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Monday, February 29, 2016

UPDATED: GM of California on Gays in Freemasonry

Most Worshipful Brother M. David Perry, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge F&AM of California, has issued a statement about the recent actions in Georgia and Tennessee  regarding gay men and Freemasonry. It reads:


You might have read about recent events in some US states including Georgia and Tennessee where Masonic grand lodges have adopted new rules or have enforced existing rules that discipline Masons because of their sexual orientation. Such rules and actions do not coincide with the principles of Freemasonry as practiced by the Grand Lodge of California and do not support what we understand as the great aim of our fraternity. 

Freemasonry is a universal system which uses the tools and techniques of the old stonemasons’ guilds to illustrate simple moral and ethical principles. To this it adds a philosophical and spiritual framework for personal improvement. Freemasonry encourages its members to be better by improving their relationships with others, by practicing a life of tolerance, compassion, honesty, and the pursuit of justice. Freemasonry instructs its members to uphold and respect the laws of their government and not to undermine those laws. It attempts to make the world a better place by making its members better citizens of the communities in which they live. 

Freemasonry may be found worldwide, in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Freemasonry works through local lodges. In California and elsewhere, some lodges are comprised of men only, some of women only and some of both men and women. Each lodge typically operates under a grand lodge, and there are a number of these grand lodges operating in California. Each grand lodge is independent and operates under its own set of rules as its members may decide.  

With more than 50,000 members statewide, those lodges under the Grand Lodge of California are open to men of good character and faith, regardless of their race, color, religious beliefs, political views, economic station, sexual orientation, physical ability, citizenship or national origin. Our lodges currently work in English, Spanish, French, and Armenian. 

Through this universal brotherhood, California Masons learn to be better husbands, better fathers, better friends, and better citizens. By appreciating our differences, we learn to focus on what unites us. Thus, the discussion of religion, politics, and business is not permitted in our lodges. In this way we live up to the centuries-old aim of our fraternity – to unite men of every country, sect, and opinion and cause true friendship among those who otherwise would have remained at a distance. 
Sincerely and fraternally, M. David Perry, Grand Master 


The letter can be seen online here.

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UPDATE: On February 26th, 2016, MW R. Wesley Ing, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Utah F&AM, issued the following statement to all Masons in the state:


There are those today that believe as society changes so should Freemasonry. However, over the ages the basic tenets and principles of Masonry have proven to be unwavering and beyond reproach.  
That being said The Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Utah welcomes to its doors and admits to its privileges, worthy men of various creeds and classes. However, it insists that all men shall stand upon an exact equality. As this Grand Lodge does not concern itself with a Mason’s religious faith, ethnic background and or race, so neither does this Grand Lodge concern itself with a Mason’s sexual preference. All that is asked is that a Utah Freemason look well to his obligations and promote the good of the Fraternity within the confines of his lodge and the community around him.  
Sincerely & Fraternally,  
R. Wesley Ing  
Grand Master, F&AM of Utah 

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And this statement now appears on the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia website:

​In response to recent questions posed to this Grand Lodge on the qualifications and eligibility of men seeking membership in our constituent Lodges, we offer this statement of unwavering principles: Admission to membership in our lodges is extended to men of faith based upon their personal merit and good character, without reference to race, creed, sexual orientation, specific religion or national origin. 

The Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia dedicates itself to the diversity of the brotherhood of men who practice and study the initiatory rites and deep symbolism of Freemasonry in an effort to make ourselves better men – socially, morally and intellectually.  Our Grand Lodge is a society of men who use single-gendered camaraderie and fellowship to provide motivation and drive for self-improvement, especially in the practice of our key aspirations: brotherly love, relief and truth.
 

The universality of our practice is reflected in the broad range of backgrounds to be found here. Lodges here not only work in English, but in French, Spanish, German, Italian, Farsi, Turkish and Armenian. Our membership hails from every continent and represents every race and creed, as well as a broad range of national origins.  Masonic visitors to this international city find unparalleled opportunities to visit a Lodge that reminds them of home – wherever that home may be.
 

However, the concept of universality is not only an international paradigm. It enjoys equal importance in our welcoming of men whose varied backgrounds and practices in their private and professional lives would normally keep them at a perpetual distance. The diversity of our membership, in terms of race, creed, sexual orientation, specific religion and national origin is thus seen as an asset, rather than a liability. Civility and kindness is the rule for all interaction, thus discussions of politics, religion and business are prohibited in the Lodge room. In this way, we hold that men become brothers by leaving divisions at the door, and taking strength from a shared appreciation of the common aspirations of all men for their own betterment, and for improving themselves through service as respected members of their communities, despite their outward differences.
Our dedication to diversity was not born in Washington, DC. Worldwide Masonic law and practice from the days of Anderson’s Constitutions clearly disfavors the exclusion of men based upon modes of belief, backgrounds or lifestyles that enjoy legal protection in their societies. Therefore, today we say, “Any man can be a D.C. Freemason, but not every man can be one.”  And our tradition of over five hundred years of inclusion continues to patiently await those with the imagination, will and energy to dedicate themselves to the elevation of the human race. 

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On March 1st, the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction declared their position on the subject of homosexual members by posting on their website
"Membership in the Scottish Rite is based upon personal integrity and good character, without reference to race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or national origin." 
They represent several hundred thousand of the 550,000 U.S. Scottish Rite Freemasons, from 35 jurisdictions.

Study Results: Present Conditions of Freemasonry in the World

Back in December, I posted a message from Worshipful Brother Vincent Lombardo, a Past Master of Quinte St. Alban’s Lodge No. 620, in Thornhill, Ontario, Canada, a regular lodge chartered by the Grand Lodge of Canada AF & AM in the Province of Ontario. He was seeking information for a huge study he was working on about the statistics and practices of Freemasonry all around the world.

