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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Arkansas: Floggings Continue, Yet Morale Doesn't Improve

(Please note: This story has been edited at 12:35PM on 9/12/16)

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, there was a stark difference between the way sailors were treated in the English Navy, versus the much, much smaller and newer American one. The upstart U.S. ship captains would treat their sailors well, share prizes of war among them as rewards, and earned the loyalty and dedication of their men. By contrast, English captains generally maintained discipline among their sailors by simply flogging them, often to death. Likewise, U.S. sailors were encouraged to know the craft of seamanship and actually learn how to chart their position at sea, whereas an English sailor who got caught trying to discover such information for himself would simply be hanged for knowing too much.

I thought about this dichotomy all week long.

I wish this hadn't been a slow news week around the Masonic world. I wish I could find another story to occupy space here this weekend. And I wish it didn't seem like I have unfairly singled out the Grand Lodge of Arkansas F&AM to spotlight over the last few weeks. I assure all of you, I have not. As I have said before, posting these stories brings me no happiness or sense of satisfaction.

But what has happened is that the cork has been taken out of the bottle and the genie has now escaped. When Arkansas tried to stamp out dissension in the ranks by forbidding electronic communication among their members about Masonic issues, and then actually charging and suspending or expelling their members for doing so, they didn't solve the very real problems that actually exist in their jurisdiction which have led to those messages and comments in the first place. As is almost always the case, attempts at a cover-up or censorship are usually far, far worse than a bad decision or simple misstep. So, now that Arkansas brethren have reached a breaking point with their leadership, the dam is breaking and the flood is starting.

In the last few days, I have received numerous entreaties from brethren within Arkansas to tell their stories, because their own brethren are forbidden to do so. I have permitted anonymous comments here because of the situation. If it was from just one crank or pest who clearly didn't play well with others or just had an axe to grind, that could be ignored. I get those all the time. But that's not the case. And as I said last weekend, it is now affecting other jurisdictions and appendant bodies, and their future fraternal relationships with the Grand Lodge of Arkansas

In the last week, at least two brethren received summonses to appear at the Grand Lodge in Little Rock, and unlike almost any other jurisdiction I have ever encountered, these summonses were accompanied by an additional letter that gave the Brother the choice to either appear personally to answer the charges, or simply sign on a line and "self-expel" from the fraternity. Failure to appear for any reason would be followed by an immediate suspension. In both cases, the registered letters containing the charges could not be picked up at the post office until the Tuesday following the Labor Day holiday. The demands to appear were scheduled for the very next day. In one Brother's situation, the drive to the location of his trial was a 3 1/2 hour trip from his home. When he called the Grand Secretary's office to request a later date because of his work commitments that he was unable to rearrange on such extraordinarily short notice, the extension was denied and he was told to simply sign the self-expulsion paper. When he mentioned that his Entered Apprentice degree had told him that his obligation to the fraternity was not meant to interfere with his duties to his family or vocation, he was informed that such considerations did not matter, and that he was simply to appear or be suspended.

In both cases, these brethren stood accused of violating the regulation against electronic communications by commenting on either this blog or on a Facebook post. It should be pointed out that an expulsion - whether self-inflicted, or officially ordered by the Grand Lodge - is for life. Few jurisdictions anywhere would ignore such a stain on the record of a Mason who attempts to join one of their lodges.

Last month, a Brother was similarly summoned to Little Rock over a post on Facebook that he had not made, but that another person had placed in the comment section of his page. It was a "meme" that showed an empty conference room table, and above each vacant chair there was a noose. The photo was captioned "Grand Lodge Officers' Meeting." His wife had posted the image, who was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star. When he saw the image himself, he immediately deleted it, but it was too late. The brother was informed that the Grand Lodge looked upon this image as a 'terrorist threat,' and he too was offered a self-expulsion option. He subsequently received just a reprimand to be read in his open lodge and entered into the minutes. But during this hearing with the Grand Master, he was actually questioned whether he professed a belief in God - over a deleted photo that his wife had posted in jest, clearly seeing the reality of the current GL politics for herself.

