The following letter was passed to me today in response to the order by the Grand Master of Michigan severing recognition with the Shrine. See here for the first part of this story and the Grand Master's Letter.
Here is the response of Michael G. Severe, Imperial Potentate, Shriners international:
November 30, 2011
To the Elected Officers and Nobles of Ahmed Shriners, Elf Khurafeh Shriners, Moslem Shriners and Saladin Shriners:
By now you have received or been informed of the actions of the Grand Master of Michigan expelling Illustrious Sir Craig H. Hatch from Masonry. As you know, there are two sides to every story. In this letter I will inform you of the material facts that have come to my attention, cite our Shrine Law and present my conclusions based upon our Shrine Law.
Some time ago, the Elf Khurafeh Potentate, Craig Hatch, was arrested and charged with violating the Michigan Gaming Control and Revenue Act, a felony punishable by a year or more in jail. At his court appearance in February of 2011 Potentate Hatch and an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Michigan entered into a confidential “plea and sentence agreement” that included a plea of “guilty” by Potentate Hatch. According to Potentate Hatch’s attorney, the guilty plea was taken under advisement and an Order Delaying Sentence was entered by the Judge and the case was set for a return date in February, 2012. The final outcome of the case at that time is uncertain and among the possible results the charge against Potentate Hatch could be dismissed.
There has never been any Masonic trial of Potentate Hatch; never been any Shrine trial of Potentate Hatch; never been any criminal or civil trial of Potentate Hatch.
However, on June 14, 2011, the newly installed Grand Master of Michigan, Frederick Kaiser, issued a letter in which he ruled that the term “convicted” would henceforth be defined as either an adjudication of guilt(by either a judge or jury) or by a plea of guilty.
Then, in July, the Grand Master expelled Potentate Hatch from Masonry for the stated reason that Potentate Hatch was “convicted” of a crime punishable by incarceration of one or more years.
An appeal of this order to the Grand lodge on behalf of Potentate Hatch has been referred to the appropriate Committee for consideration and the Committee’s report at the Annual Communication on June 2, 2012.
I, as Imperial Potentate, was extremely distressed by the foregoing. Nonetheless, I asked my representatives to communicate with Potentate Hatch in an effort to present a resolution to the Grand Master that would be satisfactory to him. My representatives approached Potentate Hatch and stressed the sensitivity of the situation between the two bodies and implored him to voluntarily agree not to attend any tiled meeting or ceremonial of Masonry or the Shrine. So, even though he was in good standing with the Shrine (as the appeal of his expulsion was not final), he agreed to this recommendation for the good of peace and harmony between the Grand Lodge of Michigan and Shriners International. Thereupon, on November 1, 2011 I issued a letter to Potentate Hatch confirming his non-attendance. I believed that this would satisfy the Grand Master within the parameters of Shrine Law.
On November 11, 2011, at the request of the Grand Master, I and my General Counsels joined in a conference call with Grand Master Kaiser and his representatives. Additional conferences ensued but I followed our Shrine Law and refused to expel Potentate Hatch based upon the Grand Master’s definition of “conviction.”
Thereafter, the Grand master chose to release another letter dated November 23, 2011 wherein he issued the following orders:
It is, therefore my Order that no Mason who holds membership in a Michigan lodge or in a lodge chartered by a recognized Grand Lodge who resides or sojourns in Michigan may: (1) attend a non-public function of any Shrine in Michigan or (2) have any Masonic interaction of any kind with any Shrine organization in Michigan. Furthermore, no Shrine function or activity will be afforded a special privilege not afforded any other unrelated organization that is allowed to use a building dedicated to Masonic purposes or on the grounds of a building so dedicated.
Violation of these provisions by a Mason under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Michigan is punishable by charges of un-Masonic conduct.
This ruling is to be read at your next regular communication and spread upon the minutes of your lodge.
Shrine law is found in our General Order and our Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws.
General Order No 1. A resolution was adopted by the unanimous vote of the Representatives at the 1989 annual session of Shriners International. This resolution can be found on page 22 of General Order No. 1, Series of 2011-2012, entitled Sovereignty, Rights and Responsibilities. I urge you to read it in its entirety but call to your attention paragraph 1 thereof which states:
The Shrine is a separate and distinct legal fraternal corporation; it must abide by its articles of incorporation and bylaws; and its officers must abide by their oath of office to “strictly conform to the requirements of Shrine law.” The Shrine accepts that the various Grand Lodges all have different Masonic codes and bylaws that govern their organizations.
Bylaw. §323.8 of Shriners International Bylaws state that “If a Noble loses his membership in the prerequisite body for any reason other than non-payment of dues, the loss of membership in his temple is effective when it becomes final in the prerequisite body unless he shall file an appeal with the Imperial Recorder within 30 days after the loss of his membership in the prerequisite body.” (emphasis added)
Annotation. Expulsion of a member by his Grand Lodge does not terminate Shrine membership until that loss becomes final.
Article 30. §330.2 of Article 30 of our international bylaws states:
This Article is intended to provide the guidelines for the determination of whether an accused Noble should be disciplined, the extent of such discipline if appropriate and to assure fair play and substantial justice as these concepts are understood and practiced in North America. (emphasis added)
As Imperial Potentate, I took the following oath of office:
I do solemnly promise and vow that I will faithfully and to the best of my ability discharge the duties of the office to which I have been elected, and that I will strictly conform to the requirements of Shrine law. (emphasis added)
All temple officers take the following oath of office:
I do solemnly promise and vow that I will faithfully and to the best of my ability, discharge the duties of the office to which I have been elected, and that I will strictly conform to the requirements of Shrine law and the bylaws of my temple. (emphasis added)
Under Shrine Law, Potentate Hatch’s expulsion from Masonry and the loss of membership in his temple is effective when it becomes “final” if and when the appeal to the Grand Lodge is denied. Under our Bylaws he remains a member in good standing until that time.
As you can see, by my actions herein recited, I am fulfilling my obligations. You can do no less.
I encourage all of you to continue to support our Shrine fraternity and our Shriners Hospitals for Children.
You are to read this communication at your next meeting and make it a part of the minutes.
Yours in the Faith,
Michael G. Severe, Imperial Potentate, Shriners international
C: Imperial Divan
Grand Lodge of Michigan