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Arizona Continued: Will I See You At Grand Lodge

The following comes from a private forum of Arizona Masons.

Will I see you at Grand Lodge?

I will be carrying four votes to Grand Lodge so I am committed to being there, but I do not know if I can actually cast the votes for the good of my Lodge and the Order. Let me explain.

What is considered good for both my lodge and the Order?   To me every Lodge should have the ability to teach the values of Brotherly Love, Relief, Truth, and to inspire their members to discover the secrets of the “hidden” mysteries. If I vote for Grand Line Officers whose candidacy is a result of an illegal act, am I not aiding and abetting a violation of the Masonic Constitution I swore to uphold in my Master Mason oath? How do I reconcile this, and still claim to be acting for the good of the order?

One year ago I went to Grand lodge full of hope and expectations for a great year. Today, I am full of doubts and a sense that I have been betrayed and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.  A year ago I expected the new Grand Master to walk in the steps of those excellent Grand Masters whichArizonahas been blessed to have in years gone by. These were men who introduced many excellent programs which benefited the Fraternity and made me proud to be an Arizona Mason.

Unfortunately, this Masonic year fell far short of my expectations.  It began with the arresting the Charter of Hiram Daylight 73 for what looked to me as superfluous and nonsensical reasons.  This was a violation of the Masonic Constitution, and was followed by another such violation by returning the Lodge Charter instead of allowing the Grand Lodge to vote on the issue. The entire situation looked like a personal vendetta.  When the Jurisprudence Committee looked like it would take rule against the Grand Master’s action, he replaced key members to ensure the committee would not act.

This was also the year we witnessed the Character Assassination of a duly elected Deputy Grand Master, Brother Mike Meier in order that the Grand Master circumvent the vote of the Grand Lodge and move his appointees into the top positions.  By his own authority he illegally suspended the deputy Grand Master and with the help of the most recent PGM, illegally installed his new line, which brings me back to my dilemma. How do I vote at Grand Lodge for the good of the Order?

One Past Master Jack Buta, and one Past Grand master Jerry Lankin, had the courage to propose charges against the Grand Master or at least call for a special session, either of which would have prevented this latest violation of our constitution the illegal suspension of Bro. Mike Meier without a trial. Unfortunately only 8 Lodges passed resolutions falling 10 short of the number needed to force the issue. Most Lodges decided they did not wish to incur the ire of the Grand Master or considered him infallible and he knew best. Whatever the reason his illegal and unmasonic actions went unchallenged.  Obviously, this lack of concern on behalf of the majority did not go unnoticed by the Grand Master. With no opposition to his actions he and his chosen men have successfully hi-jacked the Grand Lodge.

So I ask you once again, how do I go to Grand Lodge and vote for the good of the Order?

Each year I have sat in Grand Lodge and listened to the wise council of the Great Committees of our Jurisdiction render their findings on everything which affects the Grand Lodge. This year they have been conspicuous by their silence. One thing is certain, unless something changes, this is the year we, the voting members, will lose any semblance of being active participants and the year the Fraternity inArizonabecomes a Dictatorship by the sitting Grand Master instead of by our Constitutional Rules and Regulations.  The precedent has been set. The AMC has been rendered meaningless, which any Grand Master in the future can choose to disregard or manipulate in any way he sees fit.

One solution would be for the voting members, Masters, Wardens and Past Masters to take back their Constitution is to stand up and refuse to accept the current proposed line of Grand Officers that has been shoved down their throats by this current Grand Master.

What would happen I wonder, if all the Voting members of our Grand Lodge remained standing and refused to take their seats choosing rather to stand in silent protest? Yes, that sounds nice,  but I believe the chances of it happening are somewhere between slim and none considering the track record of the lodges so far this year, just as it is to expect any Grand Lodge Officer or PGM to display any leadership or integrity by objecting to this farce. So, at the risk of being annoying, how do I go to Grand lodge and vote for the good of the Order?

We need a Grand Lodge Officer Line with elected and appointed Officers who will serve the constituent lodges, preserve our Constitutional Rules and Regulations, and obey the solemn vows they took.  We do NOT need a Dictatorship, but in a few weeks that is exactly  what we will have unless a true leader emerges with the integrity to stand up for our beloved Craft and say NO!

To all of you who will be carrying votes to the Grand Lodge please tell me, how will you solve this moral dilemma?  Will you stand up in silent protest, or will you do as so many have done in past years and follow the lead of the Judas goat like good little lambs to the slaughter?

Fraternally,

Richard G.J. Skoglund
PM 63(14) & 70
Payson,AZ.

 

Turmoil strikes Freemasonry in Arizona

In June 2011 at the annual communication of Grand Lodge Brother D. Brook Cunningham was elected to the office of Grand Master of Masons inArizona.

Brother Michael Meier was elected to the office of Deputy Grand Master.

In July of 2011 Most Worshipful Brother Grand Master D. Brook Cunningham revoked the Charter of Daylight Lodge No. 73 suspending all the members.  Approximately a month or so later he restored the Charter to the lodge after the election of new Officers and restoring all members.  This act of restoring the lodge to “legitimacy” simply by Fiat was not accomplished in accordance with the Arizona Masonic Constitution (AMC).  There was much concern expressed over this action by several members of many of the constituent lodges, however no actions were taken at the time.

On December 26th 2011 MWB D. Brook Cunningham sent a letter to all constituent lodges announcing that he had relieved the duly elected Deputy Grand Master Brother Michael Meier from all duties and responsibilities.  The reasons given for this action being that it was the result of failing to follow directives of the Grand Master, failing to respond to the Grand Masters correspondence and speaking for the Grand Master without his consent.

This action caused great concern to arise among the brethren of the constituent lodges especially among those who are knowledgeable of the provisions set forth in the AMC regarding the powers granted to the Grand Master.  Many of these members, after careful study of the AMC concluded that the Grand Master had acted without legal authority under the AMC to relieve an elected Officer of all duties and responsibilities.

There were many objections from members to this action by the Grand Master.

In response to these objections MWB D. Brook Cunningham sent a letter to all constituent lodges on January 2nd, 2012 explaining in detail why he had relieved the Deputy Grand Master of all duties and responsibilities.

In his January 2nd letter he violated his 3rd degree obligation to keep inviolate the secrets of a Master Mason by revealing of actions and conversations of a confidential meeting.    He also falsely reported that Brother Meier had been suspended by a previous Grand Master.  The Grand Master violated the AMC, by granting the title of Deputy Grand Master Pro-Tempore to one Man and delegating the duties and responsibilities of the same office to another.  This action effectively removed a duly elected Grand Officer who had been duly elected by the membership for all intents and purposes.

The January 2nd letter also accused Bro. Meier of disrespect and failure to follow his directives.  One directive he failed to follow was to wear a polo shirt and tartan tie to the opening of anEducationAcademy.  Another was his attitude of disrespect regarding the revoking of the Hiram Daylight Lodge No. 73 Charter and finally a scheduling conflict for a Long Range Planning Committee Meeting.

One Past Grand Master in a letter described the above actions by MWB D. Brook Cunningham as reprehensible, beyond the scope of his authority, petty, vindictive, child-ish and beneath the dignity of a Grand Master in addition to returning the Charter to Hiram Daylight Lodge.

Several members from lodges in Arizona were upset with these actions by the Grand Master equating them with Dictatorship by totally ignoring the powers granted to him in the AMC thus re-writing and creating a new Constitution whereby all actions are legal unless negated by a vote of the members at the annual June meeting of the Grand Lodge.

A petition was crafted and sent to all Lodges on February 1st, 2012 requesting that they vote on a request for a trial of the Grand Master, vote on a request for a special session of the Grand Lodge, vote for either one or vote to do nothing.

The AMC requires that 30 % of the lodges vote on the issue in order for a trial, special session or both to occur.

The Grand Master, at a meeting of his District Deputy Grand Masters, asked them to request of the Masters of the lodges in their District to not read the any of the petitions.

Therefore at this time the Jury (constituent lodges) is still out on these issues.  The results will be known at the end of February.

 

Please review the following six attachments:

RESOLUTION RE Charges Against Grand Master

GM’s firing of Michael Meier

Cover Letter-Resolution & Charges Against Grand Master

Cover Letter To All Masons RE Resolution & Charges

Charges Against Grand Master

An Alternative to Regicide by G. Lankin

 

A Brotherly Dialogue: A Review of Decisions Designed to Undermine The Masonic Institution

Most Worshipful Grand Master George R. Franks, Jr.’s  2005 Report to the Masonic Lodges of Arkansas, (posted in a previous article) contains many misrepresentations of fact, not the least of which are his repeated claims: “The question was posed…”  In very few instances were any such “questions” actually “posed” by any individual, or any group of individuals, but instead, the Grand Master simply pontificated his opinion about various events that arose during the course of his year as Grand Master, by implying certain questions had been asked..