The next day, the Worthy Grand Matron of the Arkansas Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star was telephoned by the GM and told that one of her members had broken the law (!) by posting the now deleted photo. It was clear that if she did not immediately remove her member from the rolls, the OES in Arkansas might receive the same fate as the Shrine in that state, and declared to be a clandestine organization. The lady demitted before a committe could be assembled to investigate.
(NOTE: Please see the response to this story from Vickie Staggs, Worthy Grand Matron, in the update below.)
Just in the last two weeks since the story broke publicly about the GS denying letters of good standing to brethren seeking to move out of state, the Grand Master and Grand Secretary in Arkansas have now told several secretaries individually that there is a new way to process demits - unofficially. In the Digest of Arkansas Masonic law it says that demits are to be presented to a lodge in writing, and if there is no objection in the lodge, it will be granted by his lodge's Secretary. But the new verbal guidelines being spoken of privately now are that if an Arkansas Mason desires a demit from his lodge, he must now appear in open lodge at a stated meeting and make the request personally. It will then be sent to the Grand Secretary's office to be checked against the suspension list. It was not revealed whether such demits would actually even be issued by the GS at all. This means that if an Arkansas Mason has moved out of state, or is deployed overseas in the military, he is now expected to fly back to Arkansas in time for his lodge's stated meeting, in order to request something as simple as a demit in person - that may or may not be granted by the GL.  This is blatantly an attempt by the GL to staunch the flow of Arkansas Masons seeking to either transfer out of the state, or simply withdraw their membership until better times come down the road. This is in addition to the increasing reports of the GS office not issuing letters of good standing to Masons seeking to transfer to states that recognize their Prince Hall counterparts.

In 1961, the East Germans built the Berlin Wall for a unique purpose. Almost every border fence, wall, and barrier around the world is erected in order to keep interlopers out. It is only when someone is attempting to imprison others that such an edifice as the one in Berlin gets constructed - to keep people who wish to escape inside. It appears that the Grand Lodge of Arkansas seeks to achieve that now.

Arkansas seems to be preventing those who wish to leave voluntarily from doing so, while ridding itself of those who express even the smallest hint of complaint. This is a volunteer organization. No one has to join it, and no one has to remain. Last week, I reported that between the 13 years of 2002 and 2015, the average loss of membership across the board among all U.S. grand lodges has been 32.8%, but that Arkansas leads the nation with a combined membership loss of 56.3%. There is a reason - or perhaps even a whole host of them - for that enormous difference there. In a reply to that post, Jay Adam Pearson, PGM of South Carolina and an honorary Past Grand Master of Arkansas, mused that an examination of the demits versus deaths would perhaps give a better understanding of that data. 

But I must simply ask here what I asked him - namely, are Masons just dying in greater numbers in Arkansas than anywhere else in the country? 

Or is it something else, over a long period of time?


This morning I received a message from Vickie Staggs, the Grand Worthy Matron of the Arkansas Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star.  
The original information about the episode did not come from Mrs. Staggs, and she had nothing to do with "leaking" any private information, including any details of her conversation with the Grand Master.

I have removed the word "threatened" and some other details of the call from the article, and apologize if I erred in the precise wording of her reported conversation. I had wanted to quote her message to me, but she has not permitted me to do that. Per her request, I have made changes above, but I have not just deleted the entire episode from the post. That was her desire, and I have reluctantly not done that. Perhaps that is not the gentlemanly thing to do, but I feel it is the best thing. 

The OES operates solely at the discretion of Grand Lodge and the Grand Master. If they lose his good graces, Arkansas has made it clear they have no hesitation to simply prohibit the Masonic connection with appendant groups in that state, as with their previous action with the Shrine.  I have no desire to make things difficult  or untenable for the OES or any other appendant body either at work in Arkansas, or whose officers and members outside the state have been affected by the  current actions going on. But pressure is being brought to bear on the appendant groups now, and the situation with the OES episode is NOT isolated. Nor is it just a local one.