He posted the results of his study today, and they are available here: Study on the Present Conditions of Freemasonry in the World


Based on the figure cited by his own jurisdiction, there are currently approximately 3.2 million regular Masons worldwide who are in amity with the United Grand Lodge of England and most North American grand lodges. His study results reflect responses from 81 individual Masons, and he was hampered in compiling truly detailed results because he was forbidden to actually contact Grand Secretaries or grand lodge offices directly. So the outcome is more of a compilation of individual experiences and opinions than anything remotely official. And he freely admits that he is not a professional statistician or researcher, but merely a Brother interested in worldwide trends, successes, and failures. Having said that, his ambition was enormous without any real outside support besides word of mouth.


It's a long read, but well worth study. Interestingly, Lombardo comes to many of the same conclusions and suggestions that our group, the Knights of the North, reflected upon ten years ago in Laudable Pursuit. Not surprising, perhaps because we both used Dwight Smith's observations from the 1960s as the basis of our initial missions.


The study is especially useful for North American Masons to see how jurisdictions in other parts of the world operate on a day to day basis. He tries to make distinctions between jurisdictions that are growing versus ones that are declining. There is, unfortunately, no magic bullet for lodges and grand lodges that are losing members, but there are dozens of small practices that can contribute to greater successes. That is, perhaps, the most useful conclusion that can be drawn from this noble experiment, and I applaud WBro. Lombardo for his extraordinary effort.


To contact WBro. Lombardo about his study, or to provide feedback, he may be emailed by clicking here.

Is Anti-Masonry A "Hate Crime?"

The second story on all of tonight's local newscasts in Indianapolis, after the Academy Awards,  has been a piece about the local Mosque and Islamic Center in neighboring Plainfield, Indiana having some graffiti spray painted on its exterior brick wall early Sunday morning. All of the TV stations are  interviewing "shocked" citizens, area Muslims and political leaders, and have been loudly proclaiming that the FBI has been called in to investigate this as a "hate crime."

Well, as callous as this may sound, welcome to the club, folks.

Over the last several years, incidents around the world - and not just in the U.S. - have been increasingly reported of Masonic lodges being tagged with anti-Masonic slogans, Stars of David, All-Seeing Eyes, and other insulting markings. Worse, many lodges have been broken into, and priceless documents and items have been destroyed or stolen. One Australian lodge in 2013 was broken into four times in one year alone. In several cases, arson is not uncommon, causing untold damage. Just last month, an historic lodge in rural California was burned to the ground under suspicious circumstances. There have been many occasions of Masonic tombstones being spray painted, toppled, or broken. And in the most troubling story of all, a Muslim man was arrested in Wisconsin in January for planning a mass murder spree at a Scottish Rite center in Milwaukee. And yet, it was only this last case that managed to finally catch the attention of the FBI.

Other acts of vandalism are rarely, if ever, treated as "hate crimes" against Freemasons anywhere in the world. That's because Masonry is not officially covered under existing federal or state hate crime laws.

I think it's time that we as Masons start raising a little hell about this and taking our story public.  While it's often true that the perpetrators of these crimes are frequently just teenagers who are bored,  many others are older and more fanatical fundamentalists of one stripe or another who are acting out their hatred, fueled by demented websites and publications. We live in a more dangerous world now than ever before, and in some countries, Masons are actually endangered if they are publicly identified by name or in photographs.

At the local level, every lodge today should have an alarm system that automatically notifies authorities in case of a break-in, and security cameras are also a good idea to help provide police with physical descriptions of vandals and thieves. During meetings, exterior doors should be locked, or monitored via a camera by the Tyler. And it's probably not a bad idea to request local police to drive through lodge parking lots occasionally, and during meetings especially.

Unfortunately, we have to start taking notice of these things and actively reporting threats and actions against our members and lodges. It's becoming a much bigger problem than just simply being offended.  And it's growing.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

"Gentlemen 101"

It's curious that this story popped up on my Facebook feed today. It's a tale about an elementary school in Charleston, South Carolina that has a program for 1st through 5th grade boys who, once a week, are dressed in their Sunday best outfits, and meet as a 'Gentleman's Club' to learn the basic life lessons of how to be a well mannered man.

It's been so successful that the idea is spreading to other area schools.

Here's a part of the story from the WCSC-TV8 website:
Every Wednesday nearly 60 students at Memminger Elementary dress for success and meet for the Gentleman’s Club. 
Raymond Nelson is the student support specialist at Memminger Elementary in Downtown Charleston. He works with at-risk children and over winter break thought of an idea to teach his students life lessons. 
“I was thinking maybe if I have the boys dress for success,” Nelson said. “When was the last time you saw someone fighting in a tuxedo?” 
Nelson started The Gentleman’s Club. Their motto is “Look good, feel good, do good.”Every Wednesday, dozens of first through fifth graders walk into class in their Sunday’s best. 
“They like the reaction of walking up to classrooms and say, ‘Oh, you look so nice and handsome,’ they just love it,” Nelson said. 
Nelson keeps a stash of donated jackets, vests and ties at school for kids who don’t have their own. 
“A lot of my students perform well when they know someone cares about them,” Nelson said. 
Each week they discuss a new topic like how to shake hands, make eye contact, open doors and address their elders. 
Nelson says because some of the younger boys are still at the age where they consider girls to have cooties, he bases his lessons and examples off how they would treat sisters, mothers and their teachers. 
“I know a lot of them struggle because a lot of them don’t have men at home, so I just want them to grow up and think of the things that I teach them,” Nelson said. 
At his mother’s request, Nelson himself joined a similar group as a child. 
“It helped me to be a better man and I could spread the knowledge to the young boys,” Nelson said. 
The Gentleman’s club has been so successful at Memminger that Charleston County School District officials say they want other local schools to begin Gentleman’s programs in their schools.
The reason I say that this is curious is because earlier this week when I was at the Conference of Grand Masters, I was speaking to the Grand Master of Wisconsin, Frank Struble. He told me that he has spent the last few months visiting around his state, conducting what he calls a Listening Tour, and collecting various ideas that have worked to revitalize local lodges. These have been published in the 2016 Wisconsin Masonic Journal issues.

