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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.)

Nettleton Lodge: An Attempted Theft of Property By The Grand Lodge

This article is a discussion of the sordid history of a ‘progressive’ Arkansas Masonic Lodge and its relationship with The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Arkansas. This matter is part of ongoing litigation in the courts.  The following documents are to explain the actions transpiring in Arkansas.

  1. The Officers of Nettleton Lodge, attending a Grand Lodge Communication were publicly notified that the Charter of the Lodge was being arrested for: a.) Initiating a man of the Wicca belief, and b.) Allowing an expelled Mason to attend an open-meeting Officer’s Installation Ceremony.
  2. A Black man petitioned Nettleton Lodge for the Mysteries of Freemasonry and the Master was informed that if he allowed a Black man to become a member of the Lodge he would be expelled from the Fraternity. The investigating committee was pressured by Grand Lodge representatives to report unfavorable even though members of the committee admitted they could find no fault with the petitioner.
  3. Members of the Masonic Fraternity in Arkansas have been pressured to waive their rights to a Masonic Trial and “expel themselves” for life without benefit of appeal.
  4. The Grand Lodge attempted to appropriate the assets of the Lodge, including the building. This action was challenged in the Courts and Nettleton Lodge prevailed.
  5. The Worshipful Master, the Secretary, the Treasurer, the Junior Deacon, and a general member (who was NOT an officer at this time) were expelled. No charges were filed against any of them except the non-officer Member.  Each officer was expelled via a letter sent from the Grand Master James Graham dictating that they were henceforth expelled.  The Treasurer was reinstated a year later after turning over Lodge property, belonging to the members of the Nettleton and not the Grand Lodge, as demanded by the Grand Lodge.
  6. The non-officer Member of the Lodge has a black grandson who desired to join Freemasonry.  It was made clear for two years prior to this incident that the Lodge wanted for this black grandson to be permitted to join.  The Grand Lodge repeatedly said this would not be acceptable.  Without any true justification for the expulsion, this run-in with the Grand Lodge added to the Member’s demise.  He had only two incidents with the Grand Lodge of Arkansas. The second incident was a proposal to remove unapproved language in the Arkansas by-laws which created and dictated that a Mason is automatically self-expelled when he resigns from the State of Arkansas’ jurisdiction.  This language was never voted on or approved at a Grand Session, but had been found to be an addition by Grand Lodge officers secretly.
  7. The Junior Deacon of the Lodge was expelled solely for being friends and refusing to disassociate himself from the Secretary of Nettleton Lodge as demanded by the Grand Lodge.  The Grand Master and other Grand Officers specifically stated that if the Junior Deacon from disassociate himself with his friend, he would be reinstated.  The Deputy Grand Master said “we can take care of you” if the Junior Deacon would do as demanded.  This deal was revoked and a meeting to resolve the matter was canceled upon the filing of a lawsuit by another member of Nettleton Lodge; the Junior Deacon was not a party when the lawsuit was filed.

The only communication between the officers of Nettleton Lodge and the Grand Lodge of Arkansas came via telephone on February 15th.  The Grand Master demanded that the Lodge, specifically the Secretary, of Nettleton Lodge turn over the keys to their building.  The Grand Lodge held a Masonic trial to expel the non-office member of the Lodge; the Grand Master cited sections of the by-laws that did not pertain to the subject matter whatsoever.  No references were given except his word over the men standing accused.

Please review the attached evidence.  A note of significance is that the same members of Grand Trial Committee, including John Penrod and Robert Jackson, have continued to be called upon to rule in the expulsion trials of many Masons including the 2010 case of Derek Gordon.

“Justice Is that standard or boundary of right, which enables us to render to every man his just due, without distinction. This virtue is not only consistent with Divine and human laws, but is the very cement and support of civil society; and, as justice in a great measure constitutes the real good man, so should it be the invariable practice of every Mason never to deviate from the minutest principles thereof, ever bearing in mind the time when you stood in the Northeast corner of the Lodge on the first step of a Mason which is the Pedal or fourth perfect point of entrance.

“The only way things will change in Arkansas or any other State in a similar situation- is when the Brothers of these Jurisdictions have a change of heart. As we are waging a battle for the hearts and minds of Freemasons we must do our part to bring to light all of the facts and information surrounding this injustice, and one of the most important ways for us to do this is through online articles and discussions.

“As you must already be aware any “seeming” violation of Masonic law will serve as the pretext for the immediate expulsion of any Brother who would attempt to bring about this important change. While the battle must be fought, and while we must be men of integrity I think you should take every reasonable precaution to guard against this inevitable attack. That being said there should be no restraint shown on our part to do everything legally within our power to bring about a Freemasonry which in act is more closely related to its principles.”

