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


Thursday, July 30, 2020

John Lewis Funeral Brings Georgia's Grand Lodges Together

by Christopher Hodapp

(UPDATE 8:38PM 7/30/20: An earlier version of this story erroneously said Oscar Alleyne, the Senior Grand Warden of New York was in attendance. He was not. I regret the error.)

There is a post-script to Wednesday's Masonic funeral service for U.S. Congressman John Lewis in Atlanta. Before the service began, the brethren filed in, and Prince Hall Grand Master Corey D. Shackleford introduced the honored Masonic visitors. In addition to the large number of Masons from the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Georgia, there was the Grand Master of the MWPHGL of Tennessee L. Lamont Banks. 

And representing the Grand Lodge of Georgia F&AM were Most Worshipful Grand Master Johnie M. Garmon, Senior Grand Warden Donald C. Combs, and Grand Tyler William T. White. 

In the Scottish Rite, the motto and message of the 14th degree is "Virtus Junxit Mors Non Separabit - Whom Virtue Unites, Death Cannot Separate." My Latin is truly miserable, so I'll leave it to others to adequately recaption this story as "Death Unites Masons Who Have Otherwise Remained Separated." 

Let us all hope that this brief moment of unity and brotherhood is only the first opportunity for Georgia's brethren to explore greater cooperation and eventual recognition, and not just a momentary, fleeting contact never to be repeated. If recognition came from the the seeds planted at this particular funeral, there would be a certain symmetrical, symbolic properness to it.

Photo: Atlanta Journal Constitution
If you have a Facebook account, you can see the video of the Masonic service HERE.

(My apologies for not knowing who the original source was for these photographs - I assembled them from various Facebook posts today. Let me know and I will properly credit them. And yes, everyone properly wore their masks for the service, only removing them for the photos.)

UPDATE 7/31/20: 

The Atlanta Journal Constitution website features a short interview with Grand Master Shackleford HERE.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Masonic Service for Congressman John R. Lewis Wednesday 7/29

by Christopher Hodapp

NOTE: This story has been updated as of 12:01AM 7/28 to reflect corrected information about John Lewis' Masonic record. Thanks to Derinique Kendrick in Georgia for the correction and Doug Evans III for providing more details.

Illus. Brother John Robert Lewis 33° passed to the Celestial Lodge on July 10, following a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 80 years old. The Hon. John Lewis served as the U.S. Representative for the 5th District of Atlanta more than three decades, from 1987 until his death, and he was one of the last living 'leading lights' of the 1960s civil rights movement.

John Lewis was the last surviving speaker from the famous civil rights 'March on Washington' in 1963 (the occasion of Dr. Martin Luther King's celebrated "I Have a Dream" speech) — at the age of 23, Lewis was the youngest person to give a speech that day.

John Lewis was made a Prince Hall Mason 'at sight' in 1999 at H. R. Butler Lodge 23 in Atlanta, Georgia, by then-Grand Master Benjamin Barksdale of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge F&AM of Georgia

In addition to his lodge, Brother Lewis was a Scottish Rite Mason in Atlanta Consistory No. 24-A, Orient of Georgia (PHA). He was coroneted a 33°SGIG in 2011 at the United Supreme Council Session in Atlanta. And he was a Shriner in the Prince Hall-associated Khedive Temple No. 16, and later in Mecca Temple No. 10, in the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.

John Bazemore/AP
On Sunday, a horse-drawn carriage carried his flag-draped casket on a final trip across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Congressman Lewis' body will lay in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda Monday and Tuesday so that lawmakers and many others can pay their final respects in Washington, D.C. He will then be taken to the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta.

John Lewis' body laying in state in the US Capitol Rotunda
(Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Pool/Getty Images)
MW Corey Shackleford, Sr., Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge F&AM of Georgia (PHA), has announced that the last rites for the late Congressman and Mason will take place Wednesday, July 29 at 8:00 p.m., at the Georgia State Capitol in the Rotunda area. Masonic services will be performed by the officers and members of H.R. Butler Lodge No. 23 (PHA) under current COVID guidelines and restrictions.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution website is covering the almost week-long series of tributes as well as funeral and memorial services. The Masonic service might be broadcast or live streamed. Check that website on an ongoing basis for more information.

In May of 2008, then-Grand Master Akram Elias of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia honored John Lewis for his lifelong commitment to civil rights. This ceremony took place as part of the 9th World Conference of Masonic Grand Lodges at the Renaissance Washington D.C. Hotel.