Masons inside and outside of Arkansas need to know that. 

Background on this situation:

3/13/10: Grand Lodge of Arkansas Pulls Charter, Files Charges Over Website
12/16/10: News From Arkansas
2/17/11: A Gathering Storm In Arkansas
2/18/11: More Sad News From Arkansas
11/9/12: Shrine Declared Clandestine in Arkansas
1/31/13: South Carolina Suspends Relations With Shriners Internationa
6/19/16: Arkansas Rumblings
6/26/16: Reprehend With Justice
8/23/16: GL of Arkansas Suspends Grand Senior Warden
8/28/16: Grand Lodge of Arkansas' Yezhovshchina: Grand Line Officers Purged
9/3/16: More Antics Out Of Arkansas


  1. "He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures." Sound familiar?

  2. Look for the thinning of the herd to accelerate. Rumor is that even "liking" a comment on football on a suspended brother's page will get you summoned. Can pulling of charters be far behind? Or threats against other appendant bodies? It's all for the betterment of masonry.

    Remember brothers, Billy Joe loves us.

  3. An Arkansas Brother sent this message to me because he was having trouble posting here. He wanted me to put it up and include his name and lodge number. I won't do that, because sometimes you have to talk a guy off the ledge. But here is his message:

    I am an Arkansas Mason.
    I am not an Elk, Rotarian, Lion, or any of the other great groups that are out there. What I am is a Blue Lodge Mason. I am part of a brotherhood of good men making great men. I am searching for light. And my hope is I can be a light for those in need. As a Mason we are all equal. There is no Mason greater than another Mason. None who hold secrets that I do not have. I will lay down my life for my brothers as they would for me.
    I live in a country where I can question my government. I can gather people who think like I do and rally for change and justice. I can speak my mind without fear or hesitation. But I do not live under a Grand Lodge where I can speak my mind. I cannot speak up and say I think this is unjust. I am told we are all equal, but in reality, my say is not as important as others deem theirs is.

    There is a lot of disharmony in my lodge. Good counsel is not whispered into a brother's ear. As a state we are not educating each other. We are not stepping up to right the wrong of our craft. We do not stand tall and be an example to all mankind.

    We sit quietly in lodge and say, "If they don't notice me, I'm ok." We are not ok every time a brother is wronged and we do not fight the darkness. We are the problem.

    I call for a complete change in our Grand line. It is time we fix our craft. We are a great brotherhood with a rich history -- a history that we are not doing justice.

    For the love of our craft and the love of our lodge, it is time we stand up. Be counted as men and Masons. I challenge every one of my brothers in our great state to stand and be heard.

    We cry that our numbers are down, that young men do not join the craft. We can't keep members showing up at lodge. The seats are empty. What are we showing the world? We have an oblation to all mankind. Are we living up to it? When we sit in lodge, is there a body in the seat but the man is empty?

    I was made a Mason at heart first.

    If you think I'm wrong talk to me. If you think I have a point, then stand up. Stand up and strengthen our brotherhood. Become the light that we seek. Do not sit idly by as our lodge continues to crumble by silent consent.

  4. At this point I would expect many Arkansas lodges to declare independence and unite to form a new Grand Lodge. There is precedent for that.

  5. Military personnel are constantly on the move, so the Arkansas procedures place an unacceptable burden on them, in contrast with the long tradition of doing everything possible to accommodate them. Where are the National Sojourners in all this? The High Twelve? the Scottish Rite? Do they simply dump their members when grand lodges dump blue lodge brethren? And Collateral bodies with African-American members in other states are placed in an impossible situation. The grand masters of other states are again shamed by their lack of action. The North American conference of grand masters, that of the grand secretaries, the George Washington memorial in Alexandria, the Masonic Service Association, already humiliated by the bigotry of some members, are further shamed if there is no action. it is impossible to claim that Masonry is a positive force for American values of freedom of speech, fair play,due process, tolerance when so much that is opposite is going on, How would we explain all this to a DeMolay teenager?