New Jersey’s Grand Lodge Wanted a Building, Expels Opposing Mason

The Mike McCabe story reverberated around Masonic circles including a Masonic e-publication, but there is more than what meets the eye.  In an effort to provide more details with evidence, this article contains the chronological story recounting the malicious conduct of the Grand Lodge and its Officers.  Please, review the attached evidence which supports this candid account of abuse.

At a Masonic Trial held on November 15, 2008, I was convicted of 2 of the 3 counts of unmasonic conduct leveled against me by John Foreberger, (the immediate Past Master of the USS New Jersey Lodge No. 62), and Steven Preissman, (the then District Deputy Grand Master for the 18th Masonic District.)  I was found guilty of allegedly ignoring Orders given to me by these 2 individuals.  While this drama has played out for almost 2 1/2 years now, I will attempt to present the facts leading up to my expulsion from New Jersey Masonry as objectively as possible, leaving it to your judgment to decide if:

  • The Charges made against me were warranted?
  • Either the Masonic Trial or Penalty Phase of the proceedings met the due process requirements of New Jersey’s Grand Lodge Constitution?
  • The expulsion sentence meted out was Constitutional, let alone appropriate?

An entire Chapter of New Jersey’s Grand Lodge Constitution (Section 13 Charges – Code for Trials) is dedicated to Masonic jurisprudence and insuring that the accused Brother receives due process during Masonic judicial proceedings.  Section 13’s Preamble affirms that “proceedings shall be conducted in accordance with the following…” (13-04)  As I shall demonstrate Section 13 was violated at every phase of my Masonic Trial process.

Some might consider 1 or two, or 5 violations of Section 13 a minor oversight.  However, when the number of violations exceeded 20, I personally began to question whether those individuals responsible for conducting and overseeing my proceedings were actually Master Masons.  (My Oath had required me to “…stn t @ ab b +I byls, ruls, @ rglns… also +I cnstn, byls, gnrl rglns @ edcs %…), or had the belief that the ends justified the means infected the Grand Lodge hierarchy’s thought process.  While preparing for my Appeal, via email, I inquired of the Grand Secretary (Larry Plasket) and Grand Lodge Legal Counsel, (Howard Kanowitz), for the names of the 5 Trial Panelists that had heard my case.  The Grand Secretary He informed me that as he wasn’t there, He did not know and to ask the Grand Lodge Legal Counsel.  The Grand Lodge Legal Counsel response: “he did not know who they were because he was not a member of the Trial Panel and he took no notes.” (Isn’t this a curious answer to receive from a Grand Lodge Official responsible for overseeing those proceedings?)

There is an old adage that a man who represents himself will have a fool for a client. My biggest problem was being forced to represent myself.  New Jersey’s Constitution requires that any attorneys participating in a Masonic Trial be Master Masons.  Once it was learned (informally) that William Berman, the Deputy Grand Master (and within 6 months Grand Master), was going to testify against me, for various reasons most begged off (some never bothered to call back.)  Consequently, I was forced to represent myself.

The Specification of the Third Charge noted that 2 unidentifiedmembers of the Lodge” had allegedly witnesses me in possession and or control a number of Masonic Aprons which are the property of the USS New Jersey Lodge No. 62,” which had been reportedly stolen.  I believe the circumstances surrounding how this Charge originated and was adjudicated, is illustrative of how the entire Masonic Trial process was conducted against me.

Despite two written requests, the Lodge refused to provide me with those 2 unidentified members’ names, as a part of the discovery process (which turned out to be nonexistent, as I was informed by the Grand Lodge Legal Counsel.)  It was only after the hearing began, that I actually learned my accusers’ identities (the DGM and another future Right Worshipful.)

My defense against this Charge was simple.  As the Aprons had never been stolen from the USS New Jersey Lodge, and had been in the possession and control of the USS New Jersey Lodge, the last time I had been there (months earlier), they could not have possibly have been in my apron case.  Fortunately for me, a former member of the New Jersey Lodge, (Wor. Bro. John Hunsberger) came forward and testified in my behalf.  During the proceedings, the Trial Panel actually stopped the trial to go look for the missing Aprons in the Lodge’s preparation room.  (Surprisingly, conveniently they were nowhere to be found.)

Section 13-29 of the Grand Lodge Constitution states “…the Charge shall be signed by the accuser… .”

First: The individuals responsible for signing all 3 of the Charges against me, (Mr.’s Foreberger and Preissman) refused to testify in support of their allegation (my being in possession of stolen property), when officially called upon by the Trial Panel to do so.  Instead, they admitted to the Panel) that they had not been present to witness the alleged incident; and that 2 other individuals, (Mr.’s. Berman and Garrison) had actually witnessed the alleged offense, and were prepared to testify in support of the allegation.

