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

BE A FREEMASON

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Breaking: S. Carolina PGM Mike Smith Expulsion Overturned; Lodges Restored


by Christopher Hodapp

Messages from Day One of the annual session of the Grand Lodge A.F.M. of South Carolina are reporting that the assembled voting members have overwhelmingly overturned the January expulsion of Past Grand Master Michael D. Smith, and restored his Masonic record. 

Additionally, the two lodges that had their charters revoked by GM Disher – Union-Kilwinning Lodge No. 4 and Landrum Lodge No. 278 – have had their charters restored, with the recommendation that outstanding charges against them be dropped. 

It appears that South Carolina Masons are collectively attempting to erase the battles and dramas of the last year and let wisdom prevail. Grand officer elections take place on Friday.


Tuesday, April 20, 2021

'The Plot Thickens' in the GL of South Carolina as Annual Meeting Looms


by Christopher Hodapp

UPDATE: This story has been updated on April 21, 2021. The original story incorrectly stated that GM Disher declared that PGM Mike Smith's reinstatement by the Appeals & Grievances Committee would make the Grand Lodge "liable for a lawsuit." This remark was actually made by PGM Jay Adam Pearson. My apologies for the error.

Over the last week, several emails have been making the rounds out of the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of South Carolina concerning the January trial and expulsion of Past Grand Master Michael D. Smith. As reported here in February, Smith was expelled from the fraternity by current South Carolina Grand Master Walter C. "Cal" Disher II for violating his edict forbidding Masonic meetings conducted by Internet teleconferencing software, like Zoom. The charges brought against Smith were for authorizing Zoom meetings for the Scottish Rite Valleys throughout the state in his role as their SGIG for the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction. 

Now, the plot, as they say in cheap potboilers, thickens. The Grand Lodge of South Carolina will be holding its annual communication this week on April 22nd and 23rd. In the run-up to that session, South Carolina's Jurisprudence and Appeals & Grievances committees both convened last week to accomplish the usual preliminary business that commonly takes place just before Masonic grand sessions nearly everywhere.

It is the Jurisprudence Committee's job to look over the actions of the sitting Grand Master taken during his term of office to determine if he was correct in his decisions and activities, or if he violated any of the rules of their constitution (the South Carolina Ahimon Rezon). Typically, a grand master provides a lengthy report that outlines all of his activities since taking office in the written form of a formal address (or oration). And then the various committees weigh in on the GM's actions and report whether or not he violated any of their constitution. 

Because of the COVID pandemic shut downs last year, GM Disher was compelled by state health laws and an abundance of caution for his more elderly and at-risk members to cancel their annual session in 2020, and all previously elected Grand Lodge officers would stay in their positions for another year. So GM Disher's address was quite lengthy after two years.

(South Carolina grand masters traditionally serve for two one-year terms. Disher was elected GM in 2019, so April 2020 through April 2021 was to have been his second term anyway, if tradition had been followed. With the annual meeting canceled, his second year in the job was a foregone conclusion, as in so many other U.S. jurisdictions this past year. Like it or not, grand lodges must adhere to the rules set down by federal, state and local governments. So I can't really work up support for those alleging anywhere that their grand masters usurped power last year by canceling annual meetings.)

2019-2021 Grand Master Walter C. 'Cal' Disher II

GM Disher presented his whopping 42-page official address to the Jurisprudence Committee last week for review. On Thursday in a 6-3 decision, six Past Grand Masters on the Jurisprudence Committee ruled that the trial of PGM Mike Smith had been unfair, and rejected the portion of Disher's address dealing with Smith's guilty verdict and expulsion. In an anonymous email account of the vote sent to me that was attempting to support and justify the GM's actions, by failing to agree with his decision and actions, those six members of the Committee are themselves now guilty of a Masonic offense and may themselves face charges.

Then, in what was a second repudiation of GM Disher, on Friday, the Appeals & Grievances Committee reportedly ruled in an initial 4-2 decision that misconduct had taken place during the trial of PGM Smith, that the verdict should be nullified, and that Smith should be reinstated. According to multiple sources, PGM Jay Adam Pearson (who was part of the trial commission for Smith's expulsion) chastised the committee, angrily declared that, if Smith was reinstated by this decision, the Grand Lodge would be "liable for a lawsuit," and demanded the Committee re-vote. The result of that second vote was to uphold Disher's actions and the results of the trial. And because of the furor caused in the state by the initial online reporting of Smith's trial and expulsion, the result of the Committee's vote was not to be leaked ahead of time until it is presented on the floor of the annual meeting.

Obviously, that didn't work out so well. Gag rules rarely do.

There are still as-yet unanswered allegations that the arresting of Landrum Lodge charter (PGM Smith's mother lodge in which his son was Junior Warden) by GM Disher was also improper. It's probable that it too will be addressed in the Jurisprudence Committee's official report.

I've been sent conflicting information about these meetings and decisions, and there's a Rashomon-like feel to the widely differing descriptions of trials, conversations, votes, and (naturally) personalities involved. The unsettling image that emerges is an enormous Jenga tower falling to pieces, as charges, counter charges,  longtime friendships, personal allegiances, and a seemingly endless string of more threats of suspensions and expulsions all unfold. In one stack of material, there are numerous statements, angrily tarring numerous longtime Masons with more allegations of 'un-Masonic conduct' for failing to rubber stamp the GM's decisions. 'They voted the wrong way too, and THAT'S un-Masonic! We'll have THEM up on charges next!' is the theme that runs throughout. 

There's an unfortunate aura of the Caine Mutiny trial scene in much of this. And that's the material that is supposed to be making the case FOR the Grand Master. 

The annual session will take place this coming Thursday and Friday, and the GM has placed limits on how many may attend – again due to COVID restrictions. Next in line for election as the new Grand Master is current Deputy Grand Master, O.B. Smith, but there are rumors that one or more other candidates for GM may be nominated from the floor. And the assembled members of the Grand Lodge of South Carolina must also vote to affirm or deny the Jurisprudence and Appeals & Grievances committee reports. If the result of those votes reverse the actions of GM Disher, it's entirely possible that PGM Mike Smith may be reinstated by their action. 

Of course, the next question on the minds of many South Carolina Masons is, will the next elected GM (whoever it may be) allow the waters to calm and the Craft in his state to heal? Or will he follow in the footsteps of his predecessor and keep pursuing the example of more suspensions, expulsions and charter yanking in an attempt to enforce the 'authority and dignity' of the office by wrecking the Masonic careers of brethren who have devoted so much to the fraternity for so long? "Because I said so" is a lousy motivator for a voluntary organization that depends on the work and good will of its devoted members.