Among the Grand Master’s specific numbered recommendations, a few of the most fundamentally glaring issues are as follows (addressed by their number from the Report):

(1)    The Grand Master’s reasoning is entirely fallacious.  The title “Past Master” (or “past” anything else),” simply denotes that a brother has officially served in that capacity.  The manner in which his duties were performed is obviously subjective, but completely irrelevant.

1. The question was posed as to whether or not a brother who has been removed from the Office of Worshipful Master is entitled to the title of Past Master. My response: If a brother has previously served honorably as Worshipful Master during another Grand Lodge Year, he would not lose the title of Past Master. However, if this is his first instance to serve as Worshipful Master and the Grand Master found it necessary to remove him from office, the brother should not be entitled to the title of Past Master, as this is a title denoting honorable service. APPROVED

(3)    Contrary to the Grand Master’s statement, Past Grand Masters DO have the authority to interpret Grand Lodge law and issue opinions as members of the Committee on Masonic Law and Usage (CMLU).  Indeed, the primary purpose of that committee is to interpret Masonic Lodge law and issue opinions.  It essentially has no other function, except to impeach Grand Masters, which apparently has never happened in the 173 year history of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas.

3. The question was posed as to whether a Past Grand Master retains any authority to interpret Grand Lodge Law and/or issue opinions. My response: No. a Past Grand Master has no authority to interpret the Laws, issue opinions, or grant dispensations, or perform any other functions reserved for the Office of Grand Master. The action of a Past Grand Master issuing opinions, interpreting laws or granting a dispensation is a violation of Masonic Law and would subject him to trial and punishment. APPROVED

(5)    This “response” is an outright misrepresentation of facts in several ways.  First, the “question” was never whether a Grand Master has the authority to call a meeting of the CMLU.  The issue was whether the CMLU has the authority to meet on its own accord to consider allowing charges of un-Masonic conduct against Grand Master, without the Grand Master convening the meeting, or possibly even being present, thereby causing an obvious conflict of interest.  Arkansas Masonic law has been interpreted to say that the Grand Master can immediately “suspend” any Arkansas Mason at any time.  That means if a Grand Master didn’t want to risk an action of the CMLU, he could simply declare all of its members “suspended,” thereby circumventing the established legal process.

5. The question was posed as to whether the Grand Lodge Masonic Law and Usage Committee may be summoned to meet in special session, and as to whether they may be summoned by the Grand Master.  My response: The answer to both parts of this question is yes- the Grand Master may summon any Grand Lodge Committee or any brother for a meeting as an individual, or as a committee, at any time. The same is true of a Worshipful Master as the question would relate to committees and members within his lodge.APPROVED

(6)    The Grand Master’s “answer” to the “question” leaves more questions than answers, without addressing the actual issue.  Does the fact that a Secretary’s traditional duties include receiving all money due the lodge, mean that no other member can perform that duty in the event of the Secretary’s absence or inability?  Suppose that a Secretary is unable to attend a lodge event.  Does that mean that no member at the event could legally accept donations to the lodge, later delivering them to the Secretary?

6. The question was posed as to whether a lodge could collect money for the selling of Masonic related merchandise, or collected for meals and maintain the same in a separate account not controlled by the Treasurer. My response: The duties of the Secretary are to receive all money due the Lodge, in tum paying it to the Treasurer, who in tum will pay it out by order of the Worshipful Master, with the consent of the brethren. The answer to the question in either case, and in all other instances where monies are taken into the lodge, is that these funds are to be handled in the exact manner prescribed by our laws and customs.APPROVED

(7)    In short, this “response” says that a Grand Master can “expunge” any regular Grand Lodge vote that he doesn’t like, even from one Grand Lodge session to another.  As noted in the section of Franks’ report entitled “Lodge Per Capita Vote,” an Arkansas lodge submitted a resolution in 2003 to increase the per capita dues collected by the Grand Lodge on every member.  That resolution was discussed and soundly defeated at the 2004 Grand Lodge session, but Franks nullified the vote (without any legal authority to do so), and required the Grand Lodge delegates to vote again on the 2003 resolution at the 2005 Grand Lodge session.  At that time, an obviously different group of delegates were in attendance, and NO DISCUSSION was allowed prior to the vote.  Instead, the delegates were required to vote on the same legislation that had previously been defeated, but without any discussion of the subject!

7. The question was posed as to whether the Grand Master has the authority to expunge a vote taken in Grand Lodge if he believes it to have been spoiled by the manner in which it was taken. the exclusion of legal delegates, or other inconsistencies with a fair and informed election. My response: As stated in my letter in which this action was taken. I believe that the Grand Master not only has the authority to take such action, but also our obligation to do the same.APPROVED

(8)    In reality, ANY Arkansas Mason can file charges of un-Masonic conduct against any other at any time, with the following exceptions:  Members of subordinate lodges can only charge their Worshipful Master with un-Masonic conduct by written petition to the Grand Master from 5 or more members, and charges against a Grand Master can only proceed with the majority approval of the CMLU.  The Grand Master always has the authority to bring charges of un-Masonic conduct against any Mason at any time, but 5 or more regular members of a subordinate lodge must petition the Grand Master and receive his permission before they can bring charges against their own Worshipful Master.

8. The question was posed as to whether the Grand Master has the authority to file charges against a brother in the absence of a request from five Master Masons of his lodge. My response: In the situation leading to the ruling on which this question is based.  The brother had committed a wrong that should have been dealt with by the Lodge. In the case where a brother’s actions are committed against the Grand Lodge, and in other cases where there is a complexity in the wrong that makes it difficult for a single lodge to address the wrong, the Grand Master has an obligation to take action. This practice has been established in our Grand Lodge and reaffirmed in subsequent Grand Lodge Sessions. APPROVED

(9)    This is a direct violation of Arkansas Masonic law, which every Mason – including the Grand Master – swears an oath to “conform to and abide by.”  A fundamental landmark of all law dating from the earliest recorded history, is the “presumption of innocence,” through which accused persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty.  This right is inferred in the 5th, 6th, and 14th amendments to the US Constitution, and is expressly stated by the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and indeed, by Arkansas Masonic Law, which says: “Every man is to be presumed innocent until proven to be guilty; the mere fact that charges are preferred does not deprive a brother of any of his Masonic privileges; consequently, he can sit in the Lodge and take part in any proceedings not connected with his own trial, until found guilty and suspended or expelled.”  Furthermore, Arkansas Masonic Law says: “There is no power or authority whereby a brother may be declared suspended or expelled without trial (Except for nonpayment of dues).”

9. The question was posed as to whether the Grand Master has the authority to suspend a brother from the benefits of Masonry pending the outcome of a Grand Lodge Trail Commission. My response: Yes. The Grand Master has the authority to take whatever action is in the best interest of the Fraternity and this Grand Lodge – this precept should never be changed, we should always task our Grand Master to work for the best of this Grand Lodge. APPROVED

(10) This is perhaps the most important single “recommendation” of the group, whereby the Grand Master was apparently GRANTED the authority to disregard his own Master Mason’s obligation to “conform to and abide by the Constitution, bylaws, and edicts” of his Grand Lodge.  Originally, the final sentence of the “recommendation” said: “No, the Grand Master is not strictly bound in his actions by the Constitution and Laws of this Grand Lodge,” but the membership was so outraged by the obvious implication, the Grand Master withdrew the final summary, while leaving the rest unchanged.  It’s hard to understand how anyone was thereby persuaded to “approve” such a perversion, but obviously, if the Grand Master isn’t “strictly bound,” he isn’t “loosely bound” either, and he’s essentially free to do as he pleases.  The “reasoning” Franks used to get that recommendation approved, however, reveals his classic approach to such issues.  He told the members that if they didn’t approve the recommendation, future Grand Masters would no longer be allowed to grant “dispensations,” thereby causing a lot of unnecessary headaches for lodges seeking slight “variances” from the official rules.  He completely ignored and misrepresented the fact that Arkansas Masonic law specifically grants the Grand Master the unique authority to grant such variances!  In other words, the power to grant dispensations is NOT a “variation” from the law, it’s actually provided BY the law, although Franks was able to effectively argue just the opposite!