Second: While testifying, those individuals acknowledged that they were responsible for making the allegation which the Charge was based on.  However, neither of those individuals had signed the Charge leveled against me.

 

Shouldn’t the Grand Lodge Legal Counsel have recognized this for what it was?  The Master of the USS New Jersey Lodge had allowed a Masonic Charge to be brought against someone based entirely on second hand (hearsay evidence.) In the process, permitted Section 13-29 of the Constitution to be violated.  Shouldn’t the Charge have been dismissed right then and there?  Yet this Charge was permitted to be adjudicated.  Suppose I did not have a witness to corroborate my testimony?  Suppose I had been found Guilty, in what would have amounted to a nothing more than a swearing contest?  Is this what New Jersey Masonry has become?  (I had to join the Masons to be called a thief.)

I was found Not Guilty of an allegation that had accused a 6 time Past Master of criminal conduct even though Deputy Grand Master Berman had testified in support of the Charge.

How would most New Jersey Masons feel, if it they had known that the next Grand Master had made an unsupportable allegation that besmirched a Brother’s name and reputation, and had violated the Grand Lodge Constitution to do so.  While my current status (expulsion) conveniently prevents me from redressing this abuse masonically.  I think it very unlikely that this Grand Lodge would ever address this matter on its own (as should be done.)  These actions violate every precept and principle we supposedly stand for.  Unfortunately, I do not believe that this is the first time the corrupting influence of absolute power has seduced a member of the Craft. Would this Charge would have ever been leveled against me had I not sent that letter?

The USS New Jersey Lodge, No. 62, Chartered in 2005, was the byproduct of a forced consolidation of 3 Lodges (Ionic, Trimble and Universal), that had each been in existence for well over 100 years.  These 3 Lodges were co-equal owners of a building and property (the West Jersey Masonic Center / WJMC ), that was worth several million dollars (due to its location.)  Late in 2004, all 3 Lodges were given the right to vote and decide whether they wanted to become a part of the new Lodge to be named in honor of America’s most decorated warship, (which had only recently been moved to a new home on the Camden waterfront, or remain as they were.)  The two fiscally sound Lodges (Universal and Trimble) voted overwhelmingly against any merger or consolidation (18-8 and 49-2 No respectively.)  After Trimble’s members voted No, the then District Deputy (William Krassen) approached the East, and while the meeting was still in progress, confiscated Trimble’s Charter, and announced that this Lodge is closed.  (Universal’s Charter was removed from a closet during a Lodge rehearsal several days later.)  Only Ionic Lodge, which had the most to gain by any consolidation, voted to turn in is Charter.  (Only months earlier, Ionic had unsuccessfully lobbied to have the other 2 Lodges to agree to sell the building and divide the proceeds.)  Chartered in December of 2005, the newly created USS New Jersey Lodge No. 62, not only had gained a valuable asset at no cost, but also Trimble’s sizeable investment portfolio, bequeathed to it by a departed benefactor.

The results of the USS New Jersey’s 2005 Annual Election of Officers were quite unexpected to the powers that be at both the USS New Jersey Lodge and the Grand Lodge.  With one exception, all of the USS New Jersey Lodge’s elected officers and trustees (put into office with Grand Lodge’s blessing), had been replaced after the elections results were tabulated.  The lone office holder not to suffer that same fate only survived because of an intentional misapplication of a provision (30-06) of New Jersey’s Grand Lodge Constitution, which permits the removal of a candidate’s name from the hat who is running for an elected Lodge office (in this particular instance the Master’s Station.)  The name removed from the hat was mine.  Those election results were a total repudiation of Grand Lodge’s duplicitous, actions.

Several weeks later at the Annual Installation of Officers, Grand Master Sheridan publicly scolded the Brethren, and called them childish because they had dared to vote for the candidates of their choice.  His words received a standing ovation from the usual suspects.  As I wrote him later*, those children had liberated Europe, and Japanese held islands in the Pacific, fought the Cold War in the jungles of Southeast Asia, flew aircraft off of rolling flight decks, and navigated nuclear attack submarines.  None of which is kid stuff.  (When viewed in that context, maybe it’s understandable why Grand Lodge was not inclined to respond as forcefully to these violations as they had in the past and would afterwards.)