Would that there was a respected, gray-headed sage in South Carolina who could stand up on the floor of the annual meeting next week and make some calming and uniting statement or entreaty to cool the anger on all sides, set aside the trial decisions and expulsions, and convince the room to do what it takes to restore harmony without destroying Masonic careers. But I doubt that will happen, and more’s the pity. I fear this entire melodrama may result in the loss of far too many members resigning in disgust. And that’s the ultimate tragedy of this mess.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Dedication of Masonic Marker April 24th: Author Dwight L. Smith



by Christopher Hodapp

Next Saturday, April 24th, 2021, Grand Master Kenneth Roy, Jr. and the officers of the Grand Lodge F&AM of Indiana will dedicate a new Masonic historical marker in memory of Indiana Past Grand Master and Past Grand Secretary, Dwight L. Smith.

The dedication of the new marker will be held on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. at Salem Lodge No. 21, located at 506 West Poplar Street in Salem, Indiana. This will be the first Masonic historical marker erected officially by the Grand Lodge since 1978.


Dwight Smith was born in Pennville, Indiana in 1909, and he was a member of Salem Lodge No. 21 for 59 years. For many years, he also served as the local editor for Salem’s hometown newspaper, the Salem Republican-Leader.

Dwight Smith passed away in 1993 and was internationally honored as an author and leader whose influence was felt throughout the Masonic fraternity. Dwight served as the Grand Secretary for 32 years, and editor of the Indiana Freemason Magazine officially or unofficially from 1945 until 1991. He was an author of books, hundreds of articles, and Masonic plays. Throughout his career, he was honored with countless awards all over the world. Indiana Masons today largely know him for writing 'Goodly Heritage,' a history of Indiana Freemasonry, in 1968. His booklets, 'Why This Confusion in the Temple?' and 'Whither Are We Traveling?' were published in the early 1960s, and continue to inspire and influence Masons all over the world.

The marker erected to Dwight Smith will be the second such Masonic marker placed by the Grand Lodge in historic Salem, Indiana. Several hundred feet away in Salem’s Crown Hill Cemetery, the Grand Lodge dedicated a plaque to the memory of John Hay Farnham. He served as one of our earliest Grand Lecturers in 1820-21, and as Junior grand Warden in 1821-22. 

Farnham was a passionate campaigner for the new State of Indiana to open public schools at a time when just one out of every eight Hoosier children were able to read. Beginning in 1826, he battled for the cause of public education for the rest of his life. Farnham was also the foundering secretary of the Indiana Historical Society in 1830. Salem’s historic Pioneer Village museum is named after him - the John Hay Farnham Historical Center.

The Farnham marker was first erected in 1972, and was recently restored by local Masons in Salem. It will be re-dedicated by the Grand Lodge at Saturday's event.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Suspected Vancouver Arsonist Faces More Charges in Masonic Hall Fires

Charred remains of the Masonic Temple in Lynn Valley in 
North Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, March 30, 2021. 
(Photo: Jonathan Hayward / THE CANADIAN PRESS)


by Christopher Hodapp


British Columbia prosecutors have filed additional charges in connection with the burning of three metropolitan Vancouver Masonic halls last week. The principal suspect, 42-year-old Benjamin Orion Carlson Kohlman, was charged the day after his arrest with three offenses connected with a fire set at the Park Masonic Hall in northeastern Vancouver. He was charged with arson, assault of a peace officer, and failing to stop for a peace officer. 

The new, additional charges filed today against Kohlman are connected with the two earlier fires set that same morning. According to Global News Service, he was charged with two more counts of arson and three additional counts of breaking and entering and committing arson.

The Park Masonic Hall was the last of three Masonic lodges that were set ablaze last Tuesday morning over a 45-minute period in the northern suburbs of Vancouver. Kohlman was spotted carrying a gasoline can and leaving the scene of the Park temple just as a fire was spotted burning near its entrance. An off-duty police officer attempted to take him into custody, but Kohlman knocked the officer down and sped away. He was arrested shortly after that incident.

The three targeted lodges were Lynn Valley Lodge Hall, Lonsdale Masonic Temple (also known as the North Vancouver Masonic centre), and Park Masonic Hall. The 110-year-old Lonsdale building was a total loss and had to be demolished after fire crews extinguished the flames.


See also: 

• March 30 - Three Vancouver Masonic Halls Torched By Arsonist

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Philadelphia Masonic Temple Modeled at Legoland


by Christopher Hodapp

The master builders at Legoland Discovery Center in Plymouth Meeting, PA have made a scale model of the beautiful and historic Philadelphia Masonic Temple. In the video, builder Mike Nieves says the Temple has some 16,000 pieces and took 150 hours to construct. Watch the video above, or click HERE.

Lodge Presents Charges Against South Carolina Grand Master and Officers


by Christopher Hodapp

It was almost 160 years ago to the day, on April 12, 1861, when the South Carolina militia opened fire on Fort Sumter in South Carolina and kicked off the Civil War, the bloodiest war in U.S. history. I was thinking of that today as I went through all this material.

Union-Kilwinning Lodge No. 4 is the oldest continuously operating Masonic lodge in South Carolina. Yesterday, Past Master William 'Billy' Wall, who serves as Secretary of Union-Kilwinning Lodge, sent a 10-page packet of material detailing charges his lodge is making alleging un-Masonic conduct against current Grand Master Cal M. Disher, Deputy Grand Master O. Bruce Smith, and District Deputy Grand Master Steve Hiott.

Click image to enlarge

To get the fullest possible understanding of the situation, you need to start with the Union-Kilwinning webpage and a blog entry titled, "The First Encounter." (CLICK HERE) That long entry details events in November and December last year when the lodge attempted to hold its meetings and officer elections.

In October, GM Disher issued new guidelines detailing what lodges needed to do in order to restart stated meetings under COVID restrictions: as few members as constitutionally allowed; masks and social distancing; no electronic communication... all the standard stuff.  Apparently, all hell broke out at the December meeting of Union Kilwinning and their elections when "three ruffians" showed up in succession in the course of the evening: Steve Hiott, District Deputy Grand Master, O. Bruce Smith, Deputy Grand Master, and the Grand Master himself, Cal M. Disher. Disher revoked their charter and reportedly ordered an arrest warrant issued by the sheriff's office, accusing the lodge of stealing its own property.

(Interestingly, one curious aspect of the story is that neither the DGM nor the GM identified themselves, and were wearing their COVID masks when they angrily demanded entry and ordered all activity to cease. Face it - with these masks all of us have to wear, we all look like we're dressed for a liquor store holdup, and muffled conversations sound like a hostage phone call.)

The material is much too detailed and complex for me to properly encapsulate it here, so I encourage you to read "The First Encounter" for yourself. Part of this fight turns on the minimum number of members required to open a MM lodge. South Carolina's rules and adopted 'Landmarks' are among the oldest in the United States, and they are sometimes quite different from the way the majority of grand lodges operate. According to Secretary Walls' account, South Carolina requires only six attending, whereas the majority of the U.S. requires seven. According to the allegations, GM Disher improperly issued an edict late in the year declaring the minimum must be seven. 