10. The question was posed as to whether the Grand Master is strictly bound in his actions by the Constitution and Laws of this Grand Lodge. My response:Each year our lodges request hundreds of dispensations for various purposes. Without these being issued, every lodge would be required to meet in their own lodge ball on each of the St. John’s Nights, hold elections precisely as described by the law, meet on every stated meeting, and otherwise operate without deviation from the Jaw. The dispensation is nothing more than authorization (permission) from the Grand Master for the lodge to operate outside the stated law. Further, there are times when the Grand Master may be faced with an issue that is not specifically addressed in the law. Here it becomes his duty to rely on his knowledge and understanding to make a rightful determination as to how to address the issue to the best benefit of our Fraternity. Votes for 336-Votes against 194. APPROVED

(14)  Again, this “recommendation” is another classic Franks misrepresentation.  The issue was not whether the CMLU has the power to make decisions by petition, it was whether the CMLU has the power to convene on its own accord.  Without some such provision, there’d be no effective way the committee could ever convene to discuss impeaching a Grand Master, as no Grand Master under serious threat of impeachment, would ever convene such a committee!

14. The question was posed as to whether the Grand Lodge Committee on Masonic Law and Usage has the authority to make decisions by petition. My response: No committee has such authority, to do so would be inappropriate and improper. The purpose of a Committee is to meet, hear the various aspects of an issue, discuss the issue, and reach a common determination – this end can in no way be accomplished in the manner of passing a petition for each member to sign individually and without discussion or full knowledge of the facts. APPROVED

(15) Once more, Franks misrepresents the facts.  The issue was not whether a Grand Master could be removed from office based upon a legal, but unpopular decision, the issue was whether a Grand Master can be impeached for CLEARLY illegal and improper actions.  In his argument, Franks asserts the right (eventually granted in recommendation 10 above), to do as he pleases during his term of office, with the only recourse being for Grand Lodge delegates to “disapprove” the actions at the following Grand Lodge session.  Fundamentally, it’s a perfect example of the morally questionable philosophy: “It’s better to seek forgiveness than permission,” which is exactly the way Franks’ administration operated.

15. The question was posed as to whether the Grand Master can be removed from office based on the fact that he issued a decision, or taken an action that was legal, but not liked by some members. My response: Not even if it is not liked by a majority of the members. The membership approves or disapproves of the Grand Master’s actions during the Grand Lodge Session following his term of office. If the actions and/or decisions are legal, if there is not clear and substantial evidence of intended harm to the Fraternity, the Grand Master has committed no offense and is not subject to impeachment. APPROVED

(16) Franks actually persuaded the delegates that it’s a “Masonic offense” even to request things, such as witnesses to accompany members who are summonsed by a Grand Master.  Obviously, the Masonic offense would be for a summonsed brother to disregard his summons – not merely to request witnesses, or bottled water, or anything else!  What possible offense could it be for a person to make requests?

16. The question was posed as to whether a brother summoned to meet with the Grand Master commits a Masonic Offense by placing conditions under which he will comply with the summons such as having other members attend or tape recording the meeting.  My response: Absolutely. A Grand Master should make a reasonable attempt at avoiding the creation of impossible obstacles in the meeting, but the summoned brother has no right to place any conditions on the same, and ultimately is required to respond to the summons.APPROVED

(18) As so many times before, Franks manipulates his “answers” by addressing different issues than those which actually arose.  In this instance, he claims the “question” was whether a Grand Master violates Grand Lodge law by holding an out-of-state job, or being routinely absent from the state.  The actual issue, however, was whether a Grand Master in Arkansas can legally retain his office after MOVING out of the jurisdiction, and relinquishing his State residence.  As a point of fact, Franks was fired from his law enforcement job in Arkansas, and had to move to Texas to find similarly gainful employment.  He therefore sold his home in Maumelle, Arkansas, and moved to Nacogdoches, Texas, where he established legal residence.  Section 2090, Paragraph A of the Bylaws of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas says: “No one who is not a citizen and resident of the State of Arkansas can be elected to any office in the Grand Lodge, and the removal of one from the State who has been elected to an office in the Grand Lodge, thereby vacates the office.”  Furthermore, Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas says: “In the case of a vacancy in the office of Grand Master, the Deputy Grand Master shall succeed; and if he shall die or remove, the Grand Wardens, in the order of rank.”  Franks was elected Deputy Grand Master in February, 2004, but the Grand Master elected at the same time, died just 3 days later.  Franks then refused to “succeed” him as required, and instead tried to govern Arkansas Masonry using the self-created title “Deputy Grand Master Presiding.”  When the outcry against that obvious violation grew to a level that couldn’t be ignored, he finally agreed to be installed as Grand Master, but then moved out of state, which should have automatically vacated the office.  As noted above, Arkansas Masonic law clearly says that Arkansas Grand Lodge officers must be Arkansas residents, but Franks disregarded that, and then completely misrepresented the facts at Grand Lodge.  He continued to rule as Grand Master for the duration of his term, even though he wasn’t legally eligible to hold the office!

18. The question was posed as to whether a Grand Master is in violation of the Grand Lodge Law by holding an employment position out of state or being absent from the state during most weekdays. My response: No, we have had several Past Grand Masters who served while holding positions of employment outside of Arkansas. Some have had extensive absences of more than a week from our Grand Jurisdiction. The intent of the original requirement was that a Grand Master would be attentive to ills duties, which should be the measure of right. APPROVED

(32) Again, Franks intentionally obfuscates the issue by referring to irrelevant information.  He references Section 2160, Paragraph C of the Digest of Laws, when he really only needed to reference Article I, Section 1 of the Bylaws of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons Arkansas, which says: “The Committee on Masonic Law and Usage … shall consist of the Past Grand Masters who are members in good standing of Subordinate Lodges in this state.”

32. The question was posed as to who actually composes the Masonic Law and Usage Committee, specifically the meaning of Section 2160, Paragraph C of the Digest of Laws. My Response: When read without regard to other paragraphs, Paragraph C appears to mean that the Committee only exists during Grand Lodge Sessions. However, in totality this would be in conflict with other areas of the same Section. The practical meaning to the Paragraph is that the Past Grand Masters present at a Grand Lodge Session become members of the Committee until the next Session. In other words, the Past Grand Masters present at the 2005 Grand Lodge Session will form the Committee until the Next Session in 2006, when those present will comprise the Committee for the next Grand Lodge Year. FAILED

(33) Franks claimed to find “nothing … in the Digest of Laws” that defined the lawful hierarchy in the Committee on Masonic Law and Usage, but on the SAME PAGE he  quoted in “Recommendation 32,” Section 2170, Section A says: “The Committee on Masonic Law and Usage shall consist of all the Living Past Grand Masters in good standing in Subordinate Lodges in this State, to be named in the order of their services as Grand Master.”  Since committees are presided over by “chairmen,” it’s obvious that the intent of Arkansas Masonic law is for the senior Past Grand Master present to assume chairmanship at any particular CMLU meeting.

33. The question was posed as to who serves as the Chairman of the Masonic Law and Usage Committee, specifically is that office retained by the senior living Past Grand Master.  My response: Nothing I have found in the Digest of Laws indicates that the chairmanship is a right by longevity, which would certainly not be in the best interest of our Fraternity. I would note that in my Grand Lodge experience since 1983 the senior living Past Grand Master has often been absent from our sessions which, according to Decision 32, would mean he is not even a member of the Committee. A more practical solution is that Committee continues the historical practice of electing the Chairman for the year be continued. APPROVED

(34) Finally, Franks’ “response” to this “question” is a complete nonsequitur.  The alleged “question” was: “whether a [member of a committee] should abstain from consideration of a recommendation or resolution officially made by him or his lodge.”  Franks “response” was: “no purpose would be served in denying a committee the full information needed to make informed decisions.”  Those two things have nothing whatsoever to do with each other!  The issue was about the propriety of voting, and the “response” was about withholding information, which obviously is a different issue.

34. The question was posed as to whether a Past Grand Master serving on the Masonic Law and Usage Committee should abstain from consideration of a recommendation or resolution officially made by him or his lodge. Myresponse: First, the Masonic Law and Usage Committee have no legal authorityfor considering resolutions or recommendations unless the same have been legally referred to them by the delegates.  Secondly, the function of a committee is a group activity, meeting together and discussing information, requiring the member’s presence in a group meeting – no purpose would be served in denying a committee the full information needed to make informed decisions.APPROVED

RECOMMENDATIONS

In the “Recommendations” section of Franks’ report, recommendation 1 says:

“We have reached a point in our corporate existence that requires more stability in certain parts of our operations than we currently enjoy, particularly in the offices of Grand Treasurer and Grand Secretary.”

Curiously, that was in 2005, when James Weatherall had been the Grand Secretary and Garry C. Jones had been the Grand Treasurer for 15 years!  How much more “stability” in those offices could be reasonably expected?