Those violations included:

  • Failing to turn over the Lodge’s primary operating checking account to the new fiduciary officers.  All information, (monthly statements and checkbook) about this particular account, was intentionally withheld.  These Officers only learned of the account after I informed them of its existence. (It would be another year before it was realized that over $7,000 had never been turned over to the new fiduciary officers and instead deposited into that unsupervised Lodge account.
  • Allowing an unauthorized individual to continue to have unfettered access and control of the Lodge’s primary operating checking account, and continued to write checks, on the lodge’s behalf even though he was not permitted to do so.  (Who else at the USS New Jersey Lodge and Grand Lodge knew of these activities yet permitted it to go on?)  At least $17,000 in unauthorized financial transactions occurred with Lodge funds.  All of these transactions had occurred without the knowledge, or signatures of either of the Lodge’s duly elected and installed fiduciary officers.  As none of these checks had been issued or signed by the lodge’s current office holders, they were not valid.
  • Intentionally failed to notify the Bank that new fiduciary officers had been elected and empowered to sign checks on behalf of the Lodge.  The failure to keep the Lodge’s Resolution with the Bank current violated the Bank’s written policy on Resolutions.  The Bank would have never honored any of those checks had it known that the instruments lacked the authorized officers’ signatures
  • Intentionally failed to turn Lodge funds to the proper fiduciary officer.  In January of 2008, it was discovered that three (3) unauthorized deposits (a total of 91 checks and over $7,000), had occurred after the new Secretary and Treasurer were installed.  Those monies were never properly recorded or dispersed.  Those funds helped to cover much of the $10,000 in unauthorized checks.
    • Because the minutes of the USS New Jersey Lodge’s 2004-2005 Masonic year had never been turned over, it was never determined that the members of the Lodge had ever voted to expend those funds.
    • As of August 2007, neither the 2005 nor 2006 Annual Audits had been completed.

Our financial rules are quite specific.  They require that:

  • All Lodge funds turned over to the Secretary (so they can be properly recorded);
  • Transmitted to the Treasurer for their proper disposal.
  • All Lodge funds are spent according to the will of the Lodge’s members after a recorded vote on the same.

For almost 2 years (April 2006 – March 2008), authorities at both the USS New Jersey Lodge, as well as certain elected and appointed members of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey, knew of these violations, yet refused to address the matter.  Grand Lodge’s normal response (both before and since) was to immediately suspend those accused of such actions (without the benefit of due process or a Masonic Trial.)  Yet in this particular instance, the entire matter was just ignored.

This controversy could have been easily resolved at anytime, if the then Master of the Lodge, Glenn Latshaw (now also a Right Worshipful), the District Deputy, or the Grand Master (Ryan) had Ordered that all Lodge records be turned over immediately.  (Why wasn’t this ever done?)

At the USS New Jersey Lodge’s November 2006 meeting, the Treasurer (Wor. Bro. Downes), using that very same information, that a year later I would be accused of not turning over or explaining), gave a detailed presentation about the unauthorized checks.  However, the members of the USS New Jersey Lodge present that evening, were either seemingly content to ignore those violations of our rules, or just weren’t listening.

Only after the authorities at the USS New Jersey Lodge refused to address these violations did I contact Grand Lodge about the matter.  I spoke to the then Grand Secretary (Ray Bellini) on 2 different occasions – approximately one month apart, and informed him of what had occurred.  The Grand Secretary informed me in both instances that he would have the Grand Lodge Legal Counsel contact me about the situation.  (I am still waiting for that call!)

Grand Lodge had an obligation to investigate this matter, not ignore it.  The following questions have never been answered. Instead, Grand Lodge has permitted the messenger to be attacked and vilified I wanted to know:

  • Why there was a complete lack of financial accountability that the Fraternity normally demands?
  • Why violations of our rules were disregarded, by Grand Lodge officers (both elected and appointed?)
  • Why even have rules if they can be ignored by some with impunity?
  • Why did Grand Lodge refuse to investigate the matter, or respond in its normal fashion?
  • Why did the then Grand Master allow a Charge to be made against me on an issue he know (or should have known) was resolved in December of 2007?
  • Why would Grand Lodge allow Charges to be made against someone for informing them of a potentially serious problem?
  • How could the Lodge’s books and records have been inspected during the 2006 Official Visit, if they had never been turned over?

I sent 2 private communiqués – (an April 2007 email and a private letter dated August 15, 2007) to then Grand Master Ryan, and personally made him aware of this situation.  While he responded to my initial email, he never responded to my August 15, 2007 letter*.

It was not until January of 2008, that I discovered that Lodge funds had deposited into that checking account, instead of being turned over to the Lodge Secretary.  While Lodge authorities had steadfastly attempted to diminish the importance of the issued checks, the diverting and depositing of Lodge funds (without the fiduciary officers knowledge) was an entirely different matter.  The dates on the Bank deposit slips told all*.

