Thursday, April 24, 2008

"The Law Is A Ass"



* NOTE: This entry has been altered, based on information from the Grand Secretary of Kentucky.*

There has been a flareup of suspensions around the country in the last couple of weeks. I do wish Grand Masters would understand that so much more can be accomplished in this fraternity with whispered admonishment than with public beheadings.

Brother Charles Martin is facing a Masonic trial in Kentucky, and it is a sad situation.

Charles is a member of Bowling Green Lodge in Kentucky, as well as later affiliating with a New York lodge. It seems that during his recent posting in Iraq (he is a defense contractor), he visited a Prince Hall military lodge. Subsequent to that, he posted a description of his visit on the internet.

While New York recognizes the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New York, and members of both may intervisit, the Grand Lodge of Kentucky does NOT recognize their own Prince Hall counterpart, or any other Prince Hall GL, for that matter.

Charles - and all regular Masons, for that matter - is bound by the rules and regulations of his Mother Lodge and Grand Lodge in Kentucky first, and New York second. As a result, he faces possible suspension by the GL of Kentucky. That, in turn, will make his suspension in New York likely, as well. Hiram's Forum is the property of the GL of Indiana, and we are bound to honor his suspension, just as he would not be allowed to visit an Indiana lodge.

He spent quite some time attempting over the last few years to procure a charter for a military lodge to be formed in Iraq, but to no avail. In the modern age, military lodges have almost never been chartered by mainstream US Grand Lodges. Unfortunately for Charles and the thousands of servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan now, there is no official US Masonic presence for Masons in those countries, apart from several Prince Hall military lodges. During previous times of war, Grand Lodges looked the other way at issues of regularity and sojourning servicemen who visited lodges in foreign countries, because of this very situation. If a man was willing to risk his very life in a war zone, the issue of whether the lodge he visited was regular or not is about as low on the priorities list you could get. But it seems that the comparatively petty peacetime issues of regularity and recognition all cling on in our modern era of wartime.

This is not to criticize Kentucky - they are simply following the letter of their law. Some will undoubtedly say, 'if this is the law, then the law is a ass, a idiot,' to quote Dickens' Mr. Bumble. But breaking the law and telling everybody about it all over the web is the one sure way to wind up on the outside looking in, and will change nothing. That said, it is unfortunate that the Conference of Grand Master Masons of North America did not lead on this issue immediately after the war started and quickly respond to the situation with suggested language for Grand Lodges to adopt, if only for the duration of the war. However, with Charles' situation now spreading all over the internet, perhaps the issue will yet come up at next month's World Conference of Grand Masters in Washington.

I hope so, but I'm not counting on it.

But this is surely no way to treat Brother Masons serving in harm's way.

7 comments:

Squire Bentley said...

Grand Lodges looked the other way for those who kept their mouths shut. But when one knows that ones actions will have repurcussions and one still goes ahead and blabbers it everywhere then doesn't the question arise as to motive? Perhaps the Brother thought himself a martyr presenting himself as a sacrificial lamb for us all. When you dare a Grand Lodge and a Grand Master to do something about your violation of Masonic law in your jurisdiction you had better be ready to accept the consequences without whining and crying all over the place. I know I have been there. When I did it I was prepared for and expecting the worst and had already made other plans to move on elsewhere without complaining. Still one has to wonder in these days of Prince Hall acceptance why a Grand Master would want the negative publicity attending his actions. My question would be did the Brother in question apologize and ask for understanding and forgiveness or did he back his Grand Master into a corner from which there was only one way out?

Justa Mason said...

Chris wrote:
Charles - and all regular Masons, for that matter - is bound by the rules and regulations of his Mother Lodge and Grand Lodge in Kentucky first, and New York second.

Have you a jurisprudential source for this statement?

Justa Mason

Nathan Brindle said...

Actually, it's more like each Grand Lodge holds concurrent jurisdiction over the brother, and they agree that if the brother is suspended in one GL, he's suspended in the other. (This is a CGMMNA policy, not enshrined in law so far as I know, but it is not something I've spent any time researching, either.)

Thus if a dual member of lodges in KY and NY (or any other two states you care to name) is suspended in one of them for violating its law (even if that particular law or application thereof does not exist in the other), the other is still bound to honor the suspension, regardless of which is the "mother" GL.

In Indiana, our plural member petitions carry a statement that "[The petitioner] acknowledges further that involuntary loss of membership in one Lodge shall have a like effect in the others." Perhaps this is not the case in other states.

Chris Hodapp said...

I think it was Marcus Aurelius who wrote in Meditations during the Pannonia campaign, "Don't go "neener-neener" at authority, and then look flabbergasted when they go all 'peanut butter-jelly time" on your ass.'