Recommendation 4 contains several outright lies. In it, Franks says: “In these past months our Past Grand Masters complained that the small group of conspirators called them at least daily bothering them in times of ill health. In at least one case, refusing to leave the Past Grand Master’s home until he complied with their request.”

The truth of the matter is that a group of dedicated Past Masters who were well-versed in Masonic law and customs, informed Franks that the Constitution of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas requires a Grand Master, and that his attempt to reign as “Deputy Grand Master Presiding” was not in accord with Arkansas Masonic law.  When Franks still refused to be installed in his predecessor’s office, the Past Masters sought permission of the living Past Grand Masters (known as the Committee on Masonic Law and Usage) to charge him with un-Masonic conduct.

Arkansas Masonic law says that a “majority” of the living Past Grand Masters must give their written consent for such action, and 11 of 20 signed a petition circulated to that effect (see documentation), with several more saying they would have signed, if necessary.  As soon as Franks learned of the move to charge him, he called a meeting of the living Grand Masters, requiring them to appear in person at the Grand Lodge offices in Little Rock, early on a summer morning.  Some of the Grand Masters who lived in far corners of the state, declined to make the necessary 3 and 4 hour drives to appear at that meeting, believing that their opinions had been adequately expressed by their written consent.

When Franks called the meeting to order, however, instead of allowing its most senior member to preside (as Arkansas Masonic law requires), Franks named one of his supporters Chairman of the committee.  After lecturing the committee for nearly 2 hours, Franks left the committee room and the “Chairman” he appointed removed the charges from a sealed envelope, read them silently to himself, then placed them back in the envelope without revealing their content to any other member of the committee (see documentation from PGM Buddy Mhoon).  The “Chairman” then called for a “vote of confidence” in Franks, and declared that only the votes of members physically present would count.  Since those consisted of a majority of Franks’ supporters, the vote passed, and the older Past Grand Masters completely lost control of their beloved fraternity.

Shortly afterwards, Franks illegally declared all of the Past Masters who’d sought to file charges against him “suspended pending trial” (see documenting charges).  He then appointed some of his closest friends to serve as the members of the committee assigned to try those brothers, and not surprisingly, all of them were found guilty and expelled.  Their alleged offense was “Attempting to subvert the authority of the Grand Master,” even though Arkansas didn’t HAVE a Grand Master at the time of the brother’s alleged un-Masonic conduct.

Finally, at the 2005 Grand Lodge session, the elder Past Grand Masters made one last attempt to correct the course of Arkansas Masonry.  When Grand Master Franks made the required call for nominations for his successor, Past Grand Master Arthur C. “Buddy” Mhoon, approached a microphone and nominated Past Grand Master Paul Bush.  Franks responded by angrily rapping down the elderly Past Grand Master, saying: “Brother Buddy, I told you before this session started that I wouldn’t accept that nomination, and I meant exactly what I said!  Now, are there any other nominations?”

Of course, since Franks’ chosen successor, Darwin D. “Dan” Lloyd was the only name allowed in nomination for the office of Grand Master, he was declared the “winner” in an “election” that would have made Saddam Hussein proud!

SIGNED REQUESTS FOR SELF-EXPULSION

In the section entitled “Signed Requests for Self-Expulsion,” one of the brothers who requested self-expulsion was James Paul Vinson, a former friend of Grand Master George R. Franks, Jr.  Vinson privately confided to Franks that he’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, but Franks promptly betrayed the brother’s trust, reporting his condition to his employer, thereby making him lose his job.  As a result, Vinson sought to charge Franks with un-Masonic conduct for violation of his Master’s obligation not to reveal the secrets of a Master Mason, but Franks thwarted that effort and turned the charges against Vinson.  Realizing that the outcome of a sham trial before a Grand Lodge Trial Committee would be inevitable, Vinson (a 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Mason) chose to resign from Masonry in the only way available through Arkansas Masonic law, and his son, John David Vinson, subsequently resigned in like manner, saying that if his father wasn’t good enough for the Masonic fraternity, he wasn’t either.

TRIALS

In the section labeled “Trials,” perhaps the most egregious lies ever reported by a Masonic Grand Lodge are recorded.  It’s apparent by the date, January 15, that several “trials” were conducted on the same day, but what isn’t apparent is that every trial involved the same charges from the same accuser (George R. Franks, Jr.), and every case was “tried” by a single Grand Lodge Trial Committee, composed of 5 jury members who — as unbelievable as it is — were actually appointed by the accuser!  To make matters worse, the “trials” were held in a back room of the Grand Lodge offices in Little Rock, and ordinary members of the fraternity were physically prevented from attending.

Not surprisingly, every charge was upheld, and every brother was declared “guilty,” but to add insult to injury, Franks then manipulated the official report of the “administrative reviews,” published in the permanent Masonic record, the “Proceedings of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Arkansas.”

Franks claimed in the “Proceedings” that Past Masters Malcolm McHughes, Charles Baker, and Otis D. Burtcher “chose not to appear.”  He made no mention of the fact that McHughes and Baker were represented by brothers they requested to appear on their behalf, and that Burtcher actually SUFFERED A HEART ATTACK while waiting to testify at his trial, and was rushed from the scene by paramedics who took him to a local Veteran’s Hospital, where he underwent emergency heart surgery!

One might suppose that under such circumstances, Burtcher’s “trial” would have been rescheduled, but — again, as unbelievable as it is — the committee actually “tried” the elderly Past Master in absentia, knowing full well that he might not even be alive by the time their judgment was passed.  Apparently, they wanted to deny his family the right of a Masonic graveside service, in the event that he actually died before his “trial” could be rescheduled!

REQUESTS FOR REINSTATEMENT

In the section labeled “Requests for Reinstatement,” a note indicates that a brother requested reinstatement from a “definite suspension” (i.e. a suspension for a specified amount of time, as opposed to an “indefinite suspension,” which would be for an indeterminate period).  Franks notes: “This request for reinstatement was ruled out of order by the delegates of the 162nd Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas.”

In reality, when the subject came up at the annual session, Franks was the presiding officer, and he dismissively remarked: “I don’t think definite suspensions can be appealed, can they?”  When someone off-stage appeared to confirm his suggestion, Franks turned the appeal face-down on a stack of similarly dismissed business, and said: “That request is out of order.  Definite suspensions can’t be appealed.”  He then moved on to other business, and few (if any) of the delegates present, realized that Arkansas Masonry had just changed in a monumental way.

From then on, whenever the Grand Lodge power brokers wanted to kick a brother out of the fraternity and even deny him the possibility of an appeal, they simply sentenced the brother to ridiculously long periods of “definite suspension,” some as long as 50 years!  “Definite suspension” is intended to be the least severe Masonic penalty next to a reprimand; the next most severe penalty is intended to be “indefinite suspension,” followed by “expulsion,” both of which CAN be appealed.

Apparently, the twisted logic Franks used to claim that Masons who are sentenced to “definite suspension” have no right of appeal, is found in the absence of specific mention in the following bylaw: “When a member [who] has been indefinitely suspended or expelled by a Grand Lodge Trial Commission or by Grand Lodge itself desires to be reinstated, he shall present his petition in writing…”

No mention is made of the other sections of Arkansas Masonic law, which say: “When a suspended, for other than non-payment of dues, or expelled Mason desires to be reinstated, he shall present his petition in writing…”

Likewise, no mention is made of the bylaw that says: “The Grand Lodge is sovereign, with a right of superintending control over all of its subordinates, and any member feeling himself aggrieved by any action of the Lodge in any case affecting his interests, or that of the Fraternity, has a right to appeal, and the pecuniary affairs form no exception.”

LODGE REPORTS

Near the bottom of the Grand Master’s Report, the evidence of the fraternity’s destruction is painfully obvious in the section labeled “Lodge Reports.”  Assuming the figures are correct, 225 new Masons were raised, while more than twice that number, 458, were suspended or expelled.  With the total number of Masons in the state being reported as 18,626, that means essentially 2.5% of the State’s Masonic population was declared “suspended” or “expelled” in the course of that 1 year!

Of course, one can only speculate how the Grand Secretary’s Office managed to collect only $129.01 in interest (not U9.01, as incorrectly transcribed), when the total investment portfolio of the fraternity at the time, was more than $1.6 million.

At the conclusion of the 2005 Grand Lodge session for which the report above was posted, one brother who attended the session recorded the following:

“At Grand Lodge yesterday, the budget report was presented by PGM Frank Smith.  He claimed that under the present financial situation, the Grand Lodge of Arkansas would run out of money in it’s “operational fund,” in 16 to 19 years.  The figure he reported in that account, as of 12-31-04, was: $1,648,355.00, and he said that last year, it drew 7% interest, which according to my calculations, would have been $115,384.85.