The lodge is also alleging that the Grand Master did not have the authority to cancel the annual meeting and remain in office beyond his term, and that he has issued multiple edicts that violate their Ahimon Rezon book of constitutions.

And then there are the assault and battery charges...

The information packet sent to all of the lodges in South Carolina was posted online HERE. The lodge has taken their case to the voting members before their scheduled communication in April. That is also when they are expecting their Masonic trial to be held. 

Not to be easily thwarted, the Grand Secretary for South Carolina pronounced that the letter and its contents may NOT be read in open lodge, and has further demanded that every single lodge pack up their letter and mail it directly to him. Right.

Because, you know, cell phones, Xeroxes, computer copies, scanners, printers, and other forms of duplicating and sharing documents don't exist in South Carolina. One could just faintly hear the collective laughter of SC secretaries here, from five states away.

I wish the brethren of Union-Killwinning lots of luck going forward, but suspect this won't end well. Their blog post "Why Cal Disher is the Past Grand Master, and the GL is irregular" is a curious logic thread to attempt to follow. Their reasoning is that, because Cal Disher cancelled 2020's annual meeting, he violated their constitution. At the close of the meeting, the GM and all GL officers must renew their oath of office (SC GMs generally serve two years). That wasn't done, because no meeting. According to the post:

Ahiman Rezon, Article 38. (~Pg. 308) reads "In the absence of the Grand Master from the Grand Lodge, the Chair SHALL (there is that word again) be taken by the Deputy Grand Master; in his absence by the Grand Wardens, in order of priority of rank; and in the absence of all these officers, by the Master of the oldest Lodge on the registry of the Jurisdiction." There is also a rule in the Ahiman Rezon, Chapter IV Rule 4. (~Pg.196), which reads "When the Grand Master is absent from the Grand Lodge, the chair SHALL be taken by the Deputy. If both are absent, the Senior Grand Warden, or if he be likewise absent, the Junior Grand Warden MUST take the chair. If all these offices are absent, the duties of the Grand Lodge WILL (another word meaning required) devolve upon the Master of the OLDEST LODGE present. Vacancies in the other chairs are to be supplied by the Masters of Lodges, according to seniority."
And without just coming out and saying it, since their lodge is the oldest established, continuously operating lodge in the state, the post is essentially stating their own Worshipful Master is the de facto Grand Master for South Carolina because of this rule, which makes all of Cal Disher's actions since last April null and void. I don't enjoy being a soggy blanket in their time of tribulation, but this can't possibly go well. Especially since their charter's been revoked.

It's entirely possible that the 2021 annual meeting of South Carolina turns out like a Scottish mud wrestling match by the time it's all over, with everybody covered in filth but still yukking it up and hugging each other at the pub afterwards. Or it could turn out to be the equivalent of first shots fired on Fort Sumter, setting off a bloody, bitter war. 

Let's all hope it's the former instead of the latter.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Vancouver: Man Charged With Arson In Connection With Fires Set At Masonic Halls

The smoke from a burning Masonic hall casts a sickening pall
over the Vancouver skyline early Tuesday morning.
Photo from the LG Bridge by  Northvan_Dan on Twitter.



by Christopher Hodapp


The Global News website is reporting this afternoon that 42-year-old Benjamin Orion Carlson Kohlman has officially been charged with three offenses connected with a fire set at the Park Masonic Hall in northeastern Vancouver yesterday. He is charged with arson, assault of a peace officer, and failing to stop for a peace officer. The Park Masonic Hall was the last of three Masonic lodges that were deliberately set ablaze on Tuesday morning over a 45-minute period in the northern suburbs of Vancouver.

Further charges have not been yet been made concerning the first two blazes set at Lynn Valley and Lonsdale. In a statement, Vancouver Police said they expect to recommend further charges in those two prior cases. But based on clear video evidence of Kohlman at the scene of the third fire, police were able to quickly assign charges against him. He was arrested at about 10 a.m. a few miles away in the community of Burnaby after fighting an officer who had attempted to arrest him at the scene.

“The two arsons that occurred in North Vancouver yesterday are still under investigation,” says Constable Tania Visintin, VPD. “We anticipate recommending more charges to Crown counsel in the coming weeks related to the North Vancouver files.”

Kohlman remains in custody until his next court appearance.
Kohlman was recorded on video yesterday morning walking away from the Masonic hall as a fire began to burn in the background. He was seen carrying a jerry can used for transporting gasoline and walking toward his minivan. As two witnesses watched and recorded him, he was confronted by an off-duty police officer who attempted to arrest him. A fight ensued, he knocked the officer to the ground, and took off in his van. He was caught about 90 minutes later, based on the officer's description of Kohlman, his minivan, and license plate number.

Police still have not released any sort of information regarding Kohlman's motives. But reporter Lindsay William-Ross on the Vancouver Is Awesome website discovered and posted a Facebook boast from a 'Ben Kohlman' of Vancouver at 8:07 a.m. Tuesday, bragging that he had "just cleaned three Satanic club houses, and nobody could stop me." 


Provided this is authentically the suspect's Facebook account (always a question these days), his home page is loaded with conspiracy theories, mind control paranoia, and anti-Masonic sentiments.

"I'll bet the real Bible is hidden in the Vatican Library and the Bibles we see are corrupted," reads a post from early in the morning of March 30.

Kohlman also espouses anti-vaccination beliefs and theories.

"The radio said that they can vaccinate 33 000 per day. The 33 means it's a Freemason conspiracy. I bet those things are full of nano tech to spy on the whole world," reads a post from Jan. 8 of this year.

Several of his posts are about freemasonry. "2019 Documentary on Freemasonry has been scrubbed from the internet along with most of other truth videos," he shared in December 2020.

Also in December, he posted about distrusting the media: "We should just stop denying ourselves and admit that Satanic secret societies control the news and lie every day. I mean it's obvious throughout Hollywood and politics. The word government literally means mind controllers. If you would just stop lying to yourself to make yourself feel better that this isn't actually happening then maybe we could do something about it. It is literally your fault that your children will be enslaved by technology because of your denial. Soon all money will be controlled by embedded microchips and the ability to purchase will be controlled by the Mind controllers who gradually strip you of all rights including international travel and recreational activities after work. We are good for building infrastructure and maintenance to them, that is all. Shut the news off, take your head out and look around. This is not because the government, the Rothchilds, Rockefellers, royals, and the like care about our well being. I know this falls on deaf ears but I have to say it anyways just in case some have the ability to reason. (Facepalm) It's hopeless!"

No one has mentioned this out loud as far as I know, but the [alleged] arsonist struck first in the northwest part of Vancouver, then hit a second temple in the northwest, moved eastward for the third fire, and when he was finally found and arrested, he was driving in Burnaby, which happens to be the community in which the Grand Lodge of British Columbia & Yukon offices are located. That may or may not be coincidental. The story is still young at this point. 

(For the sake of transparency, I have been the Grand Representative of Indiana to the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon for many years.)

