"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

PHA Grand Masters' Historic Reception By COGMNA

Brother Emmanuel Stanley on the Prince Hall Yahoo mailing list reports a positive development from this year's Conference of Grand Masters of North America in Louisville:

"This year history was made when the conference invited and received a delegation from the Prince Hall Conference of Grand Masters, lead by its president, MWGM Shelton D. Redden of the MWPHGL of Maryland.

GM Redden accompanied by several past and present Grand Masters and two Past Masters attended the conference and were graciously received."

Meanwhile, in the southern states where it is often alleged that racism is the order of the day in mainstream lodges, I continue to quietly discover sporadic news to the contrary. While I was in Louisville that Saturday addressing the Grand Lodge of Kentucky's Lodge education seminar, I was told that two African-American brethren were raised last year in a rural Kentucky lodge (imagine the thoughts of these men, who walked into a room of white men, properly prepared with a cabletow). Black Worshipful Masters have been elected in North Carolina and Florida this year.

And yet, I received an email from a brother in Florida where some Hoosier snowbirds claimed that Indiana mainstream lodges don't accept petitions from black men, now that we recognize the MW Prince Grand Lodge of Indiana. Never mind that the Indiana Masonic Law clarified that there was no disqualification for a black man to petition and receive the degrees – over 100 years ago.

Are there Masons, in every state, mainstream and Prince Hall, who believe their local lodge should be the last bastion of the separation of the races, the way their fathers and grandfathers always taught them? Certainly. And all of the laws and regulations passed by well-meaning people won't ever change the personal desires of all of us to pick and choose whom we will socialize with, or whom we feel comfortable around. But society itself has legally made segregation an anathema, and young professional men joining our lodges don't find discrimination in their jobs, their housing, their lunch counters or their schools. The last place they should find it is in a fraternity that teaches the brotherhood of Man under the fatherhood of God, where all men are supposed to meet on the level.

I've seen calls by some enthusiastic brethren to threaten the last few grand lodges that do not recognize their Prince Hall counterparts with derecognition until they knuckle under. Yet curiously, these are often the same men who decried the actions of northeastern grand lodges that derecognized Minnesota over the Grande Loge de France issue several years ago. Either grand lodges are sovereign or they aren't, and sabre rattling against a state's grand lodge is no way to affect change. The marketplace of ideas is where these battles will be won. Changes in the institutional attitudes of lodges will happen as more men who won't accept inappropriate language, insulting jokes or prejudicial badmouthing become officers and stop allowing such behavior from their members. And grand lodge policies will be overturned when the rank and file demand it. It will happen. It's happening now.


  1. Threats of derecognition and of other overt action to try to force PHA recognition by our Southern brethren won't do a bit of good. In fact, if they're anything like I would be in a like situation, it would serve only to make them more stubborn about it.

    All things change, given time.

  2. So sending in the federal troops to remove Gov. Faubus from blocking the school house door was also wrong?

    There comes a time when every government and every Institution or Society has to stand for what is right and truthful and good, no matter that it changes not human minds, it sets a standard and demands a position of morality. One of the Four Cardianl Virtues is Justice and Justice must be done.

    Furthermore allowing a cousin wing of your Society to openly flaunt the virtues and principles of Freenasonry and not even commenting on that transgression never mind taking action is turning away while wrong is perpetrated. Allowing anybody calling themselves Masons to openly practice racism soils the good name of Masonry everywhere. It drags the good down with the bad.

    Finally if I were to take a poll of 5000 Master Masons across this country and ask them if they would move to pull recognition from a state jurisdiction that decided to open the Craft in its jurisdiction to Atheists, I would get an overwhelming majority to say that they would. In a flash that state would be ostrasized. But for racism?.................ho hum What you are willing to stand up for says a lot about you as a person, and says a lot about a society, especially a society of morality.

    Yes we have power rested in the state GLs. But it is far beyond time when we gave up a little parochialism for a national standardization of exactly what our core principles and Landmarks are across all of American Masonry. We can do this without giving up local autonomy and control.