One idea that he was especially intrigued by came from a lodge that started a program they call "Gentlemen 101", and it's not too dissimilar in concept to the program described in the Charleston story. The lodge donates tuxedos for young men in area high schools for them to wear to their proms, and they provide regular gatherings at the lodge to teach these young men manners, dressing and grooming tips,  and other life lessons in how to be a gentleman.

Frank said an upcoming issue of the state magazine will have a feature article about the lodge program, and I will update this post when it comes out.

In the meantime,  if you are intrigued about starting such a program, but aren't sure where to get ideas to pass along to young men, check out the great Art of Manliness website, authored by Brother Brett McKay and his wife Kate. (Brother McKay is a member of Veritas Lodge No. 556 in Norman, Oklahoma.)

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Indiana Brethren, 
Brother Cody Jones' wife is in charge of a program at her library called "Project Prom" where they collect both formal dresses and menswear to donate to families in need so that their kids can still have the prom experience that otherwise they would not be able to afford.
They are very much in need of gently-used suits and tuxedos. If any of you have formalwear that have cycled out of your wardrobe and you would like to donate it, please send a message to me and I will pass it along.
If you live near Franklin, you can drop items off at any of the four Johnson County Public Library branches (the Franklin Branch is right next to the Indiana Masonic Home). Mention to the folks there that it is for "Project Prom" and they will get it to the proper hands.

Masonic Week 2016 Recap

My friend and Brother Jay over at the Magpie Mason blog has just posted his annual report on the various goings on at this year's Masonic Week in Crystal City, Virginia, complete with photos of many old and new faces.

I have unfortunately had to cut back on my traveling in the last few years, and have missed the last two annual Masonic Week events due to budgetary reasons. But I pass my congratulations along to everyone who took on leadership positions in the many officers' lines in the Masonic bodies represented there. I am especially happy to see so many of these Brothers who are also members and Fellows in the Masonic Society.

To read the report, CLICK HERE.

Malaysia: How Muslims Came To Fear Freemasons

In the wake of this past week's protests by a Muslim group against a Masonic conference held in Malaysia, a local editorial appeared today on the webpage of MalayMail Online by author Zurairi AR. He describes himself as a "skeptic who believes in doing good for goodness' sake," and who "tweets for believers and non-believers alike."

His opinion piece attempts to explain to Malaysia's non-Masonic population  just why Muslims are so nervous about Freemasons operating in their countries, and why such fears are unfounded.

From "How Muslims came to fear Freemasons":

Under fire from Malay-Muslim groups for organising a conference in Penang last week, a senior member of a regional Freemason grand lodge was forced to defend the fraternity, explaining that it is “just like the Rotary and Lions”, referring to two major international service groups.
In hindsight, perhaps it was a bad comparison, considering that Palestinian fundamentalist resistance movement Hamas consider Rotary and Lions the same as Freemasons in its 1988 charter: secret organisations working to serve the Zionist interest through sabotage.
As with the blind zealotry with regards to the Palestinian cause, this accusation by Hamas has played a part in shaping the community’s hysterical phobia against Freemasonry.
It is this phobia that led to a crusade against the four-day Scottish Masonic Conference in George Town, organised by Klang-based District Grand Lodge of the Middle East (DGLME) that oversees 22 lodges in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
The fire was stoked by Umno Youth executive council member Armand Azha Abu Hanifah early this month, himself an avid conspiracy theorist. (Last month, he complained against local broadcaster Astro’s advertisement, claiming the presence of the Eye of Providence, a fabled Illuminati symbol.)
Of course, sanity prevailed as the conference went on without a hitch, despite a massive protest of 20 people by the Red Shirts, the new melting pot for everything concerning Malay-Muslim supremacy.
A major fear driving anti-Masonry among Muslims seems to be the false conflation that Freemasons are Illuminati, a cabal allegedly pulling the strings behind the world — imagine a round table in a smoky room, with the world map as a backdrop. You know, the stuff you see in fiction.
Some Muslims not only believe that Illuminati actually exists, but claim that it is serving the Zionist agenda — which can be traced back to the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, perhaps among the world’s biggest frauds, continuing to fuel conspiracy theorists’ wet dreams nearly 100 years since it was exposed as forgery in English paper The Times in 1921.
Freemasonry’s clandestine brotherhood, rituals and symbolisms inevitably led it to be compared to the Illuminati. It also does not help that the Temple of Solomon plays a big role in its symbolism, leading to accusations that Masons aim to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque in order to restore the holy Jerusalem temple.
But this phobia goes way back before Hamas, to early 18th century. And this fear among some Muslims has its roots in, surprisingly, Christianity.
Celil Layiktez, a Mason and an editor for the Grand Lodge of Turkey, suggested that anti-Masonry in the Islamic world started when Sultan Mahmut I of the Ottoman Empire outlawed Freemasonry in 1748 — but the monarch only did so in response to Pope Clement XII’s excommunication of the group, 10 years prior.
Layiktez also claimed that among those who deposed Sultan Abdul Hamid II in 1908, the last Ottoman Sultan, and therefore the last Caliph, had been Masons — leading to further animosity from Muslims.
Fast forward to the future, Freemasonry is now illegal in almost all Arabic countries.
But it was not until Nazi Germany that anti-Masonry took on an anti-Semitic slant. Adolf Hitler, a fan of the above-mentioned Protocols, believed that Freemasonry was part of a Jewish conspiracy, and it was banned under the Nazis. It was estimated that between 80,000 and 200,000 Masons were murdered under the regime.
It is not hard to see shades of Hitler’s anti-Semitic attack against Freemasonry in a fatwa released by the Saudi-based Muslim World League, that had perhaps cemented anti-Masonry in Muslim-majority countries.
The group’s Islamic Jurisprudence Council held its first session in 1978, and the first thing they discussed? Freemasons.
(Well, the second resolution in that session was on Communists, and then the Ahmadis, the Baha’is, and then insurance policies; you can see where their priorities were.)
In the religious decree, the influential Shariah interpretation body said that Freemasonry’s “original organisational roots are Jewish; its secret global high administration, Jewish; and its activity, Zionist.” It also claimed that the group’s “secret real aim” is to destroy Islam.
The same fatwa also named Rotary and Lions as conspicuous Freemason branches, “operating under pseudonyms.”
Decades later, Freemasons and Illuminati are now used interchangeably by many Muslims, and lumped together with Zionism and Satan worship. The Eye of Providence was even taken by some to symbolise Dajjal, the one-eyed Muslim anti-Christ that signifies the coming of the end of times.
The protest in Penang too had labelled Freemasons as anti-Islam, warmongers, LGBT supporters, DAP allies... all that is evil in the world, basically.
Forget that there are Muslim Mason brothers worldwide (after all, belief in a Deity is a requirement in some organisations).
Forget that Freemasonry has had a long history in Muslim-majority countries, including Malaysia, and they are hardly secret, being registered societies.
DGLME itself started operating in Kuala Lumpur in 1916, bringing together three lodges in then Malaya — Lodge Scotia in Penang, Lodge Tullibardine in Kuala Lumpur, and Lodge Malay in Klang.
While DGLME is under the Grand Lodge of Scotlands group, there also exists the District Grand Lodge of the Eastern Archipelago (DGLEA), that is under a different movement, the United Grand Lodge of England and dates back to Penang’s foundation by Francis Light in 1786.
Islam does not need Freemasons to destroy itself, after all its zealots can perfectly do that by themselves. But some Muslims do need the Freemasons, as the bogeyman, to justify their acts of ignorance, and as excuse to cover up their failings — from the fall of the Ottoman Empire to the decline and rotting of Islamic institutions.
The immense ludicrousness of the Freemason/Illuminati conspiracy theory in a way makes it very popular, and very effective when used against critics and detractors. I can already imagine myself being accused of being a Mason for writing this.
Just like how Freemason lodges will continue to thrive, its myth will endure, thanks to Muslims who in lieu of the Devil in the real world, have named Freemasonry as the manifestation of all its deepest fears and worries.