Not just Masonic lodges were the victims of these fires. In a Facebook post last night, brother Mike Bayrak gave a thumbnail list of the many Masonic-related appendant groups now currently made homeless by the attacks. 

(Photo: Nick Procaylo)

The Lynn Valley Hall (photo) was home to three different lodges. The Lonsdale hall hosted three lodges, plus the York Rite Chapter, Council and Commandery, a York Rite Sovereign College, and an Order of the Eastern Star chapter. They had businesses renting their ground floor that are also destroyed. Their 110-year-old building is a total loss and was demolished after the fire was put out. 

Mike couldn't readily quickly recall specifics of who all met at the Park Lodge Hall, but did say that the only Prince Hall Masonic lodge in British Columbia also called it their home. There are two other lodges and a Royal Arch chapter there.

Buildings can be replaced, but priceless history, records, and objects cannot. This year, the Grand Lodge of British Columbia & Yukon is currently celebrating its 150-year anniversary of its founding. This dreadful event casts a pall over that celebration now.

But more important to all of us is that Masons everywhere need to be vigilant when encountering rabid anti-Masons online, or in person. Certainly, 99.8% of conspiracists are cranks or at least harmless nutters who would never actually follow through on threats. But that .02% who truly believe we are a global crime syndicate that brainwashes and microchips the population as we prep for world takeover can turn into seriously dangerous people.


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Three Vancouver Masonic Halls Torched By Arsonist

The second of three Vancouver Masonic halls that sustained major 
damage from arson fires on Tuesday. (Photo: Carol Reimer)

by Christopher Hodapp

(UPDATED March 31, 2021 at 8AM: This story was corrected to note that the second building was the Lonsdale Masonic temple, home of Duke of Connaught Lodge 64.)

 42-year-old Vancouver man is in police custody tonight suspected of arson after fires were set at three different suburban Masonic halls around the city. Police have released few details about the suspect or his motive, but did say he has a "history of interactions with the police and no history of arson." The targeted lodges were Lynn Valley Lodge 122, Lonsdale Masonic Temple, home of Duke of Connaught Lodge 64, and Park Masonic Hall, home of Heritage Lodge 23.

Thankfully, no one was injured in any of the three fires.


North Vancouver RCMP responded to the first fire at the Lynn Valley lodge just before 6:45 a.m. when a neighbor saw the flames. The 97-year-old temple suffered much smoke and water damage, but wasn't completely destroyed.

Lonsdale Masonic Temple before the fire

Firefighters responded to the fire at the Lonsdale Temple 
(Photo: (North Vancouver RCMP)

Less than 15 minutes later, a second fire was reported a few miles away at the 110-year-old Lonsdale Masonic Temple. By the time the flames were extinguished hours later, that historic Masonic hall and the businesses that rented its ground floor were a total loss.

Park Masonic Hall after the fire was extinguished.
(Photo: Christian Amundson/CBC News)

While firefighters were responding to the first two blazes, a third report came at about 7:25 that the Park Masonic Hall had also just been torched. A third set of firefighters was dispatched to try to contain that blaze, and compared to the first two, the Park temple was the least damaged. While firefighters quickly put out the fire, lodge members say the stench of gasoline is everywhere throughout the building. The arsonist spread fuel throughout the two floors and in the lodge room itself. 

The suspect who was arrested was spotted leaving the building carrying a "jerry can" by an off-duty police officer who confronted him. As he attempted to take the suspect into custody, the man fought back, knocked the officer down, and managed to get away in his minivan. A bystander spotted the initial flames and was recording just as the fire started. That recording caught the attempted arrest, struggle and escape on video.  Armed with his description, police spotted the suspect again and arrested him at about 10 a.m. That video can be seen on the Global News website HERE. 

So far, the most complete story is being syndicated from the CBC website HERE.


Canadian authorities cannot release the name of the suspect until he is formally charged with a crime. Meanwhile, Vancouver police have stationed officers at all Masonic halls in and around the city.


Thursday, March 25, 2021

'National Treasure' Movie and TV Series Both On Track


by Christopher Hodapp


For over a year now, Disney has been floating the story that they are really and truly finally at work on a sequel to the 2004 box office blockbuster, National Treasure. In fact, the first announcement came within days of reports that Sony Pictures is developing Dan Brown's Masonic-themed novel, The Lost Symbol, into a pilot film in hopes of it becoming an ongoing TV series. 

Yesterday, Disney confirmed that super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer is not only preparing a third National Treasure movie with the original cast that follows the intrepid Gates family, but also a completely different story line starring an all-new cast as a continuing TV series for the Disney+ streaming service.

More info has been released in a story on the comicbook.com website:

Disney+ has given a 10-episode series order to a National Treasure TV series that will be exclusive to the streamer. The series will act as a reimagining of the franchise with a twenty-year-old Latina character named Jess Morales at the center of the story. Jess and her friends will set off on an adventure to uncover her mysterious family history and recover lost treasure, following in the footsteps of Nic Cage's Benjamin Franklin Gates.

 Original National Treasure producer Jerry Bruckheimer is working on the new series, along with original writers Marianne and Cormac Wibberley. Mira Nair (Queen of Katwe) will be directing the new series.

 
This TV series will bring the National Treasure franchise to a new generation, but it isn't the only project in the works from the property. There is still a third National Treasure movie in the works. Writer Chris Bremner was brought on to pen the script early last year.
 
“We’re certainly working on one [National Treasure] for streaming and we’re working on one for the big screen," Bruckheimer explained to Collider during an interview in 2020. "Hopefully, they’ll both come together and we’ll bring you another National Treasure, but they’re both very active….The one for Disney+ is a much younger cast. It’s the same concept but a young cast. The one for theatrical would be the same cast.”

The Deadline website has a few more added details about the TV series:

The project, from the films’ producer Jerry Bruckheimer and original writers Marianne and Cormac Wibberley, is a reimagining of the National Treasure franchise. Written by the Wibberleys and to be directed by Mira Nair (Vanity Fair), the series explores the timely issues of identity, community, historical authorship and patriotism, told from the point of view of Jess Morales, a twenty-year-old DREAMer who, with her diverse group of friends, sets off on the adventure of a lifetime to uncover her mysterious family history and recover lost treasure.

Reimagining? Timely issues? Identity? DREAMer? This promises to be a barren source of amusement. This synopsis reads like it was created by an automated woke computer program specifically to appeal to the wokiary and strictly adhere to the dogma of wokishmentarianism. That's usually a pretty good indicator that we can look forward to being lectured to instead of entertained.