As a very close estimate, I figured there are about 18,400 members now in the State, 17,000 of which pay dues at a rate of $5.00 annually (for a total of $85,000.00 annually), and 1,400 which pay at the old perpetual rate of $3.00 annually (for a total of $4,200 annually).  That accounts for $89,200.00 in per capita dues, in addition to the $115,384.85 return on investments, which amounts to $204,584.85.

Since the budget this year is $248,755.00, that leaves a deficit of $44,170.15.  Some of that will be made up by income from the Pillars of Solomon award program (officially estimated to generate $11,500.00), the sale of books and supplies (officially estimated to generate $15,000.00), reinstatements (officially estimated to generate $1,100.00), lodge insurance and bonds (officially estimated to generate $1,600.00), and perpetual memorial income (officially estimated to generate $7,632.00).  Together, all those individual items total $36,832.00, for a final deficit of $7,338.15.

It’s obviously difficult to understand how an “operational fund” of $1,648,355.00, is going to be depleted in 16 to 19 years, at a loss of $7,338.15 per year.  Of course, I know that membership will continue to decline, and that inflation will cause the operational expenses to rise in the future, but even with those things considered, it doesn’t seem reasonable to me to expect to spend $1.65 million in 20 years.  With no interest at all, that would be $82,500 per year.”

Perhaps more to the point, one might wonder how it’s possible for the Grand Lodge of Arkansas to run out of money at all, when every officer and member swears a solemn oath to “conform to and abide by the Constitution and bylaws,” and Article IV, Section 1-a of the “Constitution of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Arkansas,” says:

“A budget for each fiscal year [shall] be prepared in the prior year by the then Grand Master, the Deputy Grand Master, the Grand Senior Warden, the Grand Treasurer and the Grand Secretary.  Said budget shall not exceed one hundred percent (100%) of the projected revenue of the Grand Lodge for the year in which the budget is to operate.”

If that part of the Constitution was actually followed, it obviously would be impossible for the Grand Lodge to ever deplete its substantial reserves.

 


(Contains 5 attachments.)

Arkansas’ Grand Master’s Power Grab: A Repeatedly Destructive Legacy

Masonry in Arkansas has been led on a purposeful path towards its own destruction for decades.  As evidenced below, however, that situation plunged to unprecedented depths of depravity in 2004 and 2005, under the direction of Grand Master George R. Franks, Jr.

The following is a true and complete transcript of the “Grand Master’s Report,” mailed to every subordinate lodge in Arkansas after the 2005 annual Grand Lodge session.  While the lies and manipulation are readily apparent, the verbosity of the report necessitates that commentary will follow in a subsequent article.

You will quickly realize the direct connection between this report and several past leaks out of Arkansas.  The Grand Master’s Report and the many other documents that came with it are a sobering reminder of the atrocities that many Masons are content with sitting idly by and observing without rendering any resolution to right the wrongs.

 

GRAND MASTER’S REPORT

THE GRAND MASTER’S REPORT CONTAINED THIRTY FOUR DECISIONS

1. The question was posed as to whether or not a brother who has been removed from the

Office of Worshipful Master is entitled to the title of Past Master. My response: If a brother has previously served honorably as Worshipful Master during another Grand Lodge Year, he would not lose the title of Past Master. However, if this is his first instance to serve as Worshipful Master and the Grand Master found it necessary to remove him from office, the brother should not be entitled to the title of Past Master, as this is a title denoting honorable service. APPROVED

2. The question was posed as to whether the Knights Templar had violated the Laws of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas by holding an Easter Sunrise Service, in the first instance in a Masonic Building and in the second in any other place. My response: In neither one nor the other has there been a violation of the Law. These Brethren did not meet as Masons. they met as Knights Temp1ar, and they did not meet in a lodge they met in an asylum. APPROVED

3. The question was posed as to whether a Past Grand Master retains any authority to interpret Grand Lodge Law and/or issue opinions. My response: No. a Past Grand Master has no authority to interpret the Laws, issue opinions, or grant dispensations, or perform any other functions reserved for the Office of Grand Master. The action of a Past Grand Master issuing opinions, interpreting laws or granting a dispensation is a violation of Masonic Law and would subject him to trial and punishment. APPROVED

4. The question was posed as to whether a Past Grand Master has the authority to intercede into the actions of the Grand Master, overrule a decision, or give leave to a brother to not answer a due summons. My response: The title conveys no authority to take any action beyond that mentioned in the Digest of Laws pertaining to the Grand Lodge Masonic Law and Usage Committee. The action of a Past Grand Master attempting to overturn a decision, intercede in the authority or actions of the Grand Master, or giving leave to a brother not to answer a due summons is a violation of Masonic Law and would subject him to trial and punishment APPROVED

5. The question was posed as to whether the Grand Lodge Masonic Law and Usage Committee may be summoned to meet in special session, and as to whether they may be summoned by the Grand Master.  My response: The answer to both parts of this question is yes- the Grand Master may summon any Grand Lodge Committee or any brother for a meeting as an individual, or as a committee, at any time. The same is true of a Worshipful Master as the question would relate to committees and members within his lodge. APPROVED

6. The question was posed as to whether a lodge could collect money for the selling of Masonic related merchandise, or collected for meals and maintain the same in a separate account not controlled by the Treasurer. My response: The duties of the Secretary are to receive all money due the Lodge, in tum paying it to the Treasurer, who in tum will pay it out by order of the Worshipful Master, with the consent of the brethren. The answer to the question in either case, and in all other instances where monies are taken into the lodge, is that these funds are to be handled in the exact manner prescribed by our laws and customs. APPROVED

7. The question was posed as to whether the Grand Master has the authority to expunge a vote taken in Grand Lodge if he believes it to have been spoiled by the manner in which it was taken. the exclusion of legal delegates, or other inconsistencies with a fair and informed election. My response: As stated in my letter in which this action was taken. I believe that the Grand Master not only has the authority to take such action, but also our obligation to do the same. APPROVED

8. The question was posed as to whether the Grand Master has the authority to file charges against a brother in the absence of a request from five Master Masons of his lodge. My response: In the situation leading to the ruling on which this question is based.  The brother had committed a wrong that should have been dealt with by the Lodge. In the case where a brother’s actions are committed against the Grand Lodge, and in other cases where there is a complexity in the wrong that makes it difficult for a single lodge to address the wrong, the Grand Master has an obligation to take action. This practice has been established in our Grand Lodge and reaffirmed in subsequent Grand Lodge Sessions. APPROVED

9. The question was posed as to whether the Grand Master has the authority to suspend a brother from the benefits of Masonry pending the outcome of a Grand Lodge Trail Commission. My response: Yes. The Grand Master has the authority to take whatever action is in the best interest of the Fraternity and this Grand Lodge – this precept should never be changed, we should always task our Grand Master to work for the best of this Grand Lodge. APPROVED

10. The question was posed as to whether the Grand Master is strictly bound in his actions by the Constitution and Laws of this Grand Lodge. My response: Each year our lodges request hundreds of dispensations for various purposes. Without these being issued, every lodge would be required to meet in their own lodge ball on each of the St. John’s Nights, hold elections precisely as described by the law, meet on every stated meeting, and otherwise operate without deviation from the Jaw. The dispensation is nothing more than authorization (permission) from the Grand Master for the lodge to operate outside the stated law. Further, there are times when the Grand Master may be faced with an issue that is not specifically addressed in the law. Here it becomes his duty to rely on his knowledge and understanding to make a rightful determination as to how to address the issue to the best benefit of our Fraternity. Votes for 336-Votes against 194. APPROVED

11. The question was posed as to why the Grand Lodge does not extend recognition to Prince Hall Affiliation Masons. My response: I am opposed to that action for the following reasons:

  • We have a provision in our Digest that clearly states that members of organizations such as Prince Hall Affiliation are not Masons at all.  In keeping with this new, the Digest provides that a man receiving the degrees of such an organization may still petition and receive the Degrees of Symbolic Freemasonry from one of our lodges.
  • There are other non-Prince Hall Affiliation grand lodges operating within a few blocks of our own Grand Lodge. These include: The Sons of Solomon Grand Lodge; Scottish Rite Grand Lodge; and the Grand Lodge of AF & At.\.1 Masons. I am unable to attest that they are any more or less worthy of consideration of recognition than are the Prince Hall Affiliation.
  • Recognition of Prince Hall Affiliation grand lodges is a separatist action, intended in most cases to keep a separation between the memberships, not to incorporate the two together.  Fraternalism and separatism are diametrically opposing forces and cannot successfully coexist in unison.
  • I believe strongly that grand jurisdictions cannot coexist within the same jurisdictional boundaries. If such efforts are to be tried, what would be harmed to allow the Grand Lodge of Arkansas to establish regular lodges in some adjoining jurisdiction? I can assure you that such an attempt would be met with negatively in a quick and decisive manner by our sister jurisdictions.
  • No representative of the Prince Hall Affiliation has made a request for recognition. For our Grand Lodge to extend recognition to another organization without such a request is unthinkable. I would no more be a part of that action than to extend the same to the Rotary, Kiwanis, or Lions clubs, without them making such a request.

