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Monday, August 17, 2015

A Sad Circumstance

I received the following heartbreaking letter today:

Mr. Hodapp, 
My name is A. B., and I recently started reading your book, "Freemasons for Dummies". Unfortunately, I haven't gotten very far in the book, for a rather sad reason. 
Since several of my family members have been Masons and also Shriners, I was interested in possibly joining my local lodge here in ________. 
Per the information I was given at a public Shriner's event, I attended my first Masonic meeting about a month ago in order to find out more information about the organization. At the meeting, I asked if the fact that I have a physical disability would preclude me from joining the organization, and was told that it was a matter to be discussed in private.  
Approximately ten days passed, and I received a phone call from the Worshipful Master of the Lodge, who wanted to meet with me to discuss my admittance. The Worshipful Master was very kind, and we talked for several hours about many different topics. However, at the end of our meeting, I was informed that I would not be able to join the organization. Although very few specifics were offered, I was told that there were components to the initiation ceremony that I would not be able to do, and that, by order of the Grand Lodge, no exception or allowance could be made. The Worshipful Master said that there was wording actually written into the constitution of the organization which in some way precluded my admittance, but I wasn't given very much information. Apparently, the Worshipful Master had contacted the Grand Lodge in __________; he said he attempted to go before Jurisprudence, and finally met with the master of the lodge, and was told to drop the issue, and that I could not be admitted. 
Disgusted, I sent a lengthy email to the Grand Lodge, stating the situation. No reply has been provided. 
From what I've read in your book, it sounds as though the decision of the Grand Lodge is entirely final and binding within the state where that lodge has jurisdiction. So, it would appear that I am barred from joining any lodge in the state of _________ because of a physical disability.However, according to many other informational sources I have found, exceptions are often made for individuals with various physical disabilities and other conditions. 
My question for you is this: Do I have any other recourse in my situation, given the answer I was given by the local Worshipful Master and his conversation with the Grand Lodge of _________? It seems very strange to me and also short-sighted for an organization that prides itself on being of the utmost moral and ethical character to behave in such a discriminatory manner, especially without even providing me with concrete facts relating to the decision. At no time was I asked questions about the specifics of my disability; I was simply dismissed from consideration and told I could not join.Do you happen to know of anything in the Masonic constitution or charter that would preclude someone with a physical disability from being accepted into the order? I find it very hard to believe that my family, or any one else for that matter, would knowingly be a member of an organization that would be so callous. I should also mention that I meet all of the other stated requirements set forth both in your book and on the ________ website for admission. 
Any information you can give me would be very much appreciated. I have no desire to cause a problem for anyone or become a nuisance, but I do not feel that I've been treated fairly in this situation, and I would hate to think that something similar has happened to other good people.Thank you very much for your time and attention.
In Indiana we have a wonderful lodge called Bartimaeus Lodge U. D. that exists solely for the purpose of initiating, passing and raising men with disabilities that would normally preclude them from participating in the ceremonies of Masonry. Membership is drawn from existing Masons in the state, and the lodge has dispensation to assist any Indiana lodge with this situation. They have brought in men who are blind, confined to wheelchairs, and everything in between.

In fact, one of the most active and well known Indiana Masons is paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, and he was Master of his lodge a few years ago.

I know that many grand lodges have over the years held to a doctrine of physical perfection (Indiana actually had a law until the 1970s that any man with a truss was ineligible for the degrees of Masonry). But with the passage of time and modern day awareness of people with disabilities, I would think grand lodges would relax this requirement. It seems tragic to turn away an excited man who has a family history with the fraternity because he can't kneel or walk a floor with squared corners. Especially with so many wounded veterans in this country. Can't we come up to date, brethren?


I just got off the phone with the Grand Master of the state in question, and he said they make all sorts of accommodations for physical disabilities. Apparently the gentleman in question was extremely vitriolic with the Master and the grand lodge office, and was not the sort of man that would make a good Mason. Apparently he was nice to me, but not so nice to those involved.

The man was upset. The Master was misinformed and told the man that no accommodation could be made. The man erupted and was scathing in his correspondence to Grand Lodge. It was decided that he was too much of a hothead to pursue this any farther. The Grand Master said his letter to him would have had him up on charges, had he been a Mason.


  1. Absolutely ridiculous. There was a time when someone with a disability could be viewed as a constant burden to a lodge constantly in need of support of the brothers in all aspects of their life, but with the advances in the medical community and in turn quality of life this kind of thing is just deplorable. Some of the most active and valuable membership of my, and surrounding lodges are disabled. I don't see how we can possibly say we improve the lives of those with disabilities and take so much pride in those activities, and then turn around and tell them they aren't good enough to help do the same for others. If this was in CA, you had better bet there would be some backlash from me personally and hundreds of brothers I personally know feel the same way.

  2. This is absolutely appalling!! I know of one Grand Lodge that will not admit a man if he's not 'complete' with both arms and legs, even if those limbs were lost in war, and that was way overboard to me. This goes to another disgusting level. I've seen men sat in chairs, moved to the sidelines and other forms of accommodations made so that they may join our beloved Fraternity.

    At the same time, I've also seen men, who have no physical or mental disability, that are nothing short of babbling idiots and it leaves me wondering just how did they ever get admitted to our ranks.

    We don't need perfectly healthy men, we need good men!!

  3. I believe that like other issues that place a strangle on membership in various capacities, the literal interpretation of ritual often inhibits the greater good of the Fraternity from becoming. In this situation, the idea of the candidate being unable to provide for his family due to his physical impairments may have been relative to former times when the only work that existed was physical labor. But in modern times, men provide for the families in varies manners apart from physical labor, which makes the physical requirement spoken of in some rituals and constitutions, inapplicable. Let this man, if he be good and upright, petition a lodge of Masons.

    Sincerely and Fraternally,
    Charles M. Harper Sr.
    Worshipful Master
    Pleiades Lodge No. 478
    Grand Lodge of Illinois

  4. I have been told that in our jurisdiction here in NJ, that a Brother was or will be initiated and he is deaf. So, how can he hear the ceremony while being in a certain state, namely hoodwinked. So, If NJ can accept a man with a disability into its ranks; I'm not sure why this jurisdiction cannot do the same. Seems like they are taking the easy way out to me.

  5. I think you all missed the point. Did any of read the update before posting? Disabled or not, someone acting in that manner should never be a mason.

  6. My Lodge here in California once initiated, passed and raised a paraplegic candidate while in a wheelchair. He normally used a powered chair, but for the degrees he used an unpowered chair with his first-line signer pushing him through the ceremonies. He has been an asset to the Lodge, especially volunteering as a liaison to the local VA hospital.
    On the other hand, we have turned down petitioners who were physically healthy, but not of a character suited to be Masons.
    Al Turek
    International City Lodge #389
    Long Beach, CA


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