For a longer article I wrote myself a couple of weeks ago on this subject, see it here.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Online Lists of Masonic Lodges For Researchers


Through the connections on Facebook just today, I came across two internet resources of incalculable importance for Masonic researchers.

The first is an online version of John Lane's Masonic Records 1717 -1894, and it lists all lodges chartered by the English Grand Lodges from the foundation of the first Grand Lodge up through 1894. According to the website, 

In 2003, The Centre for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism under the Directorship of Professor Andrew Prescott in collaboration with the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, London produced an electronic version of Lane’s book. Since 2008 the Library and Museum of Freemasonry has been adding lodges that came into existence after 1894 to the database and eventually hope to edit the records of pre-1894 lodges to include meeting places after that date.

It is searchable by name, number, and keyword. The site was last updated in 2011, so it may not be completely up to date with the most recently chartered lodges, but it is still an amazing source of  information. 

The other site is an online, searchable version of Pantagraph Publishing's List of Lodges (Masonic) for 1920, issued to lodges under the Grand Lodge of New Jersey that year. It is a listing of all regular Grand Lodges in the U.S. and around the world, along with every lodge by name, number and city in each country.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Malaysian Anti-Mason Group Attempt To Shut Down Scottish Freemason Conference


MalayMailOnline.com reports today that, after a week of filing complaints,  a group of twenty Muslim protesters in the Malaysian resort city of Penang gathered outside of a hotel and protested an International Conference of Scottish Freemasonry, demanding its cancellation.

From the article:

Dressed in red T-shirts, the demonstrators have been shouting “Allahu Akhbar” as they gathered in front of the hotel entrance under watch from several policemen on duty. 
“They are Jews and anti-Islam, they must respect us and stop this conference,” several members of the group shouted, referring to the Freemasons. 
They were earlier barred from entering the hotel by the police, but insisted they would not disperse until the conference is called off. 
They also demanded a meeting with the hotel manager to make clear why the Freemason conference must not go on. 
Freemasons from 15 countries are currently attending the four-day Scottish Masonic, which kicked off today and is scheduled to run until February 27.One of the protesters, president Jaringan Melayu Malaysia Azwanddin Hamzah, accused Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng of sponsoring the event.“We want the Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng to explain if the DAP state government is the one sponsoring this event,” he said. 
Azwanddin labelled the Freemasons as Jews, anti-Islam and the group that started wars against Muslims. 
“They are also the ones supportive of the LGBT,” he claimed, referring to the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders,” he added. 
Officers from the police anti-riot unit, the Light Strike Force, soon arrived, armed with batons to stand guard outside the hotel entrance after it looked as if the protesters might storm inside. 
At about 3.45pm, northeast district police chief Assistant Commissioner of Police Mior Faridalatrash Wahid accompanied Azwanddin and three others from the group into the hotel. 
The group returned five minutes later and told the others waiting outside that the conference was cancelled. 
“We were shown the hall, it was emptied, the delegates have all been told to go back to their rooms, the event was cancelled because of our protest,” Azwanddin said. 
He promised that the Malay group will protest again against any other Freemason event if they were held in the country.