APPROVED

12. The question was posed as to why the Grand Lodge does not accept men of color into our lodges within this Grand Jurisdiction. My response: We do. This has already happened many years ago. We have members of varying nationalities, skin colorations and ethnic backgrounds in our lodges today. This Grand Jurisdiction makes no provision for the consideration of a petitioner’s race, skin color, or ethnicity. Statements made to the contrary are not true and in opposition with the spirit of this Fraternity, our ancient customs and the laws of our Grand Lodge. APPROVED

13. The question was posed as to whether the Grand Master has the authority to appoint a brother to fill the term of a vacant elective office of this Grand Lodge. My response: Yes, our history is filled with instances where this has happened for many of the elective offices of this Grand Lodge – it is not only permitted, it is a long established custom and often times in the best interest of operations. APPROVED

14. The question was posed as to whether the Grand Lodge Committee on Masonic Law and Usage has the authority to make decisions by petition. My response: No committee has such authority, to do so would be inappropriate and improper. The purpose of a Committee is to meet, hear the various aspects of an issue, discuss the issue, and reach a common determination – this end can in no way be accomplished in the manner of passing a petition for each member to sign individually and without discussion or full knowledge of the facts. APPROVED

15. The question was posed as to whether the Grand Master can be removed from office based on the fact that he issued a decision, or taken an action that was legal, but not liked by some members. My response: Not even if it is not liked by a majority of the members. The membership approves or disapproves of the Grand Master’s actions during the Grand Lodge Session following his term of office. If the actions and/or decisions are legal, if there is not clear and substantial evidence of intended harm to the Fraternity, the Grand Master has committed no offense and is not subject to impeachment. APPROVED

16. The question was posed as to whether a brother summoned to meet with the Grand Master commits a Masonic Offense by placing conditions under which he will comply with the summons such as having other members attend or tape recording the meeting.  My response: Absolutely. A Grand Master should make a reasonable attempt at avoiding the creation of impossible obstacles in the meeting, but the summoned brother has no right to place any conditions on the same, and ultimately is required to respond to the summons. APPROVED

17. The question was posed as to whether a brother holding the position of Deputy Grand Lecturer is a Grand Lodge Officer.  My response: No, he is not a Grand Lodge Officer, the brother is a Deputy Grand Lecturer.  By a previous vote of the Grand Lodge delegates he is vested with the title of Worsbipful and is to be extended the Grand Honors, but this does not invest him with the authority of an officer. APPROVED

18. The question was posed as to whether a Grand Master is in violation of the Grand Lodge Law by holding an employment position out of state or being absent from the state during most weekdays. My response: No, we have had several Past Grand Masters who served while holding positions of employment outside of Arkansas. Some have had extensive absences of more than a week from our Grand Jurisdiction. The intent of the original requirement was that a Grand Master would be attentive to ills duties, which should be the measure of right. APPROVED

19. The question was posed as to whether the Deputy Grand Master is vested with the authority of the office of Grand Master when the latter is out of the Grand Jurisdiction.  My response: In this modem age of telecommunications, e-mails, cellular telephones, faxes, etc., this would be a ridiculous attitude to assume. The clause referred to is obviously an adaptation of the “General Miller” provisions from the Arkansas Stare Constitution and peculiar to the same, which were removed years ago. The Grand Master retains sole authority in all matters unless they are legally delegated by him, he is removed from office, resigns, or dies during his term. If his absence is impeding the ability of the Grand Lodge to function, thus damaging the condition of the Fraternity, action should be taken to remove him from office. APPROVED

20. The question was posed as to whether members of a particular lodge could participate as ushers at ballgames as part of a fundraising project for the lodge, even though some of the games would be held on Sunday afternoons. My response: There is nothing wrong with the lodge members engaging in this activity, even though some of these games are held on Sunday. The games are not sponsored by, promoted by, or conducted under the authority of the Lodge, and therefore do not constitute Masonic Work, as described in the Grand Lodge Digest of Laws. I did add a standard caution that members should be reminded that consumption of alcohol, while engaged in a lodge sanctioned activity, is strictly prohibited. APPROVED

21. The question was posed as to whether members of a particular lodge could participate in a food vending service as a fundraising project for the lodge, even though the work would be performed on Sunday as part of the July 4th city celebration. My response: There is nothing wrong with the lodge members engaging in this activity. Even though activity is being held on Sunday, July 4, 2004. The event is not sponsored by, promoted by, or conducted under the authority of the Lodge, and therefore do not constitute Masonic work as described in the Grand Lodge Digest of Laws. I did add a standard caution that members should be reminded that consumption of alcohol while engaged in a lodge sanctioned activity, is strictly prohibited. APPROVED

22. The question was posed by a group of members of lodges within our Grand Jurisdiction as to whether they could initiate the Widow’s Son Motor Cycle Club to operate in the grand Jurisdiction of Arkansas. My response: After reviewing the proposed by-laws and information regarding this group, and being provided with a modification of the original emblem that is more tasteful and appropriately representative of our Fraternity, I authorized Brother David Adams to form the group and operate with provisional approval, pending the outcome of a vote by our Grand Lodge Delegates as to the permanent status within the Grand Jurisdiction of Arkansas. APPROVED

23. The question was posed by the Supreme Tall Cedar of the Tall Cedars of Lebanon of North America as to whether they could initiate a forest to operate in Arkansas. My response: After reviewing the facts of this request I denied the request. I considered the following facts in making this decision:

  • None of our members have participated in the request or indicated in any way that they wish to be a part of this organization.
  • This is a repeated request previously denied by other Grand Masters as recent as Past Grand Master Bobby Pope in 2003.
  • Their service is duplicative of programs already in existence within this Grand Jurisdiction.
  • The addition of yet another appendant body would only stand to detract from the available resources already strained within our membership.

I would add that the resulting response from the Tall Cedars of Lebanon of North America on being informed of my decision was testy, critical and not in keeping with the spirit of fraternalism.  APPROVED

24. The question was posed by a brother under the penalty of definite suspension from this Grand Jurisdiction, as to whether he had committed an additional Masonic violation when he, in an effort to calm the female victim of a car crash to whom he was attempting to give aid, informed her that he had attended lodge with her husband My response: No violation exists. The statement he made was truthful and he did not represent himself to her as being a Mason. In any case, it would be a cold decision to press charges in such circumstances and instead of condemning; I commend him for his efforts on her behalf. APPROVED

25. The question was posed by several of our brethren as to whether we should suspend recognition of the Grand Lodge of New York as a result of the unfortunate incident involving the death of a lodge member in the Grand Jurisdiction of New York on March 8, 2004. My response: No, we should do nothing more than support New York Grand Master Most Worshipful Cad J. Fitje in his efforts to address this issue. The man killed in the incident was a Master Mason participating in the Southside Fellowcraft Club, a social meeting held in the basement of a Masonic building in Patchogue, New York.  This incident prompted M. W. Fitje to establish a panel of respected and experienced Masons to review the activities and operations of social clubs that make use of Masonic premises in New York. APPROVED

26. Owing to the requirement that Grand York Rite Law defer to the laws of our grand Lodge when their own law is silent or does not fully address an issue, the question was posed by Brother Tom E. Mason, Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter of Arkansas as to “whether he could pursue charges against Brother Homer Chamness even though he has dimitted from the chapter. My response: A dimitted Mason is still subject to the Laws of the organization from which he is dimitted. This is directly addressed in the Grand Lodge Digest of Laws, Section 4200, R, “A dimitted Mason is subject to discipline for un-Masonic conduct by any Lodge in whose jurisdiction he may reside. -Pro. 1875.”  APPROVED