I contacted the District Deputy about my finding.  He said he would get back to me the next day about it.  After waiting 2 days, I called him back.  It was during this second conversation, that the District Deputy gave me the ultimatum, too either present Masonic Charges by February’s meeting or forget the issue.  (Doesn’t logic dictate, and Justice require a thorough, impartial investigation to be first held, to determine exactly who was, and was not responsible for these abuses of our rules? Only then should the issue of Charges be considered.)  He further remarked that he did not believe that the Lodge would even vote to accept my Charges. The message was clear, presenting Charges would be a waste of time.  After he imposed his time frame, I asked him “since when is there a statue of Limitations for violating Masonic Trust?”

I sent the Grand Master a final letter in March (even though he had not responded to my previous letter.)  This time I sent copies to every member of New Jersey’s elected Grand Line.*  While that letter included earlier details found in the first letter, this correspondence included the new information about the unauthorized deposits of Lodge funds.  Burlington was now fully aware of the controversy.

 

Grand Lodge never investigated (or refuted) the information contained in the letter.  Instead, a week later (April 5, 2008) three (3) Charges of “unmasonic conduct” were signed against me by Mr.’s. Foreberger and Preissman.  And at the May 19, 2008 Regular Communication of the USS New Jersey Lodge, members voted to accept those 3 Charges.  (I only learned of the allegations against me after I received the Lodge’s Official notification, that Masonic Charges had been lodged against me.)

While waiting for the constitutionally required appeal process to begin (that still has yet to be held), I discovered that both of Orders, I was convicted of ignoring, were specifically prohibited by specific sections the Grand Lodge Constitution.  (As both of the Charges made against me were unconstitutional, perhaps this helps explains Grand Lodge’s reluctance to begin the appeal process1?)  This leads me to ask; was there no one in the Grand Lodge hierarchy conversant enough with our Constitution, to recognize these obvious conflicts?

What follows is a condensed version of both of those Charges, along with the corresponding section of our Constitution that nullifies each of those Charges.

First Charge: Michael McCabe “did blatantly and continuously disobey an Order by the Worshipful Master John J. Foreberger as well as requests by other authorities to produce and explain the alleged evidence.  At no time did Michael McCabe ever surrender these documents.”

Section 29-27: “A Lodge cannot deprive a Brother of his civil rights,                         nor compel him to first submit his complaint to the Lodge for its action

Even if I had “blatantly and continuously disobeyed the Order of the Worshipful Master”, as the Charge alleged, my actions, or inactions would have been supported by Section 29-27 of the Grand Lodge Constitution.  (However, that is not what occurred.2)

Second Charge: “…was Ordered by the Right Worshipful District Deputy Grand Master Steven M. Preissman not to bring up any further allegations against members of the (USS New Jersey) Lodge unless he were to prefer formal charges against them at the Regular Communication in February. Brother McCabe, in direct disobedience of the Order of the District Deputy Grand Master did, send a correspondence to the Most Worshipful Grand Master … on March 22nd 2008 again stating the same allegations without bringing up formal charges against the members.”

Section 16-02: “District Deputy Grand Masters have no authority to…decide questions of Masonic Law.”

A District Deputy can only issue an Order pertaining to Masonic Law, while acting under the Grand Master’s specific instructions.  The Deputy acted on his own when he issued his ultimatum, and imposed a deadline (for me to prefer formal Masonic Charges by the February 2008 meeting, or ignore the violations.)  Nowhere, in his formal Charge, or his subsequent testimony at my trial, did he ever suggest that he was acting under the then Grand Master’s direction (at the time he issued me his Order.)  His words do not even begin to support that supposition.

As both of the Orders that I was accused of violating were in direct conflict with the Grand Lodge Constitution, they were unconstitutional, invalid, and unenforceable.  How can someone be charged with, or convicted of “unmasonic conduct” for failing to obey such Orders?  Since when is a Master Mason required to follow Orders:

  • That violate the New Jersey Grand Lodge Constitution;
  • That demands a Brother to ignore violations of our financial rules (and a Federally Chartered National Bank’s policy on Resolutions);
  • That conflicts with one’s Master Mason’s Obligation or the dictates of one’s conscious?

1Even though I received a letter from New Jersey’s Grand Secretary, dated December 9, 2009, (and post marked 3-26-2009), that acknowledges his receiving my Appeal of the Trial Panel’s November 15, 2008 verdict, the constitutionally mandated appeals process still has not taken place.  Grand Lodge keeps insisting that my Appeal has not been filed yet.

2The “alleged evidence” that Lodge authorities claimed that they did not have, was a spreadsheet that listed every check issued by the USS New Jersey Lodge during the 2004-2005 Masonic Year (also the unauthorized checks written during the first few months of the 2006 Masonic Year.)  Contrary to what the First Charge attempts to portray, Lodge authorities were well aware of the controversy.  As noted earlier, the then Lodge Treasurer had used that information to prepare his November 2006 Report to the Lodge.