UPDATE: A later report from New Straits Times says the Conference is still actually going on without interruption:

[A] check by the New Straits Times with the International Scottish Masonic Conference's event organising chairman Neoh Ho Keat revealed that the conference had not been called off. Neoh told the New Straits Times at the entrance that the event which started yesterday would wrap up tomorrow as scheduled. "Our conference proceeds. There is nothing to talk with the NGO members as we have done nothing against the Islamic religion. "Their presence has not deterred us from continuing with our programmes," he said. Neoh from Kuala Lumpur said some 300 delegates were present and another batch of 300 would arrive for the event's closing dinner tomorrow. The three-day conference is held to celebrate District Grand Lodge of the Middle East's centenary celebration.

This has been backed up by Brethren attending the Conference.

Freemasons in Malaysia are chartered under the District Grand Lodge of the Middle East under the Grand Lodge of Scotland. Also in Malaysia is the District Grand Lodge of the Eastern Archipelago under the United Grand Lodge of England. The country has a Sunni Muslim-majority that makes up 61% of the religion practiced there, and Constitutionally, Islam is the  official religion. 

The United Kingdom has just issued a terrorism warning to their citizens traveling to Malaysia. The country's beach resorts are popular with UK tourists and it is estimated that 400,000 Britons Journey there each year. 

The Foreign Office issued the warning today on its website.

Antonin Scalia Was Member of a "Secret Society"


Here's a story sure to please all of you title hunters looking for another organization to join ("Dues card and a pin? I'M IN!"), as well as the conspiracy mongers.

It seems that recently deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died while on a hunting trip in Texas with a fraternal "secret society" dedicated to the fine art of the hunt. The International Order of St. Hubertus is an Austrian society that dates back to the 1600s. Its American chapter was started at none other than San Francisco's infamous Bohemian Club, the very same founders of the even more infamous Bohemian Grove (where the movers and shakers of politics and industry gather each year to engage in creepy plays and ceremonies, and pee on old growth redwoods).


According to the Washington Post, who broke the story yesterday:

Members of the worldwide, male-only society wear dark-green robes emblazoned with a large cross and the motto “Deum Diligite Animalia Diligentes,” which means “Honoring God by honoring His creatures,” according to the group’s website. Some hold titles, such as Grand Master, Prior and Knight Grand Officer. The Order’s name is in honor of Hubert, the patron saint of hunters and fishermen.
From the history on the Order's website (How can they be a secret society with a website? We Masons ask the same question all the time) :


The International Order of Saint Hubertus was founded in 1695 by Count Franz Anton von Sporck in what was then the Kingdom of Bohemia, then territory of the Habsburg Empire, now the modern Czech Republic. 
The Order was a knightly order with an emphasis on hunting and activities related to the pursuit and management of game animals. In the Middle Ages and again with the revival of interest in the forms of chivalry in Europe, hunting was considered a basic preparation for warfare and was held among the highest activities a gentleman could pursue. In addition, Count von Sporck was also a prominent patron of music, having commissioned numerous Vivaldi operas and the four Bach minor Masses for performance at his private Opera House in Prague. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

NPR Radio: Tennessee Freemasons Oust Married Gay Couple


I had the distinct honor to speak at the Conference of Grand Masters of North America yesterday in Madison, Wisconsin. It was a great opportunity to connect with so many grand line officers and friends old and new from around the country and the world, and especially to reconnect with those I have met over the years when visiting their own jurisdictions.

Today while changing planes, I received a Google alert in my email box pointing me to a story that appeared this morning on the website of the local Memphis, Tennessee NPR station, WKNO about the recent expulsion of two gay Brethren in that town from the fraternity. (For the earlier background on the story, see the link here.) I am quoted briefly in the story, and I agreed to speak with them last week before I left for Madison.

Read or listen to it here.: WKNO: "Tennessee Freemasons Oust Married Gay Couple, Threaten Supporters with Suspension"

I spoke to the assembled Grand Masters during their business session, and in my remarks, I said the following:

Just 10 years ago, no one would have even contemplated the Masonic complications of gay marriage, and suddenly, seemingly overnight, it’s the law of the land, and new, young Masons are shocked when they discover a few jurisdictions have rules discriminating against gay members. Our entire society has changed just that fast, in the blink of an eye, and we have to deal with it. Because if we are counting on these new men to join, become active, and save our fraternity from oblivion, we can’t just dismiss the issues THEY find to be vitally important as being trivial, or even worse, none of their business.  We tell them, often right there on our webpages,  that we teach tolerance. We can’t go back on that promise.  
We can no longer hide episodes we may find embarrassing anymore. No matter how tempting it might be, we cannot stop online discussions of our actions. Social media is too important in everyone’s life now. If something happens in just one isolated lodge or grand lodge, or even in a clandestine lodge, such as the recent arrest of several men masquerading as a Masonic police force in California, literally the rest of the world sees the story online or even on their phones the very next day, and brands the entire fraternity with it. That’s the dark side of the age in which we live now.

I have already said my peace on this story in previous entries. It is not my intention to question the authority of any sovereign Masonic jurisdiction to make rules that suit their members. But several Grand Masters of American grand lodges spoke with me privately at the Conference and told me that already, because of the actions of the Grand Lodges of Tennessee and Georgia, their own members have been publicly protested against, and even dis-invited from public events like cornerstone ceremonies. And I can tell all of you, there are mutterings among some grand lodge bodies about seriously considering recognition issues.  You can tell us Yankees - as several emails have referred to me tonight - to butt out of your state's business. But this issue goes beyond your own borders, and just like the racial issues in Georgia that arose several years ago hitting the New York Times, it will only get bigger. 

That affects all of us.

