Jury to be selected in Masonic law case
This extensive story gives a recap of the background of the case so far.
Member of Masons says he was wrongly expelled
Testimony began today in Haas vs. GL of WV AF&AM
Testimony describes tensions within W.Va. Masons
A Kanawha County jury heard more testimony Tuesday about how an internal struggle within the West Virginia branch of the Masons led to the sudden expulsion of two longtime members.
Expelled Masons leader says meeting was worst time of his life
A former "Most Worshipful Grand Master" of Masons in West Virginia told a Kanawha jury that the meeting during which he was unexpectedly expelled from the organization was the worst 45 minutes of his life.
Former Masonic grand master denies allegations of racism
A former grand master of the West Virginia branch of the Masons said Thursday in Kanawha Circuit Court that any allegation or insinuation of racism within the organization is "ridiculous." "[That suggestion] makes me feel disgusted," said Charles F. Coleman II, who served as grand master of the state's Grand Lodge between October 2006 and October 2007.
On Wednesday, defense lawyers asked Judge Carrie Webster to dismiss Haas' lawsuit based on the state Supreme Court's recent ruling that the state Secondary School Activities Commission, as a private, voluntary organization, had the right to enforce its own rules as it sees fit. The Supreme Court's decision Tuesday reversed Webster, who had granted a temporary restraining order and injunction against the SSAC to prevent it from enforcing suspensions against four South Charleston football players.
The Masons, similar to the SSAC, are a private organization, and with no public policy at issue, how they enforce their own laws should not be up to a court to decide, the motion argues.
Former Grand Master explains decision to expel Mason
Charles L. Montgomery, of Williamstown, said he asked Frank J. Haas, who was himself a past Grand Master of the state's Grand Lodge, to be honest about his involvement with a website called Masonic Crusade during a 2007 meeting at Haas' home lodge in Wellsburg. When Haas claimed to know nothing about it, Montgomery pulled a pre-written edict expelling Haas from his pocket, effectively excommunicating Haas from the fraternal organization.
"I tried to give [Haas and another Mason] every opportunity to say something, that they were sorry, that they would discontinue that activity [involvement with the Masonic Crusade]," he said.
When they refused -- Montgomery recalled Haas as saying, in reference to the Masonic Crusade, "The dream lives on, and will not die" -- Montgomery felt he had no choice but to kick them out of the Masons.
As Coleman had on Thursday, Montgomery disputed any suggestion that the West Virginia branch of the Masons is prejudiced against blacks.
"Nowhere in Masonry do we discriminate," he said. He conceded that the state branch, which dates back to 1866, had never had a black member until after Haas filed his lawsuit in 2008. There are now two black members, he said.
Earlier on Friday, defense lawyers John Tinney, Jack Tinney and Jim Tinney called on Greg Wentzel to testify. Wentzel said that he set up the Masonic Crusade website, and that Haas was unaware of Wentzel's involvement even though the two were part of a group of Masons from around the state who occasionally went out to dinner together and formed a discussion group on the website Yahoo.
"I never discussed [the Masonic Crusade website] with him, no," Wentzel said.
Judge: Grand Lodge did not comply with its own rules
The trial ended today at about 6pm, and deliberations will begin tomorrow morning. Judge Webster gave a summary judgement today that the Grand Lodge did breach its contract, and did not follow its own rules in the way Haas was expelled. The outcome of that will be given by the judge at the end with the other decisions. The jury will deliberate on compensatory damages concerning defamation of Haas, and about four other items.
Masons broke own rules, lawyer argues in closing
If the West Virginia branch of the Masons had followed its own rules regarding due process, an administrative law judge expelled from the fraternal organization would not have had to sue the group, his lawyer said Tuesday.
But Charles F. Coleman II and Charles L. Montgomery, the two men who succeeded Frank J. Haas as Grand Master of the state's Grand Lodge, were so upset with Haas for trying to enact progressive reforms that they summarily expelled him, said Haas' attorney Bob Allen during his closing argument in Kanawha Circuit Court.
Defense attorney Jack Tinney maintained that Haas was wrongly seeking monetary compensation for an internal dispute within a private, voluntary organization after he was ousted for failing to follow Masonic laws...
Jury sides with Grand Lodge in Mason expulsion case
A Kanawha County jury sided Wednesday with the Grand Lodge of the West Virginia branch of the Masons against a former grand master who sued after he was expelled from the group, claiming the organization had violated its own rules.
The jury declined to award Frank J. Haas, an administrative law judge from Wellsburg, any damages, even though Kanawha Circuit Judge Carrie Webster ruled that the Masons breached its contract with Haas.
The jury also decided that the state's Grand Lodge and past Grand Masters Charles F. Coleman II and Charles L. Montgomery had not defamed Haas, placed him in a false light, or committed outrageous conduct toward Haas, who was also a past grand master...
Jury finds Masons not guilty in case
A jury has determined that the Masons did not defame or damage a former Grand Worshipful Master when they threw him out of the organization.
Frank Haas, 53, of Wellsburg filed a lawsuit against the Grand Lodge in Charleston and two members of the Masons hierarchy - Charlie Montgomery and Charles Coleman. Those two men succeeded Haas as state leader of the men's brotherhood.
Haas claimed he suffered emotional distress after being unexpectedly expelled as a member in 2006, shortly after his term ended. He said other Mason leaders were unhappy that he attempted to change some of the group's restrictions on race, age and disabilities.
But after more than a week of testimony from both sides, the jury decided against Haas on all counts...