A year later, in mid-November of 2007, I received a letter from the Master of the USS New Jersey (Foreberger) that ordered me to return “any copies of financial records in any forms in which they may exist that I had in my possession.”*  I contacted the District Deputy several times about the letter.  Contrary to the Master’s letter, the Deputy permitted me to keep copies of the documents and had me mail the information to him instead.  During our other conversation, the District Deputy informed me that Grand Master Ryan had instructed him to take my Blue Card from me, if I did not turn over the information. Which is what I did during early in December 2007 (via certified mail.)  This entire episode occurred 5 months before that Charge was ever made against me.

If I had not complied with the Order, I am quite certain, then Grand Master Ryan would have made good on his threat and pulled my dues Card? Or the Master and District Deputy could have legitimately filed this Charge against me.  I even alluded to the Grand Master’s threat to remove my dues card in the last paragraph of my March 2008 letter.

“I believe that the threat I received to have my dues card taken (if I failed to turn over my evidencethe copies of the bank statements), was akin to shooting the messenger.”

When questioned about this incident at my trial, the District Deputy affirmed that I had complied with the Order (and turned over the information to him.)  The Trial Panel obviously erred when it rendered its verdict on this particular Charge.  It did not place the sufficient weight on that portion of the Deputy’s testimony that had affirmed my testimony.

This would be the second time that I had provided that very same “alleged evidence” to the D.D.G.M.*  (Whatever became of that information? Why was nothing done then to investigate the controversy then?  Why were Charges now brought up, months later, on a non issue that had been resolved months before? Why did the Grand Lodge permit such a contrived Charge to be made?

Both before and during the Masonic Trial and Penalty Phase of my trial, numerous violations of Section 13 of the Grand Lodge Constitution routinely occurred.

While the above information should clearly refute the two Charges I was convicted of, I believe it necessary to provide glimpses of how my Masonic Trial, primarily how the Penalty Phase (sentencing phase) was conducted.  Much of my initial appeal was based on the violations of that Section that had been permitted to occur before, during and after my Masonic Trial.  These various violations, besides denying me due process, and the fundamental fairness expected in such a process, violated my personal Civil Rights.  Two of the more glaring violations of Section 13 occurred during the Penalty Phase and dealt with how the sentencing process was conducted.

Section 13-80: Requires that all members of the Lodge to receive a summons, written in a proscribed form, summoning them “to attend a regular communication of the lodge…” for the purpose of determining the Brother’s penalty.

The members of the Lodge were never summoned.

Section 13-83: “All proceedings relating to suspension, expulsion…must be held at a regular communication.”

The By-Laws of the USS New Jersey Lodge state that Regular Communications are held on the Third Monday (Except July and August.) The Penalty Phase of my Trial was held on Monday July 13, 2009, at a “Regular Communication by Dispensation.” I informed the current Master of the Lodge that the Penalty Phase was actually being held at an Emergent Communication, (in direct violation of 13-83), and furthermore, that no listing for a “Regular Communication by Dispensation” existed in the Grand Lodge Constitution.  The Grand Lodge Legal Counsel later informed me (via email) that “since he (the Grand Master) grated that dispensation, I don’t see any issue.  The hearing will take place this evening as planned.”

The Penalty (Sentencing) Phase of my Masonic Trial was held in direct violation of 13-80 & 13-83 of the Grand Lodge Constitution.  It was a deliberate attempt to deny me the due process procedures enumerated and guaranteed (by Section 13) to every Brother.  Why were these obvious violations of our Constitution permitted to occur?  Who is accountable for permitting these violations to occur? Don’t the members of Grand Lodge also take Oaths & Obligations to stand to and abide by our Constitution?

Believing that my attendance could be viewed as my tacitly approving of these abuses, I refused to attend and was sentenced in abstencia.  In reality, my expulsion was a foregone conclusion.

After my November 2008 Masonic Trial had concluded, the then Deputy Grand Master (now Past Grand Master Berman) informed me that “I was a pariah”; that “I have no friends at the New Jersey Lodge” and that “nobody here likes you.” He also called me a “punk” and a “faggot,” (almost as if he was trying to provoke a fight (I thought I was in grade school again momentarily.)  (Under those circumstances, I never expected anything other than the most severe punishment possible.)

This past June, I provided the Grand Secretary with a copy of an email that I had received from the District Deputy on 10/27/2007.  That email clearly proves that both of my accusers (Brothers Preissman and Foreberger) had reviewed the alleged evidence (my spreadsheet), discussed its contents with each other, and reached conclusions based on the information contained in that spreadsheet.  All of this had occurred seven months before they alleged that I had failed to turn over my “alleged evidenceto them.  In an accompanying note, I informed the Grand Secretary that because of corrupted files in my email account, I was unable to access this email, or use it as evidence at my trial.

