Friday, June 29, 2007

Grand and Glorious Order Knights of the Creeping Serpent

Just when you thought you'd heard it all in the Masonic fraternity, another imbroglio comes along. Such are the times that try the souls of Grand Masters. I am not posting anything secret – this letter has been circulated on the Internet over the last day or so. But good for California's GM, Most Wor:. Bro:. Melvyn B. Stein for attempting to stamp this stuff out:


OPEN LETTER FROM THE GRAND MASTER AND EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE REGARDING THE "SNAKES"
TO BE READ AT THE JULY STATED MEETING

Dear Brethren,

For more than two years, a number of lodges in California have experienced significant disharmony due to the negative influence of certain lodge members who are also members of an organization commonly referred to as "the Snakes."

Recently, we made a request that each of the 2008 lodge officers affirm in writing (form provided) the fact that he is not a member of this organization or its successors. Our request resulted in several questions being asked and it is our intention to address these issues herein.

Formally named the Grand and Glorious Order Knights of the Creeping Serpent, the Snakes is believed to have been organized by a group of Masons who wanted to continue certain types of hazing in an initiation ceremony which had been prohibited by the Shrine. Originally, the socalled Snakes were Masons who had all received this secret degree. Over time this informal, degree-centered association of Masons transformed into something more organized and dangerous to Freemasonry. Masons participating in any form of hazing ritual place our fraternity in great jeopardy and subject it to litigation due to intentional assault and battery. This was an important
reason for the Shrine to prohibit hazing. Adding to the gravity of the situation, the motives of the now more developed Snake organization threatens the stability of our lodges.

When this problem was called to the attention of the Grand Lodge in the summer of 2005, Grand Master David R. Doan ordered a thorough investigation of this organization. While we were able to gain some information about the organization in Arizona and the Philippines, no one would come forward to speak on behalf of the organization which was reported to have at least two units operating in California. Yet some of our members came forward and spoke out about what this organization was secretly plotting. We received a copy of a message reportedly from a leader of the Snakes directing its members to infiltrate the officer corps of our lodges so that they could gain influence over the lodge's decisions and control of lodge funds. Some lodges have officers who have advised in open lodge that unless a brother is a Snake he will not be eligible to be an officer in that lodge.

Many attempts have been made to communicate with the Snakes organization with no response. We asked the leadership of the Snakes organization to furnish our Grand Lodge with records of their members, facts about their initiation ceremony, and other information that would allow us to gain a better understanding of the organization. Our requests were ignored. Grand Master Doan was left with no choice but to declare the Snakes a clandestine organization and he directed all Masons in California to cease their membership in the order if they were members. This was done according to the Grand Master's responsibility in the California Masonic Code concerning other Masonic organizations which include any organization wherein membership in Masonry is a perquisite for membership. (This applies to Snakes, but could not ever be applied to an organization like the Elks, Odd Fellows, etc. that do not have the Masonic prerequisite.)

Since that time the problems have grown worse. Embezzlement of lodge funds has occurred, violence has been perpetrated upon Masons, threats have been made against family members of Masons, and factions have developed in our lodges as the result of the continuing negative influence of Masons who are believed to be members of the Snakes. This is a serious issue.

As a measure to raise awareness of the problem, give pause to any Mason who may still be a member of the Snakes, and provide the necessary evidence if requested, we have asked all of our lodge officers, beginning with the upcoming Masonic year, to make the above mentioned affirmation to the Grand
Master. It is necessary to have this affirmation in writing because any officer that is proven to be a member of the Snakes after he has signed the affirmation will be subject to Masonic charges. An oral affirmation may not be sufficient evidence in a subsequent Masonic trial. This affirmation process has been agreed upon by all of the members of the Executive Committee and we are committed to seeing that this process is continued in successive Masonic years.

Any California Mason who is a member of the Snakes and who wishes to disassociate himself from the Snakes may do so by writing a letter of renunciation and delivering it to the Grand Master at the Grand Lodge office. The letter can simply read, "I hereby renounce my membership with the Grand and Glorious Order Knights of the Creeping Serpents." The renunciation should be signed and the full name of the member should be clearly typed or written. The letter should be mailed to the Grand Lodge office at 1111 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94108. No action will be taken against any Mason who renounces his membership in the Snakes before he signs the affirmation.

We know that to many of our members this request seems odd and perhaps overly cautious. The fact is that the Snakes pose a serious danger to Freemasonry and every effort must be made to end any influence the Snakes organization or its members may have in our lodges. Asking for the affirmation may seem like punishing many for the actions of a few. We understand this concern. However, if we raise our awareness of the problem, make it known that membership in the Snakes will not be tolerated by our brethren, and subject to Masonic charges any member who deceives his lodge or the Grand Lodge about his membership in the Snakes, we might end this threat to the fraternity. We're asking you to help us break the code of silence of this dangerous organization and remove from our ranks those who are destroying our beloved Craft.

Thank you for your understanding in this matter.

Yours in service to Masonry,
(signed)
Melvyn B. Stein
Grand Master

Richard W. Hopper
Deputy Grand Master

Larry L. Adamson
Sr. Grand Warden

Kenneth G. Nagel
Jr. Grand Warden



So far what I have read about it leads me to think there is no formal organization, only a bunch of guys who have been through the ceremony and perpetrate it on others. But the day is still young.

9 comments:

A.C. said...

Very interesting... I mean no disrespect to the Grand Lodge of California if it's real, but this reads very much like the endlessly circulating fake e-mails about the dangers of gel candles or canola oil. Is this verified to have come from the Grand Lodge?

Chris Hodapp said...