I strongly urge the Brethren in Tennessee and Georgia to consider carefully how you proceed from here. What happens in Memphis or Atlanta puts all Freemasons, worldwide, in the spotlight.   Fortunately, Brethren in Kentucky back in 2010 voted against proposed legislation in their Grand Lodge that would have banned gay members.  At least in Tennessee next month, Masons have the opportunity to remove the existing discriminatory wording from their code. Unfortunately, the situation in Georgia can't be righted so quickly.

Petitioners who are investigated, voted on, initiated, passed, and raised in a local lodge are just and upright Masons. No one stops you from refusing to sit in your lodge with a visitor you find objectionable, if that is your choice. But I continue to say that the sexual orientation of a Brother is none of our business, and I guarantee you have long been sitting in lodge next to gay Masons, probably since the night of your initiation. 

Each individual Mason has his own, private religious beliefs, and we all vary from one another in some way or interpretation - some more than others. That's why the very design of our fraternity is  such a perfect blueprint for bringing together men in a world full of different faiths and political beliefs. But we cross a very dangerous line when we actually write our personal religious and political views into our Grand Lodge regulation books.  

I simply caution that the rest of the Masonic world is carefully watching what you do with deep concern.

----------------------------------------

UPDATE: I received word on February 28th that the annual meeting of the Grand Lodge of Mississippi in March will consider a resolution to change their petition. The initiative will add the question "are you a natural born heterosexual man". 

Sadly, it seems that this issue will continue to come up among us.



Friday, February 19, 2016

Attracting Masonic Leaders

The website of Alcyone Lodge No. 695 located in Northport, New York regularly posts Masonic papers, including some of the Short Talk Bulletins from the Masonic Service Association. 

They posted one this week on the subject of Attracting Masonic Leaders, originally written by MW Bro. Houston A. Brian, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas. 

It reads, in part:

With our population increasing rapidly, with the longest sustained era of prosperity in the history of our country, with shorter working hours and, consequently, more time for activities of one's choice, it would seem that membership in Masonry would be increasing steadily. 
However, in most Grand Jurisdictions, we find year after year an alarming loss in membership. Many of our Brethren are laying aside the working tools of life. Many more are giving up their Masonic affiliation by simply refusing to pay their dues. When we add that each year finds fewer men petitioning for the Degrees, the overall situation presents a picture that is of grave concern to those of us who realize that no other organization, be it civic or fraternal, has as much to offer its membership as does the Masonic Fraternity.
 Before we criticize our former Brethren too severely for allowing their membership in the Craft to lapse for non-payment of dues, perhaps we should take a long, hard look at Masonry as it is being exemplified in our Lodges today, particularly in relation to the leadership qualities of the officers in our respective Lodges. In doing so, let's attempt to ascertain the reason for our present dual dilemma of suspensions on the one hand and the lack of interest in the Fraternity by non-members on the other.
Today young men reaching their majority are better educated than those of any generation which has preceded them. They have been taught by us to spend their leisure time wisely and to affiliate with organizations that are run smoothly and efficiently by competent people with leadership ability. Is it any wonder that it is difficult to keep them interested in an inefficiently run Masonic Lodge? 
(SNIP)
Find a Lodge whose Master and other officers are leaders in the true sense of the word, and you will find a Lodge in which the Brethren value their membership, participate in the activities of the Lodge, keep their membership active, and through their actions, in and out of the Lodge, attract other good men to petition for the Degrees.
 Does the Masonic Fraternity have within its membership Brethren with leadership ability; and if so, why do we not put these Brethren's talents to active use in our Lodges?
(SNIP)
Most men with leadership ability are called upon in the community to give of their time and talents in many avenues of service. Because of this, many of these Brethren will refuse to give seven years' service to their Lodge, but would, in many instances, serve faithfully for three years. I submit to you that a real leader can contribute more to Masonry in three years than a great many of the of officers of our Lodges at present could contribute in three score years.
In summation, there is no easy way to attract leaders within the Fraternity. In fact, there is no easy way to attract a leader in any endeavor of any consequence. Yet, in our civic clubs leaders continue to emerge. In business, leadership asserts itself. In Masonry, we must learn the knack of involving our membership in our Masonic activities to the end that leaders will emerge.

Very interesting observations by MW Bro. Brian. A growing population, yet decreasing numbers in our jurisdictions. Frustration about finding qualified officers and potential lodge leaders. It sounds like many of our lodges.

Here's the punchline. 

This talk was written almost 50 years ago, in 1969 for the Southwestern Conference on Masonic Education.

Go back and read the whole thing.

Big Day Internationally For Anti-Masons

It was a big day yesterday internationally for anti-Masonic folks.

First in Malaysia, several Non Governmental Agencies (NGOs) in the city of Penang filed no less than nine police reports yesterday designed to put a stop to an International Scottish Masonic Conference taking place there this month. And if the cops don't shut it down, these guys vow they will. A week ago, a Muslim man there made the headlines over his protest against the Conference on religious grounds. He is a member of Umno Youth, an outgrowth of the United Malays National Organization, the largest political party in that country. Now, the complaints have widened to nine different political and religious groups all protesting the Masons.