  6. This kind of organizational behavior is simply heinous. In another organization it would simply be laughable. But in an organization that purports to embody Enlightenment-era rationality and brotherhood, it is downright despicable.

    Well is it said that the sleep of reason breeds monsters. When Masonic leadership departs from the central tenets of our profession, they create a monstrosity.

    No doubt, Brother Hodapp, you are hated among the leadership in Arkansas. But in truth, you are to be commended for your role in bringing this to light.

    1. Well, something tells me I won't be invited to speak at CGMNA again anytime soon. Even when it's here in Indy in 2018.

      Doesn't really disturb my sleep at night.

    2. You might be surprised Bro Hodapp. You've provided a great service to the Fraternity by exposing this farce publicly.

    3. You sir are a patriot! This purge is senseless, and our leader is KLAN destine! This is deeper than you know!

  7. I seem to recall a similar situation back in the 1970s, that involved cover-ups, improper dismissals, and a "cancer" on the institution itself.

    The only way it was remedied was through a massive shake-up in the leadership. It appears to me that the jurisdiction of Arkansas has their own version of "Arkgate".

    I can only pray that level heads will eventually prevail and that the "cancer" in this situation be cured.

  8. I wonder why the other Grand Jurisdictions haven't weighed in on this. It looks like the present GM is treating the organization as is own Caliphate.

  9. We are all acquainted with the fact that regardless of autonomy, associations of independent colleges, hospitals, even hotels and restaurants, have minimal standards and if a compatriot doesnt meet those standards it will not be recognized by the others. No fellow member of any of the many trade associations, club associations like even model railroaders and lily hybridizers would tolerate reciprocity with the sort of things that these grand lodges are tolerating. No historical association if it heard about it would tolerate a local historical society with no mention of the African Americans in the community or on its boards, no charity like the Scottish Rite would be recognized if its officers used a gross percentage of revenue for themselves -- the point is how exceptional and extraordinary what passes for usual in some Masonic bodies has become. It is literally taken for granted, which is not only outrageous, but contageous.

  10. “It is easier to find people fit to govern themselves than people fit to govern others.”

  11. A few days ago I was sitting for a coffee with a "seeker" of the light, a potential candidate... and I tried to explain to him the noble ideals of the fraternity, the life-long work on that rough ashlar toward something better and closer to the perfect - and now I have to pray that he won't accidentally find all these disturbing news about some subhumans masquerading as Masons.

  12. Greeting from Northwest Arkansas. Masonry has really been hurt in this part of Arkansas. Prior to these suspensions, Masonry was growing, and our appendant bodies were doing excellent things. Now we are in danger of having to shut many of them down. Many Masons are either not going to participate, or have been told they are not allowed to come to this part of Arkansas or risk suspension. Some have been told to move their memberships to Little Rock. Many on here continue to advocate voting a new GL. This would certainly help, if it was allowed to happen. The real power in Arkansas sits with the Law and Usage committee. This is made up of the past grand masters. Nothing happens without their support. They ensure the sitting GM knows they can easily remove him if he doesn't comply. This is not to excuse our current grand masters actions, but he could not do what he is doing without their full support. It would take about 10 years of good people becoming a PGM's, before any change can happen under the current system. A majority of this committee must be obtained. This is almost an impossible feat, since they will remove anyone that doesn't follow their wishes. I wish we knew how to fix this, but currently we just don't see much of a way. We are secretly wishing the grand lodge will fall, so we can rebuild Masonry in Arkansas. Thanks to all who are supporting us outside of our state. There are many good Masons here in Arkansas, just not at the Grand Lodge. As we sit behind the Iron Curtain, we hope for better days ahead.

