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Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Masons and Community: County Court Uses Masonic Hall for Jury Duty



by Christopher Hodapp

I spotted an interesting tidbit in the news today that demonstrates how a Masonic lodge can be of unique service to its surrounding community. The Masonic Center in Clinton, Iowa is being leased by the Clinton County Court as a venue for jury pool selection. According to the article on the Clinton Herald website, state and local COVID regulations about social distancing in government venues forced the court to find another, more spread out location for choosing jury pool members. The courthouse could not properly accommodate the required safe distances needed for gathering large groups of people in one space. So, the Brethren of the Clinton Masonic Center came to the rescue.

Clinton County Attorney Mike Wolf says the county will lease the space for jury selection at a cost of $400 for each week the county needs the site. The rate includes set up on Friday, storing equipment at the site over the weekend and selecting the jury on Mondays. The actual trials will be held starting Tuesdays in the County Courthouse, as usual.


The Clinton Masonic Center is the home of the Clinton Valley of the Scottish Rite Bodies, York Rite, Western Star Lodge #100, and Emulation Lodge #255. The article doesn't say, but I suspect their 'Red Room' will be the probable location because of its size and horseshoe seating.




In similar news, David Bloomquist on Facebook reports that the Scottish Rite Valley of Lincoln, Nebraska's spacious lodge room is being used for Lincoln and Lancaster County court trials.


And Joe Schumate, Jr. tells me that Denham Springs Lodge #297 in Denham Springs, Louisiana is also being used by their local court system for trials during the COVID pandemic.

The point to be made from this is that the public at large really isn't aware anymore that our buildings have these large, unusually arranged spaces that work out perfectly for trial/jury/spectator uses. It's worth reaching out to your local courts to inform them. Back in the days when we had members from every walk of life, they knew. We have to spread the word now.

Back in the day, our downtown temple's auditorium in Indianapolis was used for swearing in new immigrants. We could be doing that again.


A couple of guys have groused online that $400/day sounded too cheap. It's a token amount, sure, but it'
s $400 more per week than the room was making when it sat empty. Plus, it gets the local Masonic hall back in front of literally hundreds of eyeballs that otherwise knew little or nothing about us. That's more important than anything these days. We will never rebuild this fraternity as long as we are invisible and a forgotten mystery to the community around us.

2 comments:

  1. Great idea, I do have a question on Tax Status. I was working with the Board of an Eastern Star. We were not working with the Courts but working small events like Weddings and other one offs. Losing the Tax Exempt status was the fear. The Board is not able to afford legal counsel and confused on it they are 501-C 3, 8 or 10. Has this been looked into by anyone else?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do NOT go to Tax Court and use my advice as your defense, BUT...

      My understanding when I was on our Temple Board was that as long as the MAJORITY and primary use of the building and its combined spaces is used for fraternal purposes, it is still considered to fall under tax classifications for non-profit (501c10 NOT c3!) membership organizations. Making money off of rental space is not something that endangers your tax status - you probably charge your own members rent if they put on a wedding or other large personal event. No matter if it comes from your own members or an outside renter, you should be fine. BUT it's only when you dedicate (as in 'permanently rent') more than 50% of the building to non-Masonic or for-profit groups that you will start to get scrutiny from tax officials.

      But consult a tax attorney for clarification on this once it reaches an excessive level, because your state or local tax laws probably have differences from federal tax code.

      Delete

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