From TheMalayMailOnline.com website:


The groups including Gabungan Perwakilan Melayu, Persatuan Muslimim Pulau Pinang, Perwira and Persatuan Muka Buku Pulau Pinang also lodged nine police reports today against the Scottish Masonic Conference. 
“After looking through their website about the conference and although they have been in our country for a long time, we still feel uneasy and uncomfortable with such an international conference to be held here in Penang,” said Mohd Hafiz Mohd Nordin, chairman of the Jaringan Muslimim Pulau Pinang which is an umbrella body for 13 Malay non-governmental organisations. 
He claimed the Freemasons were linked to Zionists and propagated “evil conspiracy theories against Islam and Muslims”. 
He further claimed that the organisation was masquerading as a welfare movement, but could have a “secret agenda that even the media are unable to reveal”. 
No evidence was provided to support any of the allegations. 
“We want the police to investigate the conference, to find out what it is about, to check if the organiser is a registered society, to find out their activities here and why they chose to hold it here in Penang and at the Bayview Beach Resort,” he said, adding that they also want the police to investigate if the hotel had any links to the organisation. 
In his police report, he urged the police to stop the conference if it posed a threat to the harmony of the society especially if it causes discomfort and uneasiness among Muslims.“If the police don’t stop them, we will stop the conference because we do not want it to be held here,” he said. 
The four-day Scottish Masonic Conference, to be attended by Freemasons from 15 countries worldwide, is scheduled to be held from February 24 to 27.
Freemasons in Malaysia are chartered under the District Grand Lodge of the Middle East under the Grand Lodge of Scotland. Also in Malaysia is the District Grand Lodge of the Eastern Archipelago under the United Grand Lodge of England. The country has a Sunni Muslim-majority that makes up 61% of the religion practiced there, and Constitutionally, Islam is the  official religion. In fact, government-issued identity cards plainly identify the religion of each citizen. Minority faiths, particularly Christianity, are routinely persecuted by the government. 

UPDATE on FRIDAY FEBRUARY 19th!

The United Kingdom has just issued a terrorism warning to their citizens traveling to Malaysia. The country's beach resorts are popular with UK tourists and it is estimated that 400,000 Britons Journey there each year. 

The Foreign Office issued the warning today on its website:

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to all islands off the coast of eastern Sabah from Kudat to Tawau, including (but not limited to) Lankayan, Mabul, Pom Pom, Kapalai, Litigan, Sipadan and Mataking. 
(SNIP) 
There is a high threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. In January 2016, the Malaysian police said the country was on the highest security alert; from time to time the police presence increases in public areas.  
There is a threat from kidnapping in East Malaysia, particularly on the islands off eastern Sabah due to its proximity to the Sulu archipelago in the southern Philippines. There has also been a case in Sandakan on mainland Sabah. Boats travelling to and from off-shore islands and dive sites are possible targets. 
The Abu Sayyaf Group, based in southern Philippines, has previously kidnapped foreigners from the east coast of mainland Sabah, the islands and the surrounding waters. A number of hostages have been murdered by the group. 
The Malaysian authorities have increased security in the region in response to these incidents.
Malaysia is an oddly constituted nation geographically, as it is divided into two different, completely isolated regions that are split roughly in half by the South China Sea. The city of Penang, the location of the International Scottish Masonic Conference, is on the far western coast of what is called Peninsular Malaysia, while the resort area referred to on the Foreign Office website is on the far northern and eastern coasts of Eastern Malaysia.

This terror warning does not affect the city of Penang,  but it does highlight the jeopardy that both Malaysian and foreign sojourning Freemasons who openly disclose their membership can face there. Sadly (and alarmingly), accusations made by the aforementioned anti-Masonic Muslim organizations in Malaysia can result in more than just an annoying irritation. 
--------------------------------------
Meanwhile in France, Mssr. Elie Hatem, a political advisor to the far-right French National Front party's former leader Jean-Marie Le Pin, gave an interview to an Arabic-language TV network, Al Araybia, in which he accused "Zionists and Freemasons" of controlling France's public opinion, press and government. (Jean-Marie Le Pin was ousted in 2011 as his party's founding leader for being too extreme, and controversial, and has been replaced by his daughter Marine Le Pin as the head of the National Front. If you really want a headache, read A History of far right  movements in France on Wikipedia.) 

The interview was translated by the MEMRI website, which is an invaluable resource for providing Arabic media stories in English.

From a story on The Times of Israel website:



“We know that Marine Le Pen got closer to some movements that control public opinion in France,” Hatem, a Maronite Christian of Lebanese descent, told Al Arabiya TV last week. A transcript of the interview was translated from Arabic by MEMRI. 
“She did so in order to whitewash the National Front. These movements include Zionist movements and Freemasonry which control the press and the government in France,” Hatem said. 
The Al Arabiya interviewer interrupted Hatem, saying it was up to the French authorities responsible for the media to answer the allegations. 
Hatem replied: “Even some Zionists say so, this is well known in France, that is why everybody is afraid to talk about this. This is a sort of dictatorship.” 
Hatem said he was a member of the French national movement L’action Francaise, “a royalist movement founded by Charles Maurras.” 
“I am against the idea of secularism espoused by Marine Le Pen, as I told her on several occasions,” Hatem said. 
“The Freemasons were behind the secularism and they founded the French republic government on the three principles defended by Freemasonry: liberty, equality and fraternity,” he said. 
In 2014, Hatem was the National Front’s candidate for mayor of the 4th arrondissement of Paris. He was a curiosity of sorts at the time, being the first Action Francaise member to stand for election in any capacity in 20 years. 
Action Francaise is a far-right monarchist movement established in 1899 in reaction against the support of left-wing intellectuals of Jewish French army officer Alfred Dreyfus. 
Maurras, mentioned by Hatem, became the movement’s ideologue and steered it in a Catholicist, anti-secularist direction. Maurras called for the reversal of the principles of the French Revolution. 
Maurras was imprisoned after World War II and the movement’s popularity waned. Its ideas, however, remain influential in some circles of the French far right.