It is no small irony that Lewis' own grand lodge, the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Georgia, was not then, and is not today, recognized as regular by the 51 U.S. 'mainstream' state grand lodges, including the Grand Lodge of Georgia. Masonic protocol dictated then as now that he could not have accepted GM Elias' presentation in open lodge as a Brother Mason. 

Nothing has changed in a dozen years. And there's no way to defend that situation any longer.

His column is broken, and his brethren mourn.

Requiescat in pace.

NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly named St. James Lodge No. 4 as Lewis' mother lodge, as well as membership in Nabbar Temple No. 128. I regret the errors.


Friday, July 24, 2020

Saipan Masons Donate Tower Clock to Catholic Cathedral

by Christopher Hodapp

Freemasons help their communities all over the world, and in countless ways. In the village of Chalan Kanoa on the Pacific island of Saipan, local Masons have just completed the installation of a new tower clock at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral. The cathedral is the mother church and seat of the bishop of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa. 

According to the Marianas Variety newspaper website today, the Brethren from Emon Lodge No. 179 donated the clock and their labor to install it at the Catholic cathedral. The tower's original clock was destroyed by Super Typhoon Yutu in October of 2018:

The members of the Emon Masonic Lodge No. 179 under the leadership of Worshipful Master Joel I. Subang on Wednesday turned over the new tower clock they installed at Mount Carmel Cathedral.
“I feel very much pleased to thank the brethren who worked together to make this project a reality,” Subang said, adding that the project was initiated by Very Worshipful Master Bong Malasarte... Through brotherly love, charity and faith in God, everything becomes possible,” Subang said, as he urged the Freemasons on Saipan to continue working together in serving the community."
Bishop Ryan Jimenez of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa expressed his appreciation to the Emon Masonic Lodge No. 179 for its contributions to the church.
“I am truly and sincerely grateful to all of you for your kindness and generosity. You’ve been very helpful to the community,” Bishop Jimenez said as he acknowledged Saipan Mayor David M.  Apatang and Honorary Philippine Consul to the CNMI Glicerio “Eli” Arago for their assistance and support.
“The church is just a structure; it’s just a building, but more than that building is really our faith that can withstand any storm,” Bishop Jimenez said. 
Worshipful Master Joel I. Subang
Mayor Apatang said the Emon Lodge No. 179 has been very supportive and active in the community.
“We truly appreciate it,” he said, as he thanked the Freemasons for their partnership with the local community.
A quick look across the Internet reveals that the Masons of Emon Lodge have been very active about taking on community service projects in their area. They have helped clean up after typhoons and hurricanes, they have built bus stops, assisted neighbors during storms, and much more.

While Saipan and the other Marianna Islands are U.S. Territories, Emon Lodge is chartered by the Grand Lodge F&AM of the Philippines. 

Friday, July 17, 2020

Nebraska's Prince Hall Grand Lodge Building Vandalized

by Christopher Hodapp

The Omaha headquarters of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Nebraska was vandalized and robbed last Monday night. According to a report on KETV-7, a brick was thrown through the glass front door of the 100-year old Masonic hall, and thieves then entered the building.

In addition to the shattered door, MW Grand Master Freddie L. Clopton, Jr. reports that swords and robes were stolen from the lodge room, which usually points to bored teenagers in these cases. (The TV station misspelled his name on the chyron.) But Grand Master Clopton had a remarkably sanguine and charitable response to the TV reporter on Thursday when asked about the damage. "Hopefully the person who did that – if there's anything we can do to help, that's what we're about."

The reporter was a bit hyperbolic describing the items as 'sacred.' They are merely used in putting on the ceremonial degrees of Freemasonry, but are by no means considered to be 'sacred.' Masonry is not a religion, nor are Masonic ceremonies religious in nature. The Prince Hall brethren would simply like their items returned. 

The north Omaha Prince Hall building is also home to a chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star, the Joshua David Kelley Consistory No. 27 of the United Supreme Council of Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite NMJ (PHA), and Zaha Temple No. 52 AEANOMS.

The MWPHGL of Nebraska has been raising money to help repair and renovate their historic hall, so this damage and burglary comes at a lousy time for them. If you are so inclined, they have a GoFundMe fundraising campaign going on at this time.

