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Arkansas Forcibly Removes Entered Apprentice: Wrong Religious Beliefs

An Entered Apprentice from Arkansas recently submitted a particularly disturbing report.  After he received the Entered Apprentice degree at Nettleton Lodge (near Jonesboro, Arkansas) the Grand Lodge demanded that the brother be kicked out.  Apparently, his religious beliefs were not in accord with those endorsed by the state’s Masonic leaders.  It’s important to understand, however, that the brother’s religious beliefs did not conflict with the actual by-laws of Arkansas Masonry.  His beliefs were merely deemed “unacceptable” by the reigning Grand Master and other Grand Lodge officers.

Below this article, there are two attachments provided.  One is the Masonic Petition where the brother seriously declares upon his honor that he believes in the existence of God and the immortality of the soul, as Arkansas Masonic law requires.  The second shows the Grand Lodge proceedings where the charter of his former lodge was revoked.  In Grand Master R. L. Sheffield’s official report to the Grand Lodge that year, he says:  “I recommend that the charter of Nettleton Lodge # 657 be arrested and a full and complete investigation into these matters [of non-believers in the Christian God] be conducted and a report made to you at our next communication.”  A proper investigation never occurred, but the lodge’s charter was permanently revoked, against all Masonic by-laws, rules, and regulations.

WHAT I KNOW ABOUT FREEMASONRY IN ARKANSAS

It was early 2007 and I was working in Jonesboro, Arkansas. I had heard about Freemasonry during most of my adult life but didn’t really understand what it was all about. However, I did know some good men of exceptional character and they all happened to be Masons. Believing these were the kind of men I would enjoy having fellowship with gave me a desire to learn more about Freemasonry. One Mason I knew was a co-worker and secretary of a local Masonic lodge, Nettleton Lodge #657. After several discussions with him I asked for and received a petition to join the Masons.

I filled out the petition and it was presented to the lodge on March 6th, 2007. A three man committee was appointed to investigate and they visited with me and my family a short time later. On April 3rd I was told that the lodge had voted unanimously for me to receive the degrees of Freemasonry and my Entered Apprentice Initiation Degree was scheduled for April 17th. I was so excited about the opportunity of becoming a Mason.

When I arrived at the lodge building on the night of the 17th I was shocked by what occurred. I was called into a meeting with all of the lodge officers and was questioned in great detail as to why I wanted to become a Mason. They quizzed me in depth about my religion and asked me again if I believed in God. I say again because I remembered that question being asked on the petition I had filled out earlier and I had answered it in the affirmative. And yes, I had answered it honestly. Through their series of questions I was able to learn that someone had voiced concerns about my particular religion. My religion happens to be Wicca. There was also a question asking if I was a member of a church which I had answered “No”. I explained to them that we do not have church buildings.

I assume I answered all of their questions satisfactorily because that night they initiated me as an Entered Apprentice Mason. It was one of the most memorably nights of my life. I was so pleased and honored to be accepted by and included in what I thought was a great group of men and Masons.

My dream was shattered just three days later. My friend and co-worker, the one who had provided me the petition, approached me in a most embarrassing and apologetic way.  He explained to me that officials of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas were demanding that I get out of Masonry because of my religion. The avenue they provided for me to get out was a form, and by signing it I was agreeing to self-expel myself from Freemasonry for life. I was told if I didn’t sign it the lodge would be in serious trouble. Not wanting to be a problem for my friend, or the lodge, I signed the form. My friend, who was secretary of the lodge, was so disgusted with the position of Grand Lodge that he signed a similar form and self-expelled himself for life. My career in Masonry was over and had lasted only a few days. And even though I felt what the Grand Lodge had done to me was totally wrong, I was pleased that I had not caused any permanent trouble for the lodge or its members. I never went back to the Masonic lodge and I never at ended another lodge meeting after the night of my initiation.

NOW, FOR THE REST OF THE STORY

In February, 2008 I learned from my self-expelled friend and co-worker that the Grand Lodge of Arkansas, at its Annual Communication meeting, had arrested the charter of Nettleton Lodge. This happened almost a full year after I had self-expelled myself at their demand. The Grand Lodge gave two reasons for their action. (1.) Nettleton Lodge had knowingly initiated an Ordained Wiccan (sic) Priest and (2.) Nettleton Lodge had allowed an expelled Mason to attend the officers installation ceremony. (See Item #5 of Grand Master’s Report to Grand Lodge, February 2008). Of course, the man of Wicca belief was me. I later learned that the expelled Mason who attended the officers installation ceremony was my friend, the past secretary who had self-expelled himself in support of me. The meeting that he attended was an installation of officers meeting that was open to the public. It was what Masons refer to as an “Open Meeting” where non-Masons are invited to attend. Women, children, friends and neighbors were all invited also and in attendance at the same meeting that my self-expelled friend attended. It didn’t make sense to me that he could not attend a meeting open to the public.

I have subsequently learned of potential motives behind the arresting of the charter. The Grand Lodge promptly seized the property and cash assets of the lodge. They arbitrarily and summarily expelled four officers of the lodge and suspended a fifth member who had previously questioned the Grand Lodge’s well known opposition to race integration. I have also been told that no African American men have ever been allowed to join the all-white lodges in Arkansas, including Grand Lodge.

Nettleton Lodge filed suit against the Grand Lodge to prove they were the legal owners of the property and Grand Lodge quickly reacted by returning the arrested charter. The lodge was allowed to begin meeting again in July, 2008 and following a civil trial in Craighead County Circuit Court, legal ownership of all property and assets was maintained by Nettleton Lodge #657.

I also am aware that a second lawsuit has been filed by some of the officers who were summarily expelled. The local Masons I know personally, including the ones involved in the second lawsuit, appear to me to be men of honor and good character. They are men whom I would still be proud to associate with if I were ever allowed to resume my Masonic career. As for the Grand Lodge individuals who unfairly squashed my Masonic career and expelled good men for no apparent reason— I don’t know them personally so I will refrain from commenting on them.

Mr. Chadwick


(Contains 2 attachments.)