Call me crazy, but something tells me it just won't have the magical combination of elements that made the original film the surprise hit of 2004, and its 2007 sequel even more popular. Part of the success behind the two National Treasure movies was their apolitical treatment of American history and current politics. Both films presumed that audiences pretty uniformly admired the Founders, and shared at least a common enough knowledge of American history to enjoy the movies. Cage's character of Benjamin Franklin Gates was a man in love with, and obsessed by (and, incidentally, named after) the figures of the nation's past, and the movies deliberately steered clear of attempting to take political sides, fire off deliberately polarizing pot shots, or drag contemporary issues into what was simple swashbuckling, escapist entertainment. Sadly, this proposed story line has all the crowd-pleasing potential of the all-girl remake of Ghostbusters.

Anyhow, it goes on:

Jess Morales is taking the torch from Benjamin Gates, the National Treasure films’ protagonist played by Nicolas Cage.

The Wibberleys executive produce with Jerry Bruckheimer Television. ABC Signature is the studio.

Senior-level writers are expected to join the Wibberleys, whose TV credits include LA’s Finest. They have worked with Bruckheimer on several movies, including the first two National Treasure films and G-Force.

The development of the National Treasure series has been on parallel tracks with the long gestating trequel to Jon Turtletaub‘s movie franchise starring Cage, which brought in Chris Bremner as writer in January 2020.

At least the feature film sounds more like it's following in the footsteps of the two prior movies. But Bruckheimer and crew need to get in gear – it's been sixteen and a half years since Nic Cage found the Templar treasure hidden by the Founding Freemasons, and none of the actors, Bruckheimer or director Jon Turtletaub are getting any younger.

Meanwhile, as reported earlier this month, The Lost Symbol pilot has been snapped up by NBC's streaming service, Peacock. It will be the basis for a new, ongoing TV series called Langdon, about Brown's tweedy professor protagonist, Robert Langdon, fresh out of Harvard, and hunting historical, fine art clues and solving mysteries. 

In 2004, National Treasure cashed in on the Dan Brown mania swirling around his hotly anticipated Da Vinci Code sequel, and I've long suspected that the hugely popular Nic Cage movie hijacked some of Brown's story points. The release of The Lost Symbol ultimately didn't happen until 2009. It's sort of funny that these two streaming TV projects have once again managed to be in a race with each other all over again. We at least know that Masons are central to the Langdon story line. Apart from an oblique reference to Albert Pike in National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets, only the first NT movie revolved around Masonic clues and story points. We'll have to wait and see if we make it into the threequel.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Grand Lodge of Tennessee Votes for PHA Recognition – Then There Were Six


by Christopher Hodapp

THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED 3/25/2021, 10:50 AM: 

Late this afternoon, Facebook lit up with the news that the assembled members of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee have just voted to extend recognition to the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Tennessee at their annual communication in Lebanon, Tennessee.

The MWPHGL of Tennessee already voted at their 2019 annual communication to seek joint recognition with the GL of Tennessee and to accept it should it be offered, with no further vote required. For the purposes of their constitutional requirements, the GL of Tennessee brought the Prince Hall GL's request to the floor two years ago and it had to lay over for a year (which they apparently do with all recognition requests). Because of the COVID shutdowns in 2020, they were unable to adopt final passage of the legislation until this week. 

Upon adoption of the resolution, MW L. Lamont Banks, Grand Master of the MWPHGL of Tennessee, issued an email to his members, saying, "I am happy to report that peace and harmony prevail in the Jurisdiction of Tennessee. We now have mutual recognition!"

With this announcement, the map shrinks to just six remaining states in which joint recognition has not yet been achieved: Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and West Virginia.


Early information is that the two Tennessee grand lodges have adopted joint recognition of each other, but without visitation immediately. Before the high-decibel shouting of "What's the point of that?!" begins, it should be noted that recognition without visitation has been a common preliminary step taken in recent years in other states – it's not unusual. Initial baby steps have been pretty common in states like Texas, Alabama, Florida and elsewhere in the last decade. Essentially, the goal is a transition period during which members in both jurisdictions have time to get used to the idea of sharing Masonic territory in their state, while respecting each other's sovereignty over their own members and lodges.  The transition period is used to formalize visitation rules, examine each others' work, work out questions of honoring transfers or demits, and iron out other details between two grand lodges sharing the same jurisdiction. 

Something most U.S. Masons don't fully comprehend is that, technically, the mainstream GL and the PH GL in any given state both consider each other in the same way they consider a regular but 'foreign' jurisdiction. In the world of Masonic relations and jurisprudence, any visit between Masons in foreign jurisdictions is supposed to go through their respective Grand Secretaries and Grand Masters.

Impatient brethren should bear in mind how long it took just to get to this point in the first place, and simply be supportive and encouraging of their grand officers for the eventual lifting of restrictions. It will come.


Congratulations to brethren from both grand lodges for coming to this decision.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

NBC's Streamer Peacock Orders 'Dan Brown's Langdon' As Regular Series


by Christopher Hodapp

PeacockTV, NBC's new subscription streaming TV service, has announced that they have ordered the TV pilot based on Dan Brown's Masonic-themed thriller, The Lost Symbol, to be picked up as a continuing series, to be entitled Dan Brown's Langdon.

The pilot was initially planned to air on the NBC broadcast network, but now the series will be a flagship show for the Peacock pay streaming service.

The story line of the novel has been shifted to occur before The DaVinci Code and Angels & Demons. Ashley Zuckerman portrays symbologist Robert Langdon shortly after his graduation from Harvard (and much younger than Tom Hanks' version in three previous theatrical films of Brown's novels). Langdon must solve a twisted mystery to save his university mentor, Peter Solomon (played by comedian and actor, Eddie Izzard) and prevent a mysterious nemesis from unleashing terrible destruction on Washington, D.C.

Brown's hotly anticipated novel The Lost Symbol was released in 2009, and centered around many Masonic clues and landmarks in Washington, including the Scottish Rite SJ's House of the Temple headquarters. Masons everywhere enjoyed the novel and the public spotlight it brought to the fraternity, but were disappointed when Hollywood passed over it as a big-money picture to make Inferno instead.
Peacock issued the following press release on Friday:
Peacock has ordered the gripping drama thriller “Dan Brown’s Langdon” to series, based on the world-renowned author’s international bestselling novel “The Lost Symbol.”

“Dan Brown’s Langdon” is produced by CBS Studios, Imagine Television Studios and Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group.

Dan Dworkin and Jay Beattie will serve as writers and executive producers for the series.

Dan Brown, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Samie Kim Falvey and Anna Culp also serve as executive producers.

The drama project was originally developed by NBC and was ordered to pilot last year by the network.

“The team was blown away by this pilot and its enormous potential to become a big, binge-worthy hit, and our new structure enables us to move it to Peacock and give it every opportunity to make that happen,” said Susan Rovner, Chairman, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming. “Our ability to pick up a great show is no longer limited by the confines of a network schedule, giving us the freedom to say ‘yes’ to shows we love and then find them the perfect home across our portfolio.”

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be working with Ron and Brian again on another Langdon project,” said Dan Brown. “We’ve all wanted to make ‘The Lost Symbol’ for some time now, and I’m grateful to CBS Studios, Imagine Television Studios, Universal Television and Peacock for joining forces to make this project a reality. Dan Dworkin and Jay Beattie have written a phenomenally captivating script, and the casting and performances are pitch perfect.”