Back on June 12th, GM Clopton and Grand Master Ronald D. Stites of the Grand Lodge F&AM of Nebraska issued a joint message about recent violence and demonstrations across the country. "We do not approve of the hatred of racial discrimination or the destructive actions we have seen," they wrote. "But we do approve of emulating the brotherhood Masonry is built upon. We stand together as a sacred Brotherhood."

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Local Preservation Org Helps Restore North Carolina's First Prince Hall Masonic Hall

by Christopher Hodapp

The historic home of North Carolina's first African-American Masonic lodge, King Solomon Lodge No. 1 (PHA) in New Bern, is being restored to its Civil War-era appearance, thanks to local community leaders, donations and grants.

The lodge's 1870 Masonic hall, originally known as Drayton Hall, has been in distressed condition for several years. A fire in 2005 caused major damage to the structure, and since then the elements have not been kind to it. Now the New Bern Preservation Foundation is helping to raise money for the project and aiding in its restoration, and nearly $90,000 has been raised so far. The building has been continuously used as a Masonic lodge and meeting hall since it was built, and it is one of the very few structures north of Queen Street in New Bern to survive a massive, devastating fire in 1922. After the fire, the hall was actually moved several blocks to its current location.

Phase One of the project concentrates on stabilizing the building, with a new roof, new siding, historically recreated windows, restoration of the rooftop cupola, and replacement of the period-incorrect cinder block foundation.

King Solomon Lodge 1 was one of the first African-American lodges south of the Mason-Dixon Line descended out of Prince Hall's African Lodge in Massachusetts. The lodge was issued a charter by the 'National Compact' (PHO) Grand Lodge of New York in 1865 as King Solomon Lodge 23, and their Hall was named after Paul Drayton, Grand Master of the National Compact from 1862-65. In 1870, four lodges of black Masons chartered in North Carolina withdrew from the Compact and established the present Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of North Carolina (PHA). King Solomon Lodge was renumbered as No. 1 under the new grand lodge, and all four of their founding lodges are still active today.

With about 10,000 members today, North Carolina is believed to have the second largest membership of Prince Hall Masons anywhere (after Georgia). Over the years they have chartered more than 850 lodges, in the U.S. and in foreign countries, and almost 300 are still active today.

This project is a perfect example of a lodge and the community uniting to preserve and protect the heritage of Freemasonry and its legacy. 

Our historic temples and halls must not be looked upon as white elephants and money sumps to be abandoned by our members.  Look into the history of the founding of your town and you'll likely find the Masons have been there from the start. Historic preservation organizations recognize the importance of our fraternity to the development of towns and cities everywhere. 

“This is a vitally important historic structure not only to New Bern but to the entire state," said Tim Thompson, current President of the New Bern Preservation Foundation."Its architecture is important along with its historic and cultural significance... This is one of the few buildings in New Bern that we know was built by African American craftsmen and used by the African American community leaders who became state legislators and U. S. Congressmen.”

Past members of King Solomon Lodge have included James O’Hara, legislator and Congressman; Henry P. Cheatham, Congressman; and George H. White, legislator and Congressman.

Consider that Masonic lodges and our halls have been the center of civic and cultural life in thousands of communities across the country for more than two centuries. They can and should be again today. When the Master of King Solomon Lodge was interviewed about the project, he said, "The vision of making good men and women better as well as cultivating young minds for the future is of the utmost importance.”

Amen, my Brother. Amen. Now more than ever.

For more about the restoration project or to donate, CLICK HERE.

The New Bern Preservation Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, formed in 1972 to preserve the historic architecture of New Bern, North Carolina. Questions about the project can be directed by calling the NBPF office at 252-633-6448 or by emailing NBPFinfo@gmail.com.

Friday, July 10, 2020

The Celestial Lodge: Alaska PGM John 'Bo' Cline Passes

by Christopher Hodapp


My longtime friend and Masonic Brother John 'Bo' Cline, passed away from acute leukemia on Wednesday. My deepest condolences to his dear wife Beth, to Josh, Megan, and all of their family.

It has been my privilege to know both Bo and Beth since I was invited to speak at Alaska's annual communication on Kodiak Island back in 2009, when he was elected as Grand Master. Bo's honors and accomplishments are far too numerous to recount here. In addition to serving as Alaska's Grand Master, he has served as a board member of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, a member of the Board of Directors of the Masonic Restoration Foundation, and he was the third President of the Masonic Society between 2012-14. 

