The Franklin County Commissioners in Lavonia, Georgia have denied a request by area Freemasons to dedicate their new fire station with a Masonic cornerstone.
From the Independent Mail in Anderson, SC, "Request for Masonic cornerstone at Lavonia EMS station denied" by M. J. Kneiser:
LAVONIA, Ga. -- The steel is up on the new Lavonia EMS station, but thing one that won’t be part of the new building is a Masonic cornerstone. The Franklin County chapter of the Masons had requested they be allowed to donate the cornerstone which would feature the Masonic symbol and the names of county and municipal leaders. The new station is on Gerrard Road. But the Franklin County commissioners were split in their support of the cornerstone request. The motion to approve the cornerstone was defeated in a 3-to-2 vote. Commissioners Tom Bridges and David Strickland voted in favor of it and Clint Harper, Bob Franklin and Jeff Jacques voting against the request.
Strickland made the motion that would allow the Masonic cornerstone to be installed at the station.
“I make a motion that we allow the Masons to put the cornerstone on the new EMS building in Lavonia due to the fact that it goes to show that we support the efforts of the Shriners,” Strickland said.
Strickland’s motion was seconded by Bridges, the commission’s chairman. But Harper opposed the idea. Harper said he was concerned that a Masonic cornerstone would be seen as political advertising.
“A lot of it is political,” Harper said. “This (EMS building) belongs to the citizens of Franklin County. They paid for it. As commissioners, we did not have a lot to do with it either way. I am against doing this.”
Harper said if Strickland’s motion did pass, he did not want his name on the cornerstone.
Franklin said he was worried if the county allowed the Masons to donate the cornerstone with their symbol on it, other groups would want the same thing on other county buildings.
“Lord only knows how many more,” Franklin said. “Are we going to sit up here and say it’s OK and then the next group comes along and we say, ‘We don’t want their group.’ So, I’m against it.”
Jacques recalled a similar situation in the county last year that raised ethical and conflict of interest issues.
“While it is very positive, seemingly, we had a very similar issue that arose last year where a business or group that wanted to provide a similar service to the county and we said ‘no,’” Jacques said. “I believe you’re setting yourself up on a slippery slope.”
Bridges said he had no problem with a Masonic cornerstone and pointed to other surrounding public buildings.
“I did a good bit of research and discovered quite a number of courthouses around the state have these on them, primarily because the Masons are the backbone of America,” Bridges said. “The closest one is the courthouse in Habersham County.”