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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Lawsuit Between Virginia's Prince Hall Grand Lodge and Shrine

The July 2-4, 2009 edition of the Richmond Free Press is reporting on a lawsuit brought against the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Virginia. According to the story, 49 suspended members of Prince Hall-related organizations are suing the 5,000 member Grand Lodge and the related Order of the Eastern Star for $50 million, in what is essentially a battle over the Grand Master's and Grand Lodge's authority over the Shrine.

The MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Virginia was founded in 1875. The national Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine of North and South Jurisdictions Inc. was founded in 1893, and is headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee. (It is not related in any way to the Tampa-based mainstream Shriners International). The AEAONMS in Virginia today has 718 members, and another 309 members of the related Daughters of Isis. Just like their mainstream Masonic counterparts, to be a member of the Shrine, one first has to be a Prince Hall Freemason.

According to the lawsuit, the trouble stems from an incident in 2006 at a benefit football game in Norfolk sponsored by the Shriners. Then-Grand Master Curtis S. Vaughan Jr. allegedly became upset that he was not treated with proper respect by the Shriners. As a result, the Grand Lodge exerted a claim that Shrine Chapters in Virginia were required to seek the Grand Lodge's permission to meet and hold programs in the state. The Shrine has ignored the GL's authority. Vaughan and his successor, MW Larry D. Christian are now accused by the plaintiffs of illegally suspending more than 100 Masons who refused to give up their Shrine membership. Likewise, the PHA-related Order of the eastern Star has suspended members who refused to give up their Daughters of Isis memberships.

A May 11th, 2009 letter posted on the Shrine's website from Imperial Potentate Oliver Washington Jr. reads, in part

Many of the members of the Imperial Council and the Imperial Court Daughters of Isis
have inquired as to the Imperial Council’s response to the various actions and edicts of
those Grand Lodges “terminating fraternal relations” between A.E.A.O.N.M.S., Inc.
and the respective Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodges and summarily
suspending certain Master Masons and Eastern Stars because of their service in
Shrinedom. Please rest assured the Imperial Council is ascertaining an appropriate
reply, to squash the unlawful actions of those Grand Lodges, and their Officers
wrongfully suspending Master Mason, Eastern Stars, and interfering with the
sovereignty and business affairs of the A.E.A.O.N.M.S., Inc.

This implies that there are more Prince Hall grand lodges than just Virginia's that are attempting to put pressure on the Shrine's independence.

In mainstream jurisdictions, this kind of turf war is a rare, but not unheard of, situation. It will be interesting to see who blinks first, or indeed if the Court steps in to solve the matter.


  1. I had to read this through again because I missed that this is about the PH GL and what (I now assume is) the PH Shrine.

    I guess you can see these kinds of turf wars as a natural result of human behavior when you have "appendant" groups that are just as large - if not larger - than the parent group. The Blue Lodges have allowed the tails (Shrine, SR, and YR) to wag the dog at times.

  2. This really is a shame. I'd hate to see a Shrine vs. Grand Lodge war break out anywhere else. How regrettable.

  3. This is a very sad situation...Just goes to show how, when we allow those that are not truly entitled to hold offices into such responsibility...The Shrine and the GL are two different entities, and have always been that way, so what is the problem?...Thats like me coming to your house and telling you what to do, or how to run your house...Dont happen that way does it?


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