Yeah, it's real. Sad to say.There's no place for this kind of juvenile stuff in Masonry. It brings to mind the accidental shooting in Patchogue, New York's lodge in 1994 as part of the "select Fellow Craft Club" within the lodge. They were just doing a good ol' boy initiation of fooling around, and a brother got shot in the head by mistake.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that they are resorting to the same kind of written affirmation of non-membership that Missouri required before you could sit in one of its Lodges during the time the Conservator movement was in flower.

And that was 1861-1865.

-- Nathan

Masonic Traveler said...

I was in open lodge when they read this proclamation, and made the announcement that all lodge leadership needed to sign the affirmations. Many looked at them as written loyalty oaths and I tend to agree. From the stories I've gathered, they have taken the reins of several lodges, specifically some Filipino lodges, of which there are a few here. This is a hard nut to crack, short of sending agents into a lodge to see it happen first hand. At the end of the day, if something is secret, how does one prove membership?

Truthfully, I see it getting uglier before it gets better.

Nathan said...

That's exactly my point. You can require test oaths and signed affirmations all the livelong day, but you can't shut down the organization if the people in the organization don't want to shut it down. They just pull back into the woodwork, sign the proffered paper, and act like good little boys till the immediate threat is past, then go right back to doing what they were doing. The only thing that will really put a stop to it is booting a few people out for continuing to engage in an order that has been declared to be clandestine. (Of course, then you have to catch them in the act, which as you say is the hard part.)

That's why I brought up the Conservators. This kind of thing has been going on probably since day one of Masonry. The problem today is that it actually does touch on very real issues of risk management that our antient brethren didn't have to worry about. And that is worrisome, particularly in view of what happened not that long ago in New York.

(And Chris, wasn't that in 2004, not 1994?)

Chris Hodapp said...

Yes, 2004. I am a dummy. As you know.

Anonymous said...

This "snake" thing is scary to say the least. If we we put one and one together, it reads something out of a Francis Ford Coppola movie. Specially considering that these guys are within our ranks-freemasons.

I researched it on the net and here's what I gathered.

The Snake's website in the Philippines (www.freewebs.com/ggokcsphils/index.htm) said that they started in "1960"-so it's been a while.

"It was organized by Freemasons at Oriental Lodge No. 20 in California, USA and went to Yuma, Arizona, USA that year. It was organized with the assistance of several prominent Freemasons in Phoenix, Arizona, USA."

Get this, the group claims that "every Grand Master of the State of Arizona, USA became a member since 1960."

It also claims to have more than 200 members in the state of California and New Mexico alone and some 200 more in the Philippines. That number is no laughing matter!

Their stated ideals are right out of the masonic textbook, e.g., brotherly love, friendship, charity. But when you cross referrence these things to the California letter it gets scary-violence perpetrated upon Masons, threats have been made against familiy members of Masons, wide-spread factions in the Craft, embezzlement of funds, etc.

Seriously, these guys make Freemasons look bad!

And what about its members in other jurisdictions? With all due respect to our filipino brethren, their members have been clearly identified as having a direct link to this group. I mean. shouldnt the Philippine Grand Lodge do something about it, too? Incidentally, I was in the Philippines a while back in the 70's and their monitor is almost a copy of California's monitor. Brethren there have told me that the Philippine Grand Lodge owes its roots to California. So, what's up with this?!!!

Just my two cent on this issue, I agree with what Nathan said, the only thing that will really put a stop to it is booting a few people out. Time to defend the Craft!

Anonymous said...

My feeling is that the actions of the GL of CA smack of helplessness, and that they are misguided and not very well thought out.

If brethren beat up candidates, embezzle funds, or threaten others with violence, then guess what---that´s already unmasonic conduct, and it can be prosecuted by GL right now. Similarly, if an organization is declared clandestine, then membership in it is forbidden to masons as it stands, without the need for further ¨affirmations".

It seems to me that instead of addressing the actual problems, the violence, the threats, and the embezzlement, membership in some oddball organization is used as a convenient proxy. If that were so, then going after the "Snake" label would have the same function as focusing on young males of middle-Eastern descent at security checks---it would help solve an enforcement problem.

Only, it doesn´t. Unlike being young, a male, and to a lesser degree middle-eastern looking, being a "Snake" is not an easy-to-detect property of someone. Indeed, in the absence of any kind of access to their membership rosters, detecting that property relies either on personal "confession" or on the testimony of others. Thus it´s somewhat difficult to see how picking this property as an enforcement proxy could be of any help.

GL officers justify the new requirement for installed officers to sign affirmations of non-"Snake" membership as an attempt to "change the culture", and cite some recent success of having people coming forward as evidence that it works. That seems to be very confused on a number of levels---most importantly, since no affirmations have had to be signed yet, it seems obvious that anything that has happened so far cannot be attributed to them. It´s more likely that simply bringing this stuff up in lodge and educating people about this issue has had some effect on people.

So bottom line, I don´t think that GL´s recent actions on this issue show a lot of very good judgment. They don´t seem to be clearly linked to any actual objective, and it´s not obvious how they could materially affect anything or anybody. That said, it´s probably a good idea to educate people on what is and what is not proper in Masonry, and to keep tabs on situations that appear to spin out of control.

-- jwj

mody said...

Dear Bretheren,
Im a pddgm with masonic district 1-c
in manila.Grandlodge of the Phil.I think that both Grandmasters of California,and the Philippines should meet asap to thresh out plans and strategies to contained these clandestins snakes.I heard that its also proliferating here in the Philippines especially metro manila lodges.
fraternally
vw bro..Gonzales,Pm,PDDGM GLP