I just read that Bo was due to receive his honors as a 25-year member of our fraternity this month from his mother lodge, Alaska's Matanuska Lodge No. 7. 

Bo passed away on the 25th anniversary of the date of his being raised as a Master Mason.

Bo was such an incredibly multi-talented, multi-faceted man. On his Facebook page this week, Beth's brother, Jim Dodds, wrote this about Bo:
As with anyone it's hard to sum up in so many words a man's life.
With Bo it's exceedingly difficult because Bo lived an exceptional life.
He was an avid outdoorsman, brilliant engineer/scientist/mathematician, world traveler, and incredibly talented craftsman. Woodworking and brewing were his crafting passions.
To me though he was a mentor, friend, and even though he was married to my sister he seemed like a true blood brother.
He was 15 years older than me but I didn't feel that age difference.
He taught me about fishing and camping and working on the farm.
Indeed. Bo Cline was all that, and more. He was a mentor to all who knew him, and a natural leader who inspired everyone whose lives he touched. 

The COVID virus shutdowns have made all of our usual customs surrounding death and grief even more more heartbreaking than they would normally be under the best of  circumstances. Beth has requested that his Masonic Service be held later on when it is safer to gather together.

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, the prince is describing to his friend Horatio a vision of his father's ghost, 'in my mind's eye.' 
"He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again."
I feel much the same way about Bo's passing. Men and Masons like Bo Cline pass this way but once. Would that there were thousands more like him.

His column is broken, and his Brethren mourn.

Requiescat in pace.

NOTE: The Masonic Restoration Foundation has announced that they will hold on online remembrance for Bo Cline on Sunday, July 12th at 8:00 PM Eastern Time (4:00 PM Alaska time), and it is open to anyone via Zoom. 

Click HERE to register. 

After registering, you will receive an email with information about joining the meeting.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

A Prince Hall Brother Responds

by Christopher Hodapp

My post on July 4th, Why Freemasonry Still Matters, generated an unprecedented amount of discussion, pro and con, in numerous Facebook groups and elsewhere over the last several days. (If you didn't see it, go read it before you continue below.) I also received an astonishing number of private messages about it. But one response especially stood out.

Brother James R. Morgan III is a Prince Hall Mason in Washington, D.C. and a Curatorial Consultant at that city's African-American Civil War Museum. He is an author and historian, and recently published the outstanding book, The Lost Empire: Black Freemasonry in the Old West (1867-1906)

On Sunday, James was motivated to pen his own thoughtful response to my essay, entitled 'What to the Prince Hall Freemason is the Fourth of July? - Why Black Masonic Memory Matters' (his title is a deliberate play upon a famed abolitionist speech by Frederick Douglass in 1852, commonly known as 'What to the slave is the Fourth of July?'). In it, he rhetorically points out incidents and issues I did not discuss in my original post, and seems to be less critical of what I actually said than of what I did not say. 
Please read it and decide for yourself. 


Freemasonry is needed more today than at any time in the last century and a half in this country, because we as Masons hold the key to building and protecting and advancing enlightened civilization just as we have done at critical moments in the past. What's important is that I don't regard James and myself as being on opposite sides of the issues I originally wrote about — we are merely looking at it from both sides of a picket fence that sometimes blocks as much as it admits. If the Masonic fraternity is to remain relevant to today's society and tomorrow's, it will be because we meet upon the level and discuss controversies in a reasoned, tolerant, calm and rational manner that is passionate without 'growl and batter,' and always departing as friends and brothers. 

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Your Goat Gag of the Month

Photo: Flint C. Hollars

by Christopher Hodapp

The Masonic Temple in Healdsburg, California is home to Sotoyome-Curtis Lodge 123. Their ground-floor tenant has apparently been listening at the door of the lodge for inspiration.

Apologies in advance to all goat gag-hating Masons out there

Since I brought up murals in the last post, the Healdsburg Temple has one that's not necessarily Masonic in nature, but portrays some of the town's history. At least the horn section has a Mason.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Northern California Artists Paint Masonic Mural

Photo: (George Johnston — Daily News)

by Christopher Hodapp

NOTE: This post has been edited to credit artist Carl Avery who designed this particular mural.

A volunteer group of graphic artists has pooled their talents to cover the exterior walls of their northern California town with public art, and the local Masonic lodge is the newest beneficiary.