Based on Dan Brown’s international bestselling thriller “The Lost Symbol,” the series follows the early adventures of famed Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, who must solve a series of deadly puzzles to save his kidnapped mentor and thwart a chilling global conspiracy.

The cast includes Ashley Zukerman (“Succession”), Valorie Curry (“Blair Witch”), Sumalee Montano (“10 Cloverfield Lane”), Rick Gonzalez (“Arrow”), Eddie Izzard (“Ocean’s Thirteen”) and Beau Knapp (“Seven Seconds”).

The Langdon pilot was actually shot principally in Toronto, Canada last year, but production was halted for some time because of the COVID pandemic shutdowns. The U.S. Capitol rotunda was recreated on a soundstage there, and I'm told there was Masonic input on the project.

Still no announcement of an air date.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Facebook Links Restored



by Christopher Hodapp

Earlier this month, Facebook decided with its infinite, artificial sagacity to declare this blog site to be spam, for some undisclosed reason. How they arrived at such a conclusion is beyond my feeble human comprehension, but the tangible result was that they erased a full decade of my posts on Facebook and prevented any new ones that linked here.

I'd like to take the opportunity to publicly thank Brother Nicholas Harvey for interceding on my behalf with the mysterious and nameless oompa loompas toiling in the boiler room of Facebook's Ministry of Information cellars. Nick is currently Junior Warden of Jupiter Light Lodge 340 in Jupiter, Florida. He's also one of the principals behind Masonic Revival and their fine line of clothing and accessories. Somehow he managed to successfully influence a Facebook administrator or account executive to take a second look here and restore all the old story links.

See, because Masons *know people.*

Many thanks, Nick. I'm deeply indebted to you for this and owe you at least three groats.

Friday, March 05, 2021

New Book: Almanac of American Freemasonry 1730-1774

by Christopher Hodapp


A fascinating new book has just been released that will be an invaluable tool for historians researching the pre-Revolutionary War days of Freemasonry in America. The Almanac of American Freemasonry 1730-1744 ($24.99 Lulu Press) was co-written by Mark Tabbert (Director of Collections at the George Washington National Masonic Memorial) and the late John 'Bo' Cline (Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Alaska, and Past President of the Masonic Society). The Foreword was penned by Shawn E. Eyer, editor of the Philalethes magazine.

The Almanac contains the listings and activities of every known Masonic Lodge in North America between 1730 and 1774:
  • Part One — Chronology of Masonic Events (1730 — 1774) 
  • Part Two — Chronology of Lodges by Colony and Location 
  • Part Three — Lodges in North America by Chartering Source 
  • Part Four — Lodges in North America by Colony 
  • Appendices: 
    • 1. British Military and Colonial Militia Lodges in North America 
    • 2. Lodges in Canada 
    • 3. Caribbean Lodges 
    • 4. Biographies of American Provincial Grand Masters 
    • 5. Famous American Freemasons 
  • Bibliography 
  • Alphabetical Listing of Lodges (1730-1774)
According to Mark, proceeds of the book will pay for new editions and the publication of Volume 2, covering 1775-1799, which is already 50% completed. 

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Mille Regretez


by Christopher Hodapp

Deepest apologies for no updated stories here for the last couple of weeks. Alice and I are in the final deadline week for our new book project. 

Folks have asked what we're working on, and since Wiley has now put up the pre-sale listing on Amazon, there's no point being coy about it anymore. RVs and Campers For Dummies is due to be officially released on June 24th, 2021.

The Wiley Publishing folks operate a well-oiled machine, and they have a definitive working methodology from which we cannot deviate. So we're burrowed in, wrapping up the manuscript and photo submissions. What that means in practical terms is wake up, type, forage for food, type, pass out, wake up, type, pass out, rinse, repeat. Phone calls and emails go unanswered, and if we could teach the poodle to use the can opener, we'd have her cook something. 

Once we've sent off the last of it, we get three weeks of 'author review,' which means the editors pore over the manuscript, make corrections, edits, and suggestions, rearrange paragraphs and whole chapters, put it back together again before the art and production teams do their stuff. And then we get to crawl outside, and if we see our shadows, we know there are six more weeks before publication.

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

GL New York's Jurisprudence Committee Weighs In


by Christopher Hodapp

The Grand Lodge of New York's Jurisprudence Committee has weighed in on the permissibility of Grand Master William Sardone's rescheduling of their annual meeting for 2021 due to statewide pandemic restrictions on large group meetings. 

Click the image above to enlarge.

Because the state of New York is permitting only small groups to assemble at this time, GM Sardone's announcement over the weekend detailed a plan to open their Annual Communication on May 3rd and officially receive all committee reports without action. The GM will then call the meeting from labor to refreshment until the state permits larger group meetings, hopefully later in the year. Whenever that occurs, the meeting will then be called up from refreshment back to labor for votes to approve reports and elect officers. Jurisprudence approves of his decision.

This is not dissimilar to the way many jurisdictions permit lodges to open a Lodge of Sorrow at the beginning of each year for the purpose of conducting funeral services for fallen Masons. A Lodge of Sorrow is opened and called to refreshment, and remains in that suspended circumstance for the entire year, instead of requiring a lodge to meet, open, go to a funeral home, conduct a service, go back to the lodge, and close. Then the minutes of that Lodge of Sorrow at the end of the year list all of the deceased brethren who passed away while it remained open.

Their committee did address the constitutionality of electronic Zoom-style technology being used for a tyled grand lodge session:
"There is much interest in implementing teleconferencing technology for our Annual Communication. The Jurisprudence Committee supports the adoption of such technology recognizing that this kind of application is a particularly useful tool. However, there is no provision in the current Constitutions permitting its use in a Tiled Grand Lodge Annual Communication. The Grand Master has charged Right Worshipful Richard J. Kessler, Deputy grand Master, to come up with proposed changes to amend the Constitutions permitting its use in emergency situations."

For lots of Masons, this is all sort of like watching sausage being made. But it comes on the heels of the situation in South Carolina over virtual meetings, as well as being an example for other grand lodges as 2021 unfolds with continuing pandemic restrictions imposed by state and local governments.

 

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Saturday, February 06, 2021

Virtual Meetings: Open Letter To New York GM Circulated


by Christopher Hodapp


Grand lodges all across the country – and around the world – have struggled over the last 10 months with the problem of how to hold their constitutionally-required annual meetings and grand officer elections. Because of the COVID pandemic shutdowns and the fears of spreading the virus throughout Masonry's population of older at-risk members, the tradition of normally advancing officers at annual meetings has been short circuited. Some jurisdictions have held online Zoom annual meetings (and even elections), some have reduced their in-person annual meeting to a simple quorum to transact their basic business and elections. But the majority have agreed to keep their grand officers in their places for an additional year in the hope that 2021 will be back to normal.

