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


Saturday, June 04, 2011

Liquor and Freemasonry in Indiana

In the History of Freemasonry in Indiana by Daniel McDonald, published back in 1898, there is an entire chapter dedicated to the history of Indiana Masons and the banning of liquor in lodges. Liquor was quite common in Masonic meetings, or post-meeting meetings from the date of the fraternity's beginnings in the Hoosier state. It was not uncommon for hosts of grand lodge gatherings to be reimbursed for their alcoholic refreshments.

That all changed in the post-Morgan era and the cataclysmic Masonic year of 1843 (when other madness afflicted Freemasonry in the wake of the Baltimore Convention). In that year, Indiana passed the first Grand Lodge rules outlawing "intoxicating liquor as a beverage" in lodge rooms, followed by strictures against admitting members who worked in distilleries, bars, or for alcohol distributors. Masonic charges could be filed against members who so much as delivered wagonloads of apples for the making of hard cider.

Briefly, sanity returned in 1874 when, based on the fact that states like Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New York and many others did not regard liquor in the lodge as "evil," so it therefore could not be a Masonic offense in Indiana. The reasoning (certainly sound in MY opinion) was that "nothing should be declared a Masonic offense in Indiana that was not an offense wherever Masonry existed."

That didn't last long. A year later, the assembled Grand Lodge disagreed and reinstated the prohibition we have with us today.

What is interesting is the reaction of other jurisdictions. According to McDonald, Indiana was "soundly excoriated" by many grand lodges in America and elsewhere for "turning the Institution into a total abstinence society."

The Grand Lodge of New York had the following official reaction, and they were not alone:

From this action we totally dissent. It is not Masonic law. Nor has the Grand Lodge of that jurisdiction any right, nor the Grand Master any right, to enforce any such rules. The Institution of Freemasonry teaches the virtue of temperance, and punishes the offense of intemperance and excess. Our rituals are filled with exhortations forbidding the abuse of strong drinks, but their use as a beverage is nowhere forbidden. This new crusade is not warranted by the rules or traditions of Ancient Craft Masonry, and cannot be sustained as lawful Masonic action."

Hear, hear.

In 2009, the Grand Lodge of Indiana restored partial sanity by allowing temple associations to rent their facilities to groups with proper liquor licensing to serve alcohol at non-Masonic events, at least making it possible to make our facilities more attractive to the community for wedding receptions and other functions. But the traditional use of wine at table lodges remains forbidden here.

By the way, at the 139th Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Utah in February, a state known far and wide for its prohibitive liquor laws, the use of wine for ritualistic purposes was authorized.


  1. Unusual liquor restrictions in Indiana went beyond Freemasonry. About 50 or so years ago, Sunday restrictions went so far as to require that on Saturday nights, restaurants had to have all glasses that had been used for liquor to be washed and put away before midnight. While this did not bother me as a boy, it did annoy some of the older members of my family when we drove over from Chicago to go to a popular restaurant in Hammond, IN.

    Hilton Kaufman
    Chicago Lodge #437 AF&AM of Illinois

  2. One of the regulations of Bristol Lodge, in Massachusetts, established in 1797: "No liquor shall be brought into the lodge, except by order of the Master. Fighting is forbidden during the opening, or within thirty minutes of the closing of the lodge."

  3. Alcohol is allowed in California lodges: see http://www.calodges.org/no529/CMC_3_17_03.html#15050._

    Alcoholic beverages may be sold, served, and consumed on property owned by or leased to a Masonic Lodge, Temple Association, or Masonic Organization and at Masonic activities held elsewhere if the following requirements are observed:

    A. Alcoholic beverages may not be sold, served, or consumed in a Lodge room or in a room in which Masonic ceremonies are normally conducted except when such room serves a dual purpose as a ceremonial room and social room;

    B. A Masonic Lodge, Temple Association, or Masonic Organization may not maintain, on a regular or permanent basis, a bar stocked with alcoholic beverages;

    C. The funds of a Masonic Lodge or Temple Association may not be used to purchase alcoholic beverages;

    D. Alcoholic beverages may not be served, consumed, or sold during the course of a meeting of a Masonic Lodge, Temple Association, or Masonic Organization;

    E. A Masonic Lodge or Temple Association may not directly or indirectly apply for, assume title to, or operate under any government license or permit for the purpose of consuming, serving or selling alcoholic beverages, whether in, on, or away from premises owned, leased, or rented by either of them;

    F. A Masonic Lodge, Temple Association, or Masonic Organization may not rent or lease property in which it has an ownership interest to business establishments wherein alcoholic beverages are served, consumed or sold unless such service, consumption, and sale are incident to and not the primary purpose of the business; and

    G. Any sale, service, or consumption of alcoholic beverages pursuant to this section must comply with all applicable laws of the State of California. (10/96)

  4. I agree that prohibition of alcohol is overkill, I have also found that here in England, occasionally a Brother does overindulge at the Festive Board. This is embarrassing at best, and at worst (which I've never myself seen, but have heard about from other lodges) can ruin the atmosphere of brotherhood and friendship that should at all times characterise Freemasons.

    The California Rule B would impoverish many of the Masonic building associations in England. Three of the places where Lodges or other Masonic bodies to which I belong have full bars, to which the Brethren repair after Lodge and before the Festive Board. Two of these places are open to the general public during the day for food and drink.

    I suspect that anyone who became visibly intoxicated to the point that he was incapable might be asked to abstain or demit.

    W. Bro. Chris Hansen, WM
    Goliath Lodge #5595, UGLE (but speaking for himself)

  5. Chris, please differentiate between "the lodge" and "the lodge room". I'm 100% against liquor in the lodge room, but as for the rest of the building, I could care less.


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