Based information, I believed that Grand Lodge certainly should have then realized that serious doubts over one of the Trial Panel’s verdicts existed, and that further review was required on this new.  The Grand Secretary had responded to me that he had forwarded that information to the “appropriate parties.” I later learned from by the Grand Secretary that the then Grand Master (Berman) was the only “appropriate parties” that information had been forwarded to.  I am at a loss to understand how the Grand Master, who is a member of the USS New Jersey Lodge and was present when my expulsion sentence was issued, could have remained silent or permitted the Penalty Phase for this particular charge to even go forward?  Let alone be present and endorse those actions.

I have always believed that there were much more fundamental issues involved here.  Grand Lodge was not pleased with the results of the USS New Jersey’s November 2005 Election of Officers.  Many of the newly founded USS New Jersey Lodge members were hurt by the heavy handed tactics that the Grand Lodge employed when it first created the USS New Jersey Lodge (in 2004.)  These Brothers used the democratic process to attempt to nominate and elect Lodge Officers of theirs (and not some former Grand Master’s) choosing at 2005 Annual Election of Officers.  By rejecting Burlington’s preselected candidates, the Brothers repudiated much of Grand Lodge’s earlier actions.  As I played an active role in that action, I obviously drew Grand Lodge’s ire.

At the USS New Jersey’s December 2005 Annual Feast of St. John, the then Grand Master publicly chastised these same Brothers for exercising their Constitutional right to vote for the candidates of their choice.  He chided them and even called their actions “childish.” His remarks drew an almost unanimous standing ovation (primarily from the Burlington sycophants in attendance.)  I later wrote that Grand Master about his remarks, and reminded him that some of those “children” had liberated Japanese held islands in the Pacific, freed Europe from Nazism, fought the Cold-War in the jungles of South East Asia, flew jet aircraft off of rolling flight decks, and navigated nuclear attack submarines.  None of which was child’s play.  (Not surprisingly, that Grand Master never responded.)

What Grand Lodge has completely lost sight of is that civil society, democracy and the Rule of Law are only held together by a thin veneer.  Our Gentle Craft supposedly supports these ideals.  Don’t we take pride in being bound to those Brothers who once pledged their live, their fortunes and their sacred honor to foster those very same ideals?  How could we have strayed so far? We were Free Men before we were Free Masons!

Since October of 2004, I have asked myself many times, what is the point of having elections, if Grand Lodge can just ignore the results, if they do not turn out as Burlington wants them too?  It’s bad enough that our annual elections at Grand Lodge Convention more often than not, resemble banana republic elections (with only a single predetermined candidate’s name on the ballot for Junior Grand Warden.)   Several names were improperly removed from the hat because of the intentional misuse of 30-06 that same evening, (the Grand Lodge Officers present just ignored that violation.)  Otherwise, I would have been elected Worshipful Master of the Lodge that evening, and none of the violations or abuses of our rules would have been tolerated, and the USS New Jersey Lodge would have had a chance at becoming a lodge of Freemasons, and not a lodge of a few Masons. (104 members were suspended for nonpayment of dues in one evening.)

With that as the starting point, it becomes easy to see how some who have their own agenda, could turn their back on what occurred at the New Jersey Lodge, and not support the upstarts’ Secretary or Treasurer, even if that meant not enforcing their rules.  Whatever victory Burlington has enjoyed will be fleeting at best, and certainly not worth the cost of what has been lost.  This Society once was founded on such principles as Truth, Brotherly Love, Morality, and respect for the Rule of Law.  (Don’t we still expect that of all new initiates?)  It now appears to be based only on the despotism enforced by absolutism.  What is the authority that empowers the New Jersey Grand Lodge to disenfranchise its members of every American Citizens most precious Right (Their VOTE?)  Where is that authority given in our Grand Lodge Constitution?

The genesis of all this abuse of authority can be directly traced to New Jersey’s Third Landmark.  While the Masonic Jurisprudence Committee’s report on the “10 Landmarks” were presented (and approved) at the 1903 Grand Lodge Convention, the Wallis Committee never recommended that our Constitution be amended to include them.  Sometime after 1903, they were surreptitiously included into our Constitution, and eventually given supremacy over every aspect of our Masonic Rules, Regulations and Constitution.  Some in Grand Lodge knew that those Landmarks were never voted on by the members of the Grand Lodge (as our amendment process requires.)  Our ignorance is their power!  While there are other recognized factors that further prove their illegitimacy (not being universal or time immemorial), the fact remains that they have no legitimacy or force of law.  Directly quoting a Past Grand Secretary, who acknowledged Grand Lodge’s dirty little secret: “We have adhered to them even though there was no official acceptance by the Grand Lodge.”