These are not easy decisions. Men who dedicate between five and ten years to slowly advance through their state's grand lodge officers' line set aside an enormous part of their personal lives and finances as they approach the Grand East. In a very large jurisdiction with hundreds of lodges, grand masters can spend the bulk of their year on the road visiting lodges, rededicating temples, presiding over numerous committee, foundation and trustee meetings, speaking at appendant body gatherings, along with out of state travel to national appendent body meetings, the Conference of Grand Masters, plus neighboring grand lodge meetings and events representing your state. It's common for a grand master to be on the road six and seven days a week. And very few jurisdictions pay their grand master any sort of stipend for giving up their family and business life for a year. Not every grand master is a retiree, and planning for that kind of deep commitment to the fraternity for a man who continues to work for a living is something few of us could be reasonably expected to do.

When 2020 – and now 2021 – ground our fraternity to a halt, it also yanked the foundation stones out from under the men in grand lodge lines who all had plans and hopes and goals to achieve in their year as grand master. Worse, it also threw a spanner in the works for the next men in line who were making their own future financial, domestic or retirement plans based on the serving their year in the Grand East. 

In my own jurisdiction, our sitting Grand Master was elected in May 2019 and slated to be succeeded by his Deputy Grand Master last May. When our annual communication was delayed and rescheduled twice, it was clear there could be no meeting or election for 2020. I was actually present when our GL officers calmly talked about the best way to address this once in a lifetime situation. The decision was arrived at by mutual agreement that our current GM would remain for another year until May 2021, and all officers and committees would stay in place until then. But it seems that other jurisdictions have not been as harmonious in coming to their own decisions about officer advancement.

New York Grand Master William Sardone

The Grand Lodge of New York has apparently had some internal struggles and disagreements about how to deal with this problem. New York is one of the largest jurisdictions in the country, and their grand masters are normally elected for two year terms. Last May's annual meeting was cancelled due to COVID. But a few weeks ago, Grand Master William M. Sardone announced that the May 2021 meeting (and its elections) would also be cancelled, and all officers would stay in place. Despite the fact that committees had been working on plans for a virtual, online annual meeting, GM Sardone apparently scuttled that idea.


New York Grand Treasurer Steven Adam Rubin

In response, the following open letter was briefly posted a week ago on the Grand Lodge Facebook page, written by their Grand Treasurer, Steven Adam Rubin. 

An Open Letter to our Grand Master
January 29, 2021

Dear Grand Master:

I know I speak for all of our brothers, that we are glad that you continue to recover from Covid and we pray for your continued good health. Yet, I listened with concern to your Thursday Night Zoom Meeting in which you announced that the Grand Lodge Session would not be held this May 2021 as is required by our Constitutions, foreshadowing the likelihood that we will not hold Grand Lodge for an extraordinary, two years. During the twelve years I served as one of our Grand Lodge’s two legal advisers, Proctor and Judge Advocate, I provided six (6) Grand Masters quiet counsel. Your pronouncement Thursday evening, without first seeking the input of any of your elected Officers, and seemingly disregarding the advice of your own Judge Advocate who has approved the Constitutionality of a Virtual Grand Lodge Session, has caused me to send you this Open Letter. I do so with respect for your Office and love for our Craft.

Grand Master, our Constitutions must be obeyed. Period. End of Discussion. It is a legal document that establishes guidelines that must be honored with the strictest of obedience. It is a mandate, not a suggestion. That is your duty as Grand Master. That is our duty as Master Masons. Indeed, that was your oath and obligation you swore to uphold when you placed your hands on the George Washington Bible and took your Oath of Office. The path you have started down is a dangerous one, for no one, not even a Grand Master is above the law.

Last year you unilaterally chose to “adjourn” Grand Lodge, arguing that you would employ a technique used in 1945 by a then Grand Master who was unable to hold a Grand Lodge Session because of war-time restrictions. Even though it was clear that you sought little, if any, exploration of technical options to conduct a remote, or Virtual Grand Lodge Session in May 2020, we never questioned your decision. Even when you chose not to “adjourn” Grand Lodge as you said you would, but ultimately canceled the 2020 Session, no one argued. For we recognized that these have been extraordinary times, and your brothers were not going to fault you for failing to ensure that a proper plan was implemented during the early days of the pandemic.

Yet, it was at that time, nearly one year ago that I, and others, urged you to marshal our forces, our Grand Lodge Committees and any brother with the requisite skill set who could provide clear guidance regarding the options and alternatives available to ensure that our Constitutional mandate--to hold a Grand Lodge Session-- would be met. What was done during these many months? What committees were charged with this mission? What were their findings? What were their conclusions? I certainly don’t know, and from what I have gathered, not many do. Instead, you have thrown around figures and conclusions and anecdotal evidence unsupported by documentary evidence, and ask us to disregard our Constitutions based upon hollow arguments.

Moreover, to give the impression to the Brethren that you are in constant communication with the Deputy Grand Master, for this and all matters, I seriously question, as a rumor has circulated that our Deputy Grand Master was not even informed that you were admitted to the hospital for four (4) days with Covid and pneumonia and that he only found out via the general email that was sent to all members following your release from the hospital. I don’t know if this is accurate, but if it is, it is certainly not the manner our brethren expect that our Grand Lodge operates when our Grand Master is hospitalized with such a serious condition.

Sadly, it would not surprise me if true, as you chose to keep the elected Grand Line out of your decision making process concerning the 2021 Grand Lodge Session. Indeed, when rumors began to circulate that you had disbanded the Deputy Grand Master’s IT team working on implementing plans for our May 2021 Grand Lodge Session, I thereafter sent you an email on November 10, 2020, copying our elected Grand Line Officers. In the email I urged you to include your elected Grand Line in the decision making process, so that we could assist you in this most important undertaking. Yet, you chose to ignore my email, not even offering the courtesy of a reply. So when you now ask that brothers only email you, I am sure you can understand my bemusement, and the smile that crossed my face, for that certainly did not work with my entreaty. Moreover, your suggestion that our brothers shouldn’t use social media to communicate with each other and express their views concerning your momentous decision, is most curious, as the request is coming from a Grand Master who disseminates nearly all of his messages to the Brethren via Facetime movies. Indeed, attempting to limit brothers’ First Amendment Rights and inhibit open and honest dialogue is the formula for tyranny. I am not suggesting that is what you seek, but actions do have consequences.