2 BOWL CAIN said...

Bro Hodapp states:"But breaking the law and telling everybody about it all over the web is the one sure way to wind up on the outside looking in, and will change nothing"


Lets all calm down.
he broke NO LAWS!
he may have violated a man made grand lodge edict/code

Again, he broke NO Federal or State LAWS!!!!!

he is guilty of practicing universal brotherhood, only a violation within a small group of Grand Lodges.

So, lets get real, and realize the pettiness of the whole thing!

He broke no federal or moral laws!

He uspet racist masons. PERIOD

edicts, man made to boot,

not Laws......

Chris Hodapp said...

In my jurisdiction, we have what is called the Indiana Book of Masonic LAW. Not edicts. And they are made by the Grand Lodge in which I took my obligations.

My Grand Lodge requires my lodge to open on the MM degree for its business meetings.

My Grand Lodge requires our lodges to keep alcohol off the premises.

My Grand Lodge requires me to button my ill-fitting coat and keep my apron on the outside of it.

My Grand Lodge requires me to not let women join my lodge.

Laws, not edicts. And when I took my obligation as a Past Master I agreed to uphold those laws in my lodge.

You said:
"He broke no federal or moral laws!
He uspet racist masons. PERIOD
edicts, man made to boot,
not Laws......


I hate to burst your bubble, but the Masonic Law he broke was not a racist one. The state of kentucky has raised more black Masons in the last 12 months than the majority of jurisdictions in the US, I'd venture a guess. And the LAW that was violated has nothing to do with racism, but everything to do with a Grand Lodge's right of sovereignty. Every GL has the right to decide what GL they will and won't recognize, and I predict that, had Charles visited a Grand Orient of France lodge or one of the many opposing GLs in Mexico, or one of the confusing array of Italian grand bodies, and then described it all over the web, he would have had the exact same reaction.

News flash: Masonic laws aren't the only man-made laws that govern us in the world. At their most benign, laws keep the world running smoothly, and chaos ensues when a growing segment of the population decides that laws are for suckers. A perfect example was the decline of societal order when Prohibition turned the majority of disagreeing Americans into scofflaws and criminals.

I'm reminded of the exchange in "A Man For All Seasons":

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!


Masonic law keeps Freemasonry on a steady course. It governs our actions and keeps us within those due bounds we all talk about but never seem to put into proper context. We like to talk about the "free"part of Freemasonry, but rarely about the "duty" side of it. We have a duty to behave according to the rules our Grand Lodges have enacted - because Grand Lodge is us, you and me. If the laws are no longer valid, you and I have that same duty to change them. Not flout, skirt, shirk or ignore them. But to CHANGE them. And we can't do that from the outside or by stalking off and starting our own little private lodge. That may be gratifying personally, if momentarily. But it doesn't take the fraternity as a whole to greater heights and achievements.

I know I'm risking violation of Godwin's Law (another manmade law) by bringing up Nazis here, but the SS didn't bother to ask if the Freemasons they were tossing into concentration camps were regular or not. American GLs need to bear that in miind when deciding cases like this particular one. Wartime calls for extraordinary leadership at every level of society, including in little ol' Freemasonry.

I hope Charles' Masonic trial comes to the conclusion that he did not knowingly break Kentucky Masonic law. But I also hope that Grand Lodges all across the US will take this opportunity to examine this situation of Masons in military service and come up with recommendations to deal with the situation. If mainstream GLs won't create military lodges for servicemen, and there is no regular Masonry recognized in Kabul or Baghdad for them to visit, the least they can do is look the other way when brethren from different jurisdictions meet as brothers and share the fellowship of Masonry in the very worst conditions.

Tom Accuosti said...

2BC - Perhaps "laws" was the wrong word. He violated the regulations of his mother GL.

Many condominiums or homeowner associations have rules. You sign on for them when you buy a home in that neighborhood. Some of the rules are pretty stupid; for example, I've seen regulations that curtains or window treatments facing the street all be of a particular color (usually white or off-white). When you put up purple curtains, you usually get a letter from your manager or board of directors asking you to come back into compliance.

The newspapers always have stories about how some people in HOAs did things that were against the rules and are now in a court battle with their evil association. Recent examples are people putting up oversized flags, building tree houses, putting up playground equipment on areas not authorized, erecting tool sheds that are larger than regulations allow, and keeping more pets than allowed. Generally, the stories take the form of some poor person who is harassed because he wants to display a flag, or simply allow his children to play in the trees, or who is lonely and merely wants a couple of animals.

What the news stories rarely point out is that all of these people had an obligation and opportunity to become aware of the regulations, and all of them think that they have good reasons to violate them. And generally, most of these people did not contact their manager or board beforehand.

We all agree that Charles got a raw deal from his mother GL - if indeed, it is ever substantiated that this is what happened. But we also can not ignore that he chose to break the rules. Are they stupid rules? Under the circumstances, yes, I think that most of us agree that they are. But still, he broke them and got caught. Please allow him to be man enough to face the consequences of his own actions.