My Friend and Brother Irv Sacks

This is a very sad and personal post today. I received a message late Wednesday night that my friend and Brother Irwin H. Sacks, PM passed away Wednesday.
Irv was a true wonder. At one point he was a member of at least five Indianapolis lodges that I know of, and he was a 50 year member of Monument Lodge #657 (which merged into Centre #23 a few years ago), where he served as Master. He was also a member of Millersville Lodge #126. He served as Treasurer of Broad Ripple Lodge #643 for 10 years, which is where I first met him on the night of my initiation. He even helped a group of us back when we started Lodge Vitruvian #767 in 2002, and we have kept him as a member there ever since. 
Irv was also a 33rd in the Scottish Rite Valley of Indianapolis, where he actively participated in the degrees. His role as Moses in the 14th degree was a legend, and he often said, "I've played every Jew but Jesus.". 
He also served in the Downtown Indianapolis York Rite bodies. I believe he was the only Jewish Eminent Commander of Raper Commandery in modern memory - he once said to me "Of course I'll defend the Christian faith, just as I expect my Christian Brothers to defend my Jewish faith."
Irv didn't get out much in the years since his wonderful wife Sally passed away in 2009, but I chatted regularly with him on Facebook. Until Sally's death, they were both enthusiastic attendees at all of Broad Ripple Lodge's many social events. She was a member of our Order of the Eastern Star chapter until it moved and merged with Millersville's OES.
I learned much from Irv when I first joined the fraternity, and he was always ready to help in any way he could. He was often instrumental in diplomatically settling arguments between excited Brothers. But what I most appreciated in my early days at Ripple was that Irv was usually the first one to enthusiastically support a new young officer's ideas when others wanted to vote them down. I will miss his diplomacy, his wonderful stories, his unflappable good humor, and his caring friendship. My heart goes out to his sons Teddy and Steve, and I will think of Irv often. 
He will be sorely missed by those who knew him.
Irv's visitation will be Monday, February 22nd between 5:30 and 8PM at Aaron Ruben Nelson Mortuary at 11411 Michigan Road in Zionsville. The family has requested a Masonic service, and it will take place at 7:00PM. Centre Lodge is handling the arrangements for the service and I suspect there will be a large turnout. I would recommend Brethren who are participating to put their apron in the car, just in case the Centre Lodge folks run out of plain white funeral aprons.
Friends may leave a message of condolences on the mortuary's website here.

UPDATE ON FRIDAY, 2/19:

I received a message from Gordon Husk at the Scottish Rite Valley of Indianapolis that after Irv's Masonic service at 7PM on Monday, there will be a 33rd degree white carnation ceremony for Irv.
From Gordon: Illustrious Brothers - If you plan to participate in the white carnation ceremony, please contact me by email at gordon.husk@yahoo.com or cell phone, so we can have a sufficient number of carnations. Thank you.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Masonic Transparency

Photo: Dylan Brethour for Vice

An article on the Vice website today briefly visits and has a superficial chat with brethren at Freemason's Hall in London. 

From How The World's Oldest Secret Society Is Becoming More Transparent by Dylan Brethour:

We're at the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) in London's Covent Garden, the imposing stone building decorated with esoteric symbols. The Masons' reputation for mysticism has made them a beacon for conspiracy theorists, ranging from purported links with 9/11 to the Illuminati and New World Order. Now, in the lead up to their tercentenary, the Masons are trying to manage this centuries-old PR problem. The question is, what happens when the world's oldest secret society tries to open its doors? 
Part of the Masons' makeover is challenging the most persistent myths. "We actually prohibit politics and religion in what we do," Mike tells me. They're even hesitant about making public statements, "because of our history and because we would not want to seem politically motivated. You know, the conspiracy theories around, with Bilderberg and things like that." So why join if there's no opportunity to meddle in politics? It's all about the values, Mike says. The Masons make charitable donations as part of their community involvement. Right now they're in the middle of funding London's second air ambulance. "The next time you have a serious accident and the air ambulance flies down and, underneath it, you'll see a square and compasses – just think how that happens to be."
[SNIP]

Part of the problem for the Masons is that their distinctiveness is both a blessing and a curse. They're a deist non-religion marked by a disjointed mixture of conservatism and high theatre. Surely some of the attraction for any potential member is that weirdness. After all, what's the point of joining a secret society that wants to be open, transparent, and normal? But with that comes more of the same reputational hammering the Masons want to avoid. I ask Mike if there's ever the temptation to just open everything up? Almost all of their material, he tells me, is available online anyway. However, for UGLE's members, looking would spoil the surprise. Right now they're trying "to demystify it but without removing the element of fascination – that's the difficult thing." If the Masons want to celebrate their fourth centenary, they'll need to square that difficult circle.

The author points out a sad observation, "Talking to the press officer, it's clear that part of their strategy is downplaying anything too weird." 

Part of the enjoyment and enlightenment we receive as Masons, in the Blue Lodge and in all of the myriad appendant bodies we are able to join upon becoming Master Masons is the search for more knowledge, and much of that is accomplished by activities that many profanes regard as being "too weird." It is also partially the allure that draws men to join in the first place. But if we keep going to the press and hawking our charities, while saying over and over, "Nothing to see here. No wacky stuff going on, just some old boring ritual things you wouldn't really understand, along with these apron thingies. And let me mention all the money we gave to a big program last week," we are in very real danger of destroying the very image that draws men to join in the first place. 

We CAN speak to the press and the public about what we do without dismantling the allure of the fraternity, by providing the back story of our real and mythical origins - the why of what we do. Tell a reporter why you joined, what makes you come back every Tuesday night, what it has meant to you, instead of trying to deny that we are up to anything peculiar. 

Sadly, the UGLE has been doing this for years, and even though I certainly understand that they deal with far more anti-Masonic distrust culturally than we do in the US, I fear they go too far with the "openness" policy. By contrast, the French have a far worse time of it than their English Brethren do with the anti-Masonic press. Any time there's a slow news month, French magazines trot out another big, exciting headline accusing Masons of controlling their government or banking. The three major grand lodges there, as a rule, don't bother to answer such allegations publicly. In the few interviews they agree to, they are very sacrosanct. And yet, Masonry there continues to grow slowly, and not plummet the way US and English Freemasonry does. 

I think it  may be time to rethink the strategy.