27. Owing to the requirement that Grand York Rite Law defer to the laws of our grand Lodge when their own law is silent or does not fully address an issue, the question was posed by Brother Tom E. Mason, Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter of Arkansas as to whether he had the authority to rescind the demit of Brother Homer Chamness owing to the fact that Brother Mason felt that he obtained it in an attempt to escape from charges and expulsion. My response: My belief is that the Grand High Priest would have the authority to rescind his dimit. However I did note that, owing to my answer to the first question, I do not see a reason to rescind Brother Chamness’ dimit, since he is subject to the laws with one. APPROVED

28. The question was posed by at least two lodges as to whether they could perform the “Rusty Nail Degree”.  In at least two cases a proposed ritual was included with the request.  My response: After review and careful consideration I refused permission and ordered that such rituals should not be permitted in this Grand Jurisdiction. I am fervently opposed to the introduction of any innovation on the adopted rituals of this Grand Jurisdiction. I believe the material submitted to me is indicative of such an attempt. There are other, non-ritualistic methods of accomplishing the laudable goals leading to the requests. APPROVED

29. The question was posed by a particular lodge as to whether they could confer the Degrees of Freemasonry in an irregular manner on a candidate of advanced age and ill health, by conferring the degrees in the candidate’s home and in one sitting without requiring proficiency in the lectures. The cited reasons were that the man had been unable to become a Mason due to his participation in World War II, and in work following the war.  My response: No, a long established precept of Freemasonry is that a man is to be of sound mind and body. This Grand Lodge has a long history of avoiding any deviation from a requirement of proficiency in the lectures. The Degrees of Freemasonry were never intended to be an award for longevity of life and many men caught in the various wars of our past still made the effort and received the Symbolic Degrees. APPROVED

30. The question was posed as to whether a brother serving as Worshipful Master, or in an appointed or elected office, retains the title Worshipful or Right Worshipful as appropriate. Similarly the question was posed as to whether a brother having completed service as a District Deputy Grand Master would be entitled to style himself a Past District Deputy Grand Master. My response: In both instances the answer is yes. This is in keeping with past usages in this Grand Jurjsdiction and the Fraternity as a whole.  APPROVED

31. The question was posed as to whether a brother may utilize within this Grand Jurisdiction a cipher ritual approved by another, in this case the Grand Lodge of California. My response: No, our Obligati0n forbids the creation of such cipher aids and l believe the spirit of that prohibition includes the use of the same when created by someone else. APPROVED

32. The question was posed as to who actually composes the Masonic Law and Usage Committee, specifically the meaning of Section 2160, Paragraph C of the Digest of Laws. My Response: When read without regard to other paragraphs, Paragraph C appears to mean that the Committee only exists during Grand Lodge Sessions. However, in totality this would be in conflict with other areas of the same Section. The practical meaning to the Paragraph is that the Past Grand Masters present at a Grand Lodge Session become members of the Committee until the next Session. In other words, the Past Grand Masters present at the 2005 Grand Lodge Session will form the Committee until the Next Session in 2006, when those present will comprise the Committee for the next Grand Lodge Year. FAILED

33. The question was posed as to who serves as the Chairman of the Masonic Law and Usage Committee, specifically is that office retained by the senior living Past Grand Master.  My response: Nothing I have found in the Digest of Laws indicates that the chairmanship is a right by longevity, which would certainly not be in the best interest of our Fraternity. I would note that in my Grand Lodge experience since 1983 the senior living Past Grand Master has often been absent from our sessions which, according to Decision 32, would mean he is not even a member of the Committee. A more practical solution is that Committee continues the historical practice of electing the Chairman for the year be continued. APPROVED

34. The question was posed as to whether a Past Grand Master serving on the Masonic Law and Usage Committee should abstain from consideration of a recommendation or resolution officially made by him or his lodge. My response: First, the Masonic Law and Usage Committee have no legal authority for considering resolutions or recommendations unless the same have been legally referred to them by the delegates.  Secondly, the function of a committee is a group activity, meeting together and discussing information, requiring the member’s presence in a group meeting – no purpose would be served in denying a committee the full information needed to make informed decisions. APPROVED


THE GRAND MASTER’S REPORT CONTAINED SEVEN RECOMMENDATION

1. I recommend that the term of office for Grand Treasurer and Grand Secretary be changed to four-years. We have reached a point in our corporate existence that requires more stability in certain parts of our operations than we currently enjoy, particularly in the offices of Grand Treasurer and Grand Secretary. We potentially could have a change in these offices every year during our Grand Lodge Session, which would require substantial efforts to change accounts and reorganize funds and operational issues. While I would oppose an attempt to change these to appointive offices, I believe that a fair compromise can be accomplished between requiring those holding these offices to stand for election and providing more stability in our operations. Votes for 186- Votes against 312. FAILED

2. I recommend that our laws be changed to allow for the Worshipful Master of a Lodge to resign from his office with the consent of the Grand Master. The Digest contains provisions for the Grand Master to step down, but none for the Worshipful .Master. This is an oversight that should be corrected to allow an honorable way for a Worshipful Master to remove himself in cases where he no longer feels it appropriate to carry the burden of his office. Such a resignation would invoke two provisions:

  • First a Brother resigning from the office of Worshipful Master would not be entitled to retain his title of Worshipful or to recognition as a Past Master”. And,
  • Secondly, the remainder of the year would be completed by the Senior Warden without assuming the office of Worshipful Master.

Votes for 287 – Votes against 217. APPROVED

3. I recommend that we institute a freeze on plural memberships within our Grand Jurisdiction and, from this point forward, prohibit any Brother from having a membership in more than one lodge. This change would not affect any existing plural memberships and they would be allowed to expire through withdrawal or death. Three separate issues prompt this recommendation:

  • A statistical study of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee reveals data that indicates plural memberships have a negative effect on the survival of our Fraternity. Through plural memberships, lodges that should close due to changes in population are kept open. In their effort to keep these lodges open. many of our brethren financially strap themselves to the point that they are forced to keep lodge dues at a minimum (in order to pay at multiple lodges), which restricts the ability of lodges that could thrive from being able to maintain suitable facilities and do charitable works that would help them to be positive images in their communities.
  • Secondly, many of the lodges kept open through plural memberships are barely active, many have no degree work and may only have three to four brethren in attendance at stated meetings, if they meet regularly at all. This type of inactivity represents to the outsiders a poor image of our Fraternity, tending to discourage men from seeking membership in a “do-nothing” organization.
  • Thirdly, the majority of the disciplinary problems faced by our Fraternity in recent years stem from Brethren holding plural memberships. Trouble in a lodge is like a cancer.  Plural memberships help the cancer to spread from one lodge to another. This would in no way limit a brother from attending as many lodges as he may desire nor would it prohibit him from contributing funds to a lodge where me is not a member.

FAILED

4. I recommend a change in our system for removing and trying the Grand Master. Events of the last year have revealed flaws in the system, one being that the current system leads most often to members of advanced age, with frailties and health complications, to carry the burden of such an important decision making process. By having our most senior Past Grand Masters detailed to review allegations made against the sitting Grand Master, we ask men who generally will have served in the office decades before to make decisions about things in which they may be ill informed and lack current experience. In these past months our Past Grand Masters complained that the small group of conspirators called them at least daily bothering them in times of ill health. In at least one case, refusing to leave the Past Grand Master’s home until he complied with their request.  I am suggesting a more practical system for exploring impeachment of a sitting Grand Master.  This system would be to have the elected Grand Lodge Officers, meaning the Grand Junior and Senior Deacons, Treasurer, Secretary, Grand Junior and Senior Wardens and the Deputy Grand Master composing the membership of an impeachment commission, with the most recent serving Past Grand Master as an ex-officio Chairman.

In this way we have the sitting elected officials of this Grand Lodge making the decision and the most recently experienced Past Grand Master ensuring that the process is handled fairly. I would note though, a Grand Master is not subject to impeachment for legal actions taken by him-it is-not enough that a few of our members~ or even a majority of them oppose a legal action taken by him. In these cases, the action stands until the next Grand Lodge Session when the legal delegates will decide the appropriateness of his decision. FAILED

5. I recommend that the Widow’s Son Motor Cycle Club be granted the authority to operate within the Grand Jurisdiction of Arkansas as a social organization for Master Masons, provided that their by-laws, at the state or national level conflict in no way with our own and that they recognize all sanctioned events as requiring their strict compliance with all Grand Lodge of Arkansas restrictions, including the use of alcohol and that they agree to immediately suspend or expel a member upon notification from the Grand Lodge of such action being taken against a member by their lodge or the Grand Lodge. APPROVED

6. l recommend the official adoption of the Endow the Future Program and the Arkansas

Diamond Award Program to develop financial stability for the Grand Lodge.  The Endow the Future Program is composed of three essential elements: Reaffirmation of our Master Mason Obligation and rededication to the principles contained therein; Moral, physical, and financial support for the Masonic Youth Organizations of Arkansas DeMolay and Arkansas Rainbow for Girls; and, Endowment of the Grand Lodge and its operations. Reaffirmation and rededication to the principles of our Master Mason Obligations an important part of ensuring our future because without requiring our membership to abide closely by the guidelines contained therein. we become nothing more than a social club. It is our promises made to each other and to God that make us the greatest fraternity in our world. If we abide these age-old regulations, we need little else of rules to guide our actions towards each other and all mankind.