The group calling itself Tehama Creatives has just completed a Masonic mural on the wall of Red Bluff's Vesper Lodge 34. The design was created by artist Carl Avery and it's one of several that almost completely line an alley in Red Bluff's downtown area. Tehama Creatives consult with the building owners on the designs, and they hope to eventually adorn every building in the alleyway. They just need funding and the building owners’ approval before doing so.

It started with a gathering, a convening of artists who wanted to connect, inspire and be inspired. “We wanted to see the creatives get together,” says Athena Dyer, an original convener of what has become Tehama Creatives. It didn’t take more than a few meetups at what are now affectionately referred to as Drink and Draws for Tehama Creatives to become a firebrand group dedicated to public art and community connection.

This burgeoning art movement in Red Bluff has cultivated enough energy to paint an alley with murals, transform drab downtown planters into vibrant works of art and connect artists to each other. “It’s starting to have practical applications to deal with issues in our community,” says Tehama Creative Michelle Carlson, also an educator, who notes that incidents of tagging are down where art goes up.
“With the Drink and Draw comes the dreaming,” says Carlson, who values the group for pulling her out of isolation exploring her artistic expression. The bi-weekly gatherings at Cedar Crest Brewery in downtown Red Bluff fueled her creative fire and introduced her to kindred spirits. “We’ve carved out a little safe space for people to be artists,” she adds. “It’s providing momentum.”
This is a terrific idea for any town or neighborhood, especially today with so many talented artists connecting with each other online. And I'm guessing if you told a creative artist today that your lodge is interested, there's enough Masonic symbolism to supercharge any artist's imagination. If you have a suitable blank wall on your lodge hall, why not offer it up as a blank canvas? A mural is far more likely to catch the eye of curious non-Masons than just a sign in the yard or a square and compass over the front door. (Check with your local zoning board first for any signage codes that might prevent this.) 

Here are some more photos from artist Carl Avery's Facebook page.

Artist Carl Avery's Facebook page has more photos of the project,
including this wide shot of the completed work posted by Forrest Stamper.

Artist Carl Avery at work painting

Looking for inspiration? here are some previous stories of murals - both interior and exterior - from other lodges around the U.S.:

Monday, July 06, 2020

Mother and Son Lost At Sea Last December Were 'Cleansing' Her of Freemasonry

by Christopher Hodapp

Sometimes a story comes along that is so completely odd that I just sit and stare at the screen and wonder how to even begin to describe it.

An elderly dementia sufferer from Australia named Felicity Loveday (84) and her son , Adrian Meneveau (56), were lost at sea last December during a three-day boat trip. Adrian had been caring for his mother for seven years before they disappeared after December 13th. A photograph of the two of them preparing to leave a wharf in Frankston, Victoria, Australia was snapped on December 11th by Felicity's daughter, Christina, and family members were sent a text message by Adrian two days later. But their submerged boat was found by a fisherman on December 15th, about 15 miles away, and their bodies were never found. 

The photo showed Ms Loveday seated in an upright position wearing a life jacket. She looked extremely pale and was staring ahead, rather than at the camera, which is why police questioned her condition. 

The story first appeared last December, but it got fresh legs in June after daughter Christina made a statement to the press, stating that her mother was definitely alive when the boat left the wharf. (The Daily Mail version of the story in June gives a decent recap of the facts and is not behind a paywall.)

So what does this have to do with Freemasonry? 

Felicity Loveday, sitting in the center, had served as the Master
of a lodge of Co-Masons several years ago

It seems that Felicity had been the Worshipful Master of an Australian Co-Masonic Le Droit Humain (French for 'The Human Right') lodge in the mid-2000s before her dementia set in. Police have been told the boat trip was part of a plan to 'cleanse' Felicity of 'evil spirits' of Freemasonry that had somehow 'awoken' in her. 

No, I'm not kidding.

Senior Police Constable Chris Obst told the Herald Sun that "Adrian and Felicity were practicing meditation for some time and believed Felicity had woken black magic and Adrian felt responsible for it... The boat trip was a means of reversing it – they needed to be on the salt water to get rid of the black magic."

Co-Masons on Australia's Gold Coast were contacted by police and the press about this daffy development, and they responded as respectfully as they could in the face of the allegation.

"The personal beliefs and practices are in no way associated with Freemasonry nor are they associated with her role as a former presiding officer of one of our Lodges," the Federation's Grand Commander and Supreme Council Representative (who was not named in the press accounts) said. "Freemasonry has nothing to do with evil, black magic and cleansing ritual."

