of the law should be enforced without regard to the spirit of the law, then perhaps it could have been done in an honest, ethical and Masonic manner. Frank Haas has said he was asked by the Grand Master if he was going to attend the next meeting of his Lodge and that the question was not demanding or demeaning in any way but had him thinking about possible commendations for his Lodge. When the the night of the meeting arrived and the Grand Master assumed the East, with no prior notice he rudely expelled Frandk Haas and another in front of his own father who he knew would be there also. That's the way to stick it to him!
Much more common in most Grand Lodges would be a policy of first delivering to the individual Brother written charges explaining the alleged violations and then to hold a Masonic Trial. Only when a verdict of guilty was brought back would a Grand Master then expel a Mason. No matter what the law is in West Virginia the fact that Frank Haas was not privately served and publically tried with due notice and a chance to answer the charges brought against him was a violation of his due process and the spirit of Masonic fairness. Rather the path chosen was one of secret instant expulsion -AMBUSH - with no recourse in front of all those Brethren whom he held dear in order to publically embarass and humiliate him. It is this final act that turns the stomach of those of us who actually practice the virtues of Freemasonry.