A commitment to providing moral, physical, and financial support for the Masonic Youth Organizations of Arkansas DeMolay and Arkansas Rainbow for Girls is an important part of ensuring our future because it is through these organizations that we stand the greatest chance of growth in our Fraternity. Young men in DeMolay are instilled with ideals belonging to our Fraternity, which are fostered when we give them our support and cause them to want to be a part of us. Young ladies in Rainbow girls be wives, mothers and grandmothers, unafraid of the Masonic Fraternity, understanding of the inherent good contained therein and encouraging of the young men in their care to follow the path of DeMolay and Freemasonry.

The endowment of the Grand Lodge operations is an important part of ensuring our future because it is this one issue that has so often generated strife in our Fraternity.

Through adequate funding, a situation nonexistent in most of our history, we stand to undertake meaningful programs and develop useful resources geared to provide membership benefits and aid our growth.

The Arkansas Diamond Award Program, unashamedly an adaptation of the very successful Grotto’s Enchanted Lantern Program, is the best course for our financial endowment of this Grand Lodge. While the Endow the Future Program may sell items for a profit contributing to the endowment, the Arkansas Diamond Award Program is our pathway to speedy success.

The Arkansas Diamond Award Program provides an opportunity for anyone, member or nonmember, to contribute directly to the endowment. The purchaser initially receives a Diamond Award Pin and certificate. With each subsequent donation of $50, the purchaser receives a fob to be attached to the original award pin, indicating the total number of Diamonds purchased and an additional certificate. Certificates may be requested to indicate a person being honored by the purchaser, or a person in whose memory the contribution is made.  A person purchasing 200 Arkansas Diamonds, a total contribution of $10,000, will be honored by having their photo placed on permanent display in the Diamond Alcove, to be located in the front area of the Grand Lodge entrance.  APPROVED

7. I recommend that Section 3620, Paragraph C, be amended from the current three-year prohibition to require only twelve months to lapse before a rejected petitioner may petition another lodge within this Grand Jurisdiction. APPROVED

 

SIGNED REQUEST FOR SELF EXPULSION

During the year 2004, five requests for self-expulsion for life were presented to me. I signed the request for James Paul Vinson, Adoniram Lodge #288; John David Vinson, Adoniram Lodge

#288; Nathan Ray Henderson, Russellville Lodge #274; James Delano Baxter, Trinity Lodge
#694; William Eldon Nichols, Knoxville Lodge #370 and Homer F. Chamness, Jr., Van Buren Lodge #6.

 

TRIALS

On January 8, 2005, a Grand Lodge Trial Commission conducted an administrative renew of charges against Brother Brian K Nielson. The Commission confirmed the charges and imposed a penalty of expulsion. The finding has been communicated to him.

On January 15, 2005, a Grand Lodge Trial Commission conducted an administrative review of charges against Brother Malcolm McHughes, who chose not to appear. The Commission confirmed the charges and imposed a penalty of expulsion. The finding has been communicated to him.

On January 15, 2005, a Grand Lodge Trial Commission conducted an administrative review of charges against Brother Charles Baker, who chose not to appear. The Commission confirmed the charges and imposed a penalty of expulsion. The finding has been communicated to him.

On January 15, 2005, a Grand Lodge Trial Commission conducted an administrative review of charges against Brother Otis D. Burcher, who chose not to appear. The Commission confirmed the charges and imposed a penalty of expulsion and the finding has been communicated to him.

On January 15, 2005, a Grand Lodge Trial Commission conducted an administrative review of charges against Brother Millard Wagner . The Commission confirmed the charges and imposed a penalty of expulsion. The finding has been communicated to him.

On January 15, 2005, a Grand Lodge Trial Commission conducted an administrative review of charges against Brother William Jones. The Commission confirmed the charges and imposed a penalty of expulsion. The finding has been communicated to him.

On January 15, 2005, a Grand Lodge Trial Commission conducted an administrative review of charges against Brother Grover Bliir. The Commission confirmed the charges and imposed a penalty of Reprimand with an additional penalty of Definite Suspension until Monday, February 7, 2005. The finding has been communicated to him.

On January 15, 2005, a Grand Lodge Trial Commission conducted an administrative review of charges against Brother Travis Collins. The Commission confirmed the charges and imposed a penalty of Definite Suspension until January 24, 2007. The finding has been communicated to him.

 

REQUEST FOR REINSTATEMENT

I have received three requests for reinstatement to full membership in our Fraternity:

Walter Gigerich

Lance Ellenberg

The request for reinstatement (as a Mason at Large) on Mr. Gigerich and Mr. Ellenberg was approved by the delegates of the 162nd Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas on February 4. 2005.

Mr. Harold Brown

The request £or reinstatement on Mr. Brown was not approved by the delegates of the 162nd Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas on February 4, 2005. This request for reinstatement was ruled out of order by the delegates of the 162nd Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas, therefore his suspension will stand as is and he will be required to complete the entire sentence.

 

RESOLUTIONS

There were thirty two (32) resolutions submitted; all resolutions were withdrawn, ruled improper or FAILED.

 

GRAND LODGE PER CAPITA VOTE

Resolution 2003-3, by Gentry Lodge No. 222, submitted at our 2003 Grand Lodge Session, to increase our Grand Lodge Per Capita to $10.00. FAILED 96 for 99 against

 

GRAND LODGE MEDAL OF HONOR

The Grand Lodge Medal of Honor, category number 3, was presented to Brother Joseph Clements, Pulaski Heights Lodge No. 673, Little Rock.

LODGE REPORTS

The reports from the Lodges show that during the year the following work was done:

Petitions Received……………………………….. 432
Candidates Elected ………………………………..  3 77
Initiated ………………………………..  3 61
Passed ………………………………..  257
Raised ……………………………….. 225
Affiliated ………………………………..  211
Reinstated ………………………………..  151
Dimitted ………………………………..  56
Deaths ………………………………..  766
Suspended–Non-Payment ………………………………..  438
Suspended–Un-Masonic Conduct ……………………………….. 7
Expelled ………………………………..  13
Membership ………………………………..  18,626
Dues Paying Members (Plural) ……………………………….. 22,622
Net Loss for Year ……………………………….. 693
Plural Members. (in state) ………………………………..  3,429
Plural Members. (out of state) ……………………………….. 567

 

FINANCES

During the year, the Grand Secretary’s office collected:

Grand Lodge Dues (Per Capita) ………………………………..  $91 ,491.99
Reinstatements ……………………………….. 690.00
Perpetual Members (1900-1992) ……………………………….. 8,353.00
Perpetual Members (1993-2001) ……………………………….. 16,925.00
Memorial Perpetual Int. (1900-199i) ……………………………….. 3,478.00
Memorial Perpetual Int. (1993-2001) ……………………………….. 2,207.80
Bond Insurance from Lodges ……………………………….. 1,592.29
Books and Supplies ……………………………….. 14,756.46
Interest. ……………………………….. U9.01
Pillars of Solomon Awards ………………………………..  7, 700.00

$143,323.55

 

ELECTION OF BOARD MEMBERS

Board of Charities:
William E. Glenn (34) was elected to a five (5) year term.

Board of Finance:
Garry C. Jones (79) was elected to a five (5) year term.

Board of Youth & Scholarship:
Mike Rolland (29) was elected to a five (5) year term.

Appeals & Grievances Board:
Dickey J. Fortner, P.G.M. (107) was elected to a five (5) year term.

 

Sincerely and fraternally,
James L. Weatherall, P.G.M.
Grand Secretary

The report above, combined with previous leaks from other sources, makes it clear that Arkansas’ mainstream Masonic “leaders” have been taking the fraternity in some (hopefully) unusual directions.

If other mainstream Grand Lodges are truly different, perhaps one of the greatest “mysteries” of Freemasonry, is why they continue tolerating such corruption and abuse through continued recognition.

At what point will legitimate Grand Lodges say: “Enough is enough; we can no longer tolerate this sort of behavior, which obviously casts doubt on the honor and integrity of all Masons?”

Attached is the original document used to digitally transcribe this leak.