Of course it doesn't. But that never stopped the press from plastering the word Freemasonry in the headlines.

This is a tragic story, especially since Felicity suffered from dementia, so it's entirely possible she was the one who insisted on 'cleansing' herself in this way. There's no way of knowing if her son and the rest of the family bought into it as well, or if they were merely humoring her. It's just a shame that the press would go nosing around and seize upon this purported Masonic connection.

The Australian Federation of Le Droit Humain is part of the world's largest variety of Co-Masonry, which accepts both men and women as members. Le Droit Humain has been around since 1893 when it started in France, and today it claims 32,000 members in more than 60 countries working a variation of the 1-33 Scottish Rite degrees. It is considered as irregular and unrecognized by the vast majority of the more than 4 million male-only Freemasons throughout the world. 

Who also don't have anything to do with evil, black magic or cleansing rituals. 

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Why Freemasonry Still Matters

by Christopher Hodapp

The United States has been rocked over the past month with images and stories relating to massive protests, rioting and statue-removing furor set off by the death of George Floyd while being arrested in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As the weeks passed, the toxic confluence of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns, anger, widespread unemployment, summer heat, pent up frustration, a breathless media, and the echo chamber of the Internet have all worked their worst influences to bring out some of the most socially divisive traits, allegations and arguments among Americans in more than 50 years. 

Over the last couple of weeks, some enthusiastic or activist Masons have advocated for the fraternity to 'get on the right side of history' and support the Black Lives Matter movement. Some energetic Masonic keyboard artists have created graphics to combine the square and compass of Freemasonry with symbols of social activism, such as a clenched fist of BLM, confederate flags, the 'gay pride' rainbow,' or others. Such symbols have been making the rounds of the Internet, often with the exhortation to 'get on board' with one side or another, because, according to the bromide, 'silence is violence.'

With all due respects to my energetically demonstrative brethren, that's not the role of Freemasonry. It never has been, and it cannot be today. Its role is just the opposite.

Freemasons are human beings, and as individuals, we often take different sides in arguments. This is as it has always been throughout the history of the fraternity, sometimes violently so. When you examine the wars involving America and other Western nations in which Masons have fought in the last 300 years, you will find dedicated Freemasons on both sides of those conflicts. We tout the famous Masons who led the American Revolution, but there were plenty of loyalist Masons throughout the American colonies who fought and died to keep us British. (And, no, the Boston Tea Party was NOT a Masonic action, despite what you might have been told.)

Individual Freemasons may fight for the causes they support, but 'The Freemasons' do not take sides in social, political, cultural or religious conflicts.

Masons as a group cannot and will not support any political or social movement

That's why images like this one are not appropriate for any Freemason. This very moment in time is an excellent teaching moment for this lesson, and our youngest, newest members need to understand it. 

Freemasonry teaches men to behave properly, to treat each other fairly, to live by the cardinal virtues and follow our precepts. But it does not tell Masons what to think, how to vote, how to worship God, what protests to march in, what products to boycott, or what bumper stickers to put on our cars. The sanctuary of the lodge is absolutely shattered by any member who seeks to abuse its good offices by assigning political or religious motives to it that do not exist. 
Freemasonry is a force for good by espousing and teaching mannered toleration, reinforcing the cardinal virtues, and providing a sanctuary from the divisive nature of the profane world. If a Mason abuses the square and compass into a symbol that creates a deliberately divisive atmosphere within the Masonic community, to compel his brethren to also adopt his favored cause, or to erroneously create a false public perception of Masonry's motives -  that Mason has erred, not the fraternity.

James Anderson listed in the Constitutions of Masonry our responsibility to the civil authorities (second only to God):