  3. Fred, what is the situation in Texas now?

    It's my understanding that the mainstream GL and the PHA GL agreed to recognize each other, but with no visitation.

    I have an inner conflict. I go back to the circumstances when the first mainstream GLs recognized PHA and were threatened by other GLs over it. Likewise, when the GL of Minnesota recognized the Grande Loge de France and was attacked by GLs that forced MWBro. Tilton to rescind his actions.

    So, is a Grand Lodge sovereign, or isn't it?

    And shouldn't recognition be a two way street, with both sides honoring the actions and documentation of the other? In Indiana, for example, the PHA GL won't allow the GL of Indiana to accept their demits, won't allow dual memberships, or allow their members to accept honorary memberships in non-PHA lodges.

    Am I happy about the GLs in Dixie continuing to pretend there's no racism going on, and that failure to recognize PHA GLs is really about their origin and regularity and the bogus "freeborn" issue? Of course not. But I don't see the mainstream COGMNA GLs voting to shun or strong arm a big block of its own members, precisely because of the sovereignty issue. Because every Grand Master in that room is going to have that inner dialogue about 'what if it was MY GL these guys were trying to beat up on.' When the GM of West Virginia suspends a PGM, in part, by saying the mere act of speaking to the PHA GM in his state and shaking his hand was a Masonic offense, I just don't see how public censure of a GL will be effective.

    The change will come like it is about to do in North Carolina in the next year or two. Men who feel strongly about the issue will eventually win. But it will take strong leadership within those states to refuse to take no for an answer. Until those visionary men are in place, within both mainstream and PHA GLs, and enough local Masters feel strongly enough about the issue, it isn't going to happen.

    The message all Grand Lodges need to preach is the ugliness of racism in a fraternity that is supposed to be about universal brotherhood. But as long as PHA GLs still exist that believe they "own" all black candidates, and as long as mainstream Masters allow open racism in their lodge rooms, all the threats and saber rattling in the world won't change a thing.

  4. Chris,

    You put it very well here:
    "...young professional men joining our lodges don't find discrimination in their jobs, their housing, their lunch counters or their schools. The last place they should find it is in a fraternity that teaches the brotherhood of Man under the fatherhood of God, where all men are supposed to meet on the level."

  5. Chris,the situation is Texas is that not only is there no visitation but no Masonic discourse allowed and that is coming from the GL of Texas not PHA because I have talked to the GM personally about this and he assures me that PH is willing to take part in a cross visitation program. The two Grand Lodges can not do any charity afairs together, not do any social affairs together, cannot play sports together and cannot socialize on neutral grounds. If I meet a GL of Texas Mason in a grocery store I am not even supposed to say Good Morning to him. This compact was engineered by the same GL of Texas GM who barred The Philalethes Society from the state. This is not separate but equal, this is separate and make believe the other guy doesn't exist.

    I belive in state GL sovereignty also. But I don't think that means that you can do anything, absolutely anything, without consequences. If a state GL is going to violate the priciples of Freemasonry and violate the Civil Law then somebody better think of a way to correct those wrongs without wrapping the actions of the immoral and unjust in a cloak of divine right of kings. MY GOD you can't make each GM a Pope. GMs have to answer to somebody besides God.

    Racism is against the civil law. Masons are supposed to obey the civil law. Thumbing your nose at the law and then cloaking it in absolute sovereignty is criminal. Institutions & Socities who refuse to police themselves open themselves up to state intervention. Do we really want civil authorities interfering in Masonic matters and adjudicating private Masonic problems? We will get it if we do not find a mechinism to police ourselves. Is WV not a good example of that?

    And finally your last poster says a mouthful! The Millenial Generation will not join Masonry if it has a racist tinge somewhere in it.

    I am so happy to see that your health is much better. Take care of yourself, my friend. You are a boon to all of us Mainstream or PHA.

  6. I have posted a reply, Brother Hodapp, on my blog which I hope you will find both respectful and erudite.


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