But I digress, for it was over two months later, following my November email--two days ago-- when you called a virtual meeting of the elected Grand Line, the day before you made your January 28, 2021 virtual announcement to the Craft. It was not input, advice, discussion or counsel you sought from the elected Grand Line Officers, but acquiescence. Grand Master, I have had conversations with your own Judge Advocate who has indicated that there is no Constitutional impediment or prohibition to a Virtual Grand Lodge Session. As the immediate Past Judge Advocate, I agree. If you are asking for Legal Authority, there you go. While you have failed to provide the names of the Past Grand Masters who you purport support your plan, in many respects it is irrelevant. For I love and respect all of our Past Grand Masters, but to suggest that they, and they alone, have the authority to determine the Constitutionality of your conduct, or permit you to follow some outdated and outmoded scheme employed some seventy-six (76) years ago, is simply not accurate--Factually, Legally and Masonically. As such, by not holding a Grand Lodge Session, either Virtually, In-Person or a combination of the two, you are violating our Constitutions. It is that simple.

Moreover, claiming that you are doing so to protect the vote of all of our members sounds rather hollow when I never once heard anyone's concern for the numerous Lodges that are disenfranchised each year because they can’t afford the travel costs to New York City. You suggested in your Zoom meeting that another reason not to have a Virtual Grand Lodge Session is because not everyone has a computer. Should any brother with a right to attend our Virtual Grand Lodge Session indicate that they do not have a computer to login, I am certain suitable accommodations would be made. The cynical suggestion that brothers would not assist their brothers, is simply not the Masonry I know and love.

To further suggest that the cost is prohibitive to permit a Virtual Grand Lodge Session flies in the face of the countless Grand Lodges and Concordant Bodies that have held Virtual Grand Sessions. Moreover, what was the Grand Lodge budget for foreign travel during your first two years? How many tens of thousand of dollars were spent? I seem to recall one first-class plane ticket to Scotland for nearly $10,000.00. Nor have I heard that Grand Lodge has waived Lodges’ per capita requirements. To suggest that the Grand Lodge of the State of New York can’t afford a Virtual Grand Lodge Session, or some hybrid, is hogwash. Indeed, as Judge Advocate, the Masonic Legal Adviser, of the Grand Chapter, Royal Arch Masons of the State of New York, I am aware of their plans for a Virtual Grand Chapter Session. With many of the same Constitutional requirements as our Grand Lodge’s, the cost I am informed, will be well below $10,000.00.

To further argue that it is not feasible to hold a Virtual Grand Lodge Session, or some hybrid option, because of technical concerns, also proves specious. Indeed, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and its Commandery, the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, the Grand Lodge of Maine, the Grand Lodge of Wisconsin, the Grand Lodge of New Mexico and its York Rite Bodies, the Grand Lodge of South Dakota, the Grand Lodge of Michigan, the Grand Lodge of North Carolina, the Grand Lodge of Illinois and the Grand Lodge of Colorado, are just a small sampling of the many Grand Jurisdictions that have held either Virtual, In-Person, or hybrid Grand Sessions this past year. I am further aware that General Grand Chapter International Royal Arch Masons, General Grand Council International (Cryptic Masons), and other International Masonic Bodies have all held Virtual Sessions. In fact , I am informed that some of those bodies handled approximately 600-700 Virtual Participants, some even logging in worldwide! Were there hiccups? Probably, but those Bodies should be applauded for their efforts. Will there be technical issues at our Virtual Grand Lodge Session? Probably, but what a small price to pay to fulfill our Constitutional obligation--or at least to try!

The point is, so many Grand Lodges and Concordant Bodies from around the country, and the world, have seen fit to get it done. Found the will. Found the path forward to hold their Grand Jurisdiction’s Grand Session and fulfill their Constitutional obligations. Indeed, as I am sure you know, even the Conference of Grand Masters and Conference of Grand Secretaries are being conducted remotely this year. Yet, the Grand Lodge of the State of New York can’t? To not try, to simply cancel a Constitutionally mandated Grand Lodge Session because of some anecdotal evidence, exaggerated concern, or fear of the natural limitations in whatever option is chosen, is simply a dereliction of our duty. Indeed, how can our Grand Body operate for yet another year without passing a budget? How can you justify not attempting to find some solution that would ensure the thoughtful exercise of our membership’s rights to elect its Leadership, including the Trustees of the Masonic Hall and Home, the Masonic Medical Research Institute, the Chancellor Robert R Livingston Library and the Masonic War Veterans. Your decision, not only disenfranchises our membership, but has serious implications for the lawful governance of our Institution.
What is most troubling about your pronouncement Grand Master, is that it has been said by some, that long ago you were made aware that our Grand Lodge does have the ability to hold secure and credentialed elections for all voting members; that long ago you were made aware that our Grand Lodge does have the technology and tools to hold a 100% Virtual Grand Lodge Session using industry standard video conferencing services at a minimal cost; that long ago you were made aware that our Grand Lodge does have the ability to use Groupable to ensure that only those brothers legally permitted to attend this Virtual Session are in attendance.

Some have further suggested that you were provided multiple plans that would ensure a Constitutionally viable Virtual Grand Lodge Session while keeping Brothers socially distant and safe; and that you were further informed that a Virtual Grand Lodge Session could ensure that a proper and legal election could be held, even providing for brothers being nominated “from the floor”. In other words, conducting the business of Grand Lodge virtually and securely. Is this correct? Were you provided this information and refused to act? Did you disband the Deputy Grand Master’s IT Team? Why have we not heard from these brothers, or those you indicate “advised” you regarding the options that you now claim are not feasible? Why is it that after so many months, you have for the first time merely provided anecdotal evidence with nothing substantive or concrete to support your extraordinary position, disenfranchising an entire Grand Lodge in the process? No brother prefers a Virtual Lodge meeting or Virtual Grand Lodge Session, to in-person. That will come, God willing soon. Until then, if a Virtual Grand Lodge Session, or some hybrid, is the only realistic option available, then that is what we must do to ensure that the business of Masonry and the business of our Grand Lodge is conducted and that we are satisfying our Constitutional duty. When you suggest that our brothers would prefer to not hold our Constitutionally mandated Grand Lodge Session because of an intolerance to potential technical difficulties that may occur during a Virtual Session, you underestimate our brothers and do a disservice to their integrity.

Grand Master, some have suggested that this is nothing short of a power grab, a Grand Master unwilling to give up power. I do not suggest that this is your motivation. I would like to think that your ill conceived decision emanates from a lack of information, or proper advice, rather than some nefarious, self-indulgent, motivation. Should you wish to serve a fourth year, however, while repugnant to the Spirit of our Constitutions as we have relied upon the good will of brothers for nearly a century to voluntarily step down after two years of service, as there are no “official” term limits, you could in theory run. Not holding a Grand Lodge Session, thereby extending your term of Office beyond that which is permitted under our Constitutions and then holding a future Grand Lodge Session only when you deem acceptable, is simply not an option. I hope you will agree, we do not have Kings in Masonry, we have Brothers.

I urge you to reconsider this destructive path you have started down. I urge you to reconsider your decision, authorize a Virtual Grand Lodge Session, or some suitable and acceptable alternative, for history will be our judge.

Fraternally and Respectfully Submitted,
RW Steven Adam Rubin
Grand Treasurer
Grand Lodge of the State of New York