  13. As the other brother has stated, I have heard the same thing. If you even "like" an expelled member Facebook post you can be expelled. How can they justify this? If I like his post about his kids how am I breaking the law to the point of unmasonic conduct? In the last post on this site, and what we can confirm in the digest of laws, it clearly states from the GS that you cannot communicate any business when used as a forum to debate Masonic law. Masonic law. Not a Facebook friends kid picture. Can anyone please explain to me how it is possible for the grand lodge to change laws and interpret things that are not law or voted upon and they can get away with it? How can they do that? How can that be fixed? Why aren't other jurisdictions saying you can't do that Arkansas. This is 2 cases now just in the last couple of days, this issue of liking Facebook pictures that is not what the law states and the other issued brother Chris brought up about the what the law clearly states on demits. How can a legal body not stick to the code of laws approved by our membership and change it on the fly as they please without a vote? Once again brethren, this is part of the injustices we deal with in Arkansas.

  14. Gosh, it's almost like the Grand Whatevers are sticking by their dear Grand brothers in Arkansas with their silence. Is it possible, venerable PMs, that our collective adoration of our otherwise useless Grand lines is giving these men over-inflated egos and a lust for power? Of course the Grand Lodges of other states don't condemn the Grand Lodge of Arkansas. Why would they attack the status quo, when they are the status quo? The only time a Grand Officer ever shows up in Georgia is when they're telling ya about something you can't do or asking you to buy some gaudy trinket.

  15. Brethren, in most Grand Jurisdictions “Letters of good standing, demits” are granted from the Blue Lodge, not Grand Lodge. In reference to my statement “an examination of the demits verses deaths would perhaps give a better understanding of that data.” My point is remove the deaths from all equations to see a trend. You first need to determine the average age of masons in your state to learn how deaths effect the total drop in membership. The average age for master masons in SC is probably 58 years old, therefore in 12 years SC will have a drastic drop in membership due to deaths. This is based on the average age when man dies at 70 years old. If your state/jurisdiction has high numbers of brethren who are approaching 70, correspondingly the state/jurisdiction will certainly have a drastic loss on membership.
    Your friend and brother from Inman
    Jay Adam

  16. It breaks my heart to hear that Masons are suffering under poor leadership. I think that it is important for the GM to recognize that submission to his will is voluntary and his "authority" will mean nothing when Brethren refuse to gather under his leadership. His memory will be stained by the division and disharmony he has brought to the Craft. There is no righting this with him and his "team" in charge. He should withdraw and send an apology for his inflammatory and disruptive behavior. He has done more harm than good at this point, and the Craft is suffering under his leadership.

    I would also like to highlight the difficulties, even among Masons, when we cannot maintain our anonymity with Brethren who are not known to us personally. There are people that simply must not be included in the knowledge that I am a Masons, and I know Academics and Professionals who would suffer if their membership in the Craft was known widely. I appreciate your intentions at usually insisting on actual names and identifiers, but I avoid providing personal data online as much as reasonably possible

  17. The Conference issues the following Call:

    At the World Conference on Fraternalism, Paris, France -- May 27, 2017
    The Bibliotheque Nationale in cooperation with the learned societies and other sponsors.

    Grand Auditorium, Plenary Session

    "American Freemasonry is in major crisis"

    Submissions to the Conference site at

    Simultaneous Translation.

  18. Not to be a stickler, but your directive note to the update lists Vickie Staggs as the Grand Patron, not the Grand Matron. Just a typo to be sure. Cowardly in my opinion, for the Worthy Grand Matron to dismiss one of her sisters because of the GMs soft ego and bullying tactics.

    Ethan Coker

    1. Oh hell... Fixed now. Thanks very much. I looked at it five times and never caught it.

    2. Hey brother, it's still better than my article about your call with the Worthy Matron. LoL

      Ethan Coker

  19. The Grand Lodge has called a "informational meeting" to inform the fraternity about what is going on in the state. We are ordered to arrive on time and that there will be no discussion. The Master, Wardens, and secretary are "expected" to be there. Makes me wonder what happens if a far off lodge doesn't get the message or cant send anyone.......


Kindly sign your comment posts. Anonymous postings on Masonic topics have the same status as cowans and eavesdroppers, as far as I am concerned, and may be deleted if I don't recognize you or if I'm in a grumpy mood.