A Mason is a peaceable Subject to the Civil Powers, wherever he resides or works, and is never to be concern’d in Plots and Conspiracies against the Peace and Welfare of the Nation, nor to behave himself undutiful to inferior Magistrates ; for as Masonry hath been always injured by War, Bloodshed, and Confusion, so ancient Kings and Princes have been much dispos’d to encourage the Craftsmen, be- cause of their Peaceableness and Loyalty, whereby they practically answer’d the Cavils of their Adversaries and promoted the Honour of the Fraternity, who ever flourish’d in Times of Peace. So that if a Brother should be a Rebel against the State, he is not to be countenanc’d in his Rebel- lion, however he may be pitied as an unhappy Man ; and if convicted of no other Crime, though the loyal Brotherhood must and ought to disown his Rebellion, and give no Umbrage or Ground of political Jealousy to the Government for the time being; they cannot expel him from the Lodge, and his Relation to it remains indefeasible.
Masons from the past who have been prominent leaders of revolutions (along with not-so-prominent ones who were on the losing sides of failed ones) never marched at the head of mobs wearing a giant square and compass on their chest or helmet, for good reason. Riots, revolts, revolutions, wars - these take place between nations or factions or masses or mobs of peoples. Freemasonry is practiced between individual human beings who seek to retain their individual honor and humanity, and to civilize and improve their town, their country, and the world by their own actions. Freemasonry is not a movement - it is a cultural institution that can only function if it is seen as a diverse, calm, civil, and evenhanded organization of a community's best leaders, regardless of their particular political affinities. 

The Western world is currently caught up in a moment that measures diversity only by the hue of skin color - literally the one human trait that cannot be altered, controlled or changed, and therefore the very least important one - and not by diversity of thought, belief, achievement, or aspiration. That is how Freemasonry seeks to differ from the outside world. If we're doing it right, we welcome diversity among men in all its intellectual, theological, economic and vocational forms. But I have never in my 20 years as a Mason seen a petition for the degrees of Freemasonry that asked a man's race. 

It is why, for instance, the meetings of lodges under the Grand Lodge of Israel are attended by Masons who are Jewish, Muslim and Christian, from all races, and from political persuasions that are diametrically (sometimes militantly) opposed to each other in that turbulent part of the world. Even the seal of their grand lodge reflects its uniquely Masonic diversity. It is the true meaning of meeting 'on the level.'

We say that Masonry becomes the 'center of union' because it conciliates true friendship among men who would for any other reasons have remained at a perpetual distance. Living through a tumultuous moment in time with heated passions on all sides doesn't imbue any of us with the ability to decide who is 'on the right side of history.' That's the nature of mass conflict and social unrest and upheaval. Only the lapse of time and history itself can make that judgement. 

The famed 'Friend To Friend' statue at the top of this post, erected at Gettysburg by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, is a parable in bronze that demonstrates the unbreakable mystic tie between two Masons on opposing sides of a deadly conflict.  Union General Winfield Scott Hancock and Confederate General Lewis Addison Armistead were personal friends and both were Freemasons. Secession wasn't a Masonic cause, and neither was preserving the Union. These two men had served and fought side by side in the US Army before the Civil War broke out. But Armistead said he could never raise his sword against his fellow Southerners and joined the Confederate Army in 1861. 

Armistead led his men against Hancock’s troops in the ill-fated Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg, but was mortally wounded in the battle - by the irony of fate, Hancock was also wounded during the same battle. The statue depicts Union Captain Henry Bingham, also a Freemason and staff assistant to General Hancock, rendering aid to the fallen Confederate General. It was a bloody day - Henry Bingham himself had been wounded in the fighting, but he knelt by Armistead's side as he died. General Armistead is shown handing his watch and personal effects to be delivered to his friend and Brother, Union General Hancock. A final act of friendship among men who would for any other reasons have remained at a perpetual distance.

It's one of those lessons people can learn if statues aren't toppled by mobs. 

UPDATE: JULY 7, 2020

This post generated an unprecedented amount of discussion, pro and con, in numerous Facebook groups and elsewhere over the last several days. 

Brother James R. Morgan III is a Prince Hall Mason in Washington, D.C. and a volunteer coordinator at that city's African-American Civil War Museum. He is an author and historian, and recently published the outstanding book, The Lost Empire: Black Freemasonry in the Old West (1867-1906)

On Sunday, James was motivated to pen a thoughtful response to my essay above, entitled 'What to the Prince Hall Freemason is the Fourth of July? - Why Black Masonic Memory Matters' (his title is a deliberate play upon a famed abolitionist speech by Frederick Douglass in 1852, commonly known as 'What to the slave is the Fourth of July?'). In it, he rhetorically points out numerous incidents and issues I did not discuss in my original post, and seems to be critical less of what I said than of what I did not say. 
Please read it and decide for yourself. I don't regard either of us as being on opposite sides of things, merely looking at it from both sides of a picket fence that sometimes blocks as much as it admits.