Even though the “Landmarks are illegitimate, several recent Grand Masters have routinely employed the power derived from Landmark No. 3, (which gives a Grand Master, near dictatorial Masonic power.)  Based on what I have personally observed over the past few years, that Landmark is nothing more than a tool that allows a Grand Master either exercise almost unlimited arbitrary power, or abuse a Brother’s Civil Rights.  While I cannot recall it being used for the good of the Craft in the past few years I have seen:

  • Judicially recognized trustees of a non-profit corporation suspended for “unmasonic conduct.”  Their unmasonic offense was abiding by the Laws of the State of New Jersey governing Corporations (that specifically require corporate trustees to protect the assets of a multimillion dollar corporation from harm or face potential civil penalties.)
  • Other Brothers denied due process without the benefit of trial, their constitutionally mandated protections ignored.
  • In my particular case: sham charges; trial panelists not sufficiently conversant with our Constitution, coupled with the Penalty Phase’s Star Chamber proceedings, where both the Grand Lodge Constitution and my constitutional protections were knowingly disregarded.
  • A representative of the United States Office of the Comptroller of the Currency informed me that once the USS New Jersey Lodge filed a formal complaint with that Federal Regulatory Agency, they would launch an investigation, as one appeared warranted.

In 2004, an attorney for Grand Lodge argued (successfully) in a Camden County court room that Master Masons are not entitled to be treated fundamental fair by the Grand Lodge.  No Brother I know joined the Masonic Fraternity to become a second class citizen.  Is that how you view yourself?

“The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness.”

It’s of valuable note that the financial audits for 2005 and for 2006 had yet to be completed at the end of 2007 by the Grand Lodge.  It is unclear if those audits were ever completed.

 


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A Case Study of Contemporary Masonic Cronyism and Inequity

The article below was posted on a Masonic website in 2004, by Arkansas Mason Maxwell D. “Doug” Simmons, a Past Master of Blocher Lodge No. 247, in Booneville.

Headed for Disaster!

Thread started on: Jul 27th, 2004, 09:06am

During the past few years, I have witnessed some of the most asinine, un-thinking, cruel-minded petulant children masquerading as FreeMasons in every Lodge I have visited, and every Grand Lodge Communication I have attended in Arkansas.

This Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons of Arkansas has degenerated into a social club lacking even the simplest rules of good conduct. Not many of the members I see are following the tenets of Friendship, Morality, or Brotherly Love. There is little old-fashioned courtesy or respect displayed in most Masonic communications I have witnessed or taken part in.

In reading recent email messages circulating among some of our Brothers, concerning the death of our Grand Master and the assumption of his duties by the Deputy Grand Master, I was ashamed of the lack of character displayed by nearly all of the participants in those messages. I have not seen such vicious back-biting, back-stabbing, and even outright lies from friends, acquaintances or neighbors, and it is particularly shameful to see it coming from those who pretend to be correct and upright men and Masons.

The sad fact is – we have done this to ourselves! We have failed to live up to our own standards, and we have failed to honor our several obligations, sworn to in good faith, in the presence of God.

Through negligence, apathy, fear of dwindling membership, and lack of desire to participate in the decisions of our Lodges, we have neglected our duty to properly investigate prospective candidates or petitioners for affiliation who wish to join our Lodges. We have allowed individuals of low character and morality to permeate our Fraternity and they have undermined the integrity of this institution.

We have lost our focus; we have lost our character; we have lost our morality. And worse, this has gone on for so long the damage may be irreparable. It may now be so in-grained in our Fraternity that it can’t be corrected.

Focus: We have forgotten that our Lodges exist to promote the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man. Our duty includes charity – to our Brothers and to our communities. We have allowed our Lodges to conduct fund-raising activities to pay their bills! We’re supposed to be givers of charity, not takers. Is it right or proper to ask our friends and neighbors for money to pay our operating expenses, instead of raising our dues to cover the costs?

Over the years, our Lodges have become ‘coffee clubs’ populated mostly by old men who have little interest in the current world or its current affairs. We prefer to live in the past, and yearn for the ‘good old days.’ We moan about our declining membership but we refuse to face the problem: we have nothing to offer the young men in our communities. I don’t know any young men who would want to join a group of old cronies who have no real interest in today’s world, and don’t even have the courtesy to provide a meaningful Masonic education to those who would join. A few of us (less than 10% of our Lodge membership) gather at our Lodges once or twice a month, plod through our ritual with almost total indifference, pay a few bills, and then go drink coffee and join in the gossip.

We have forgotten that Lodges exist in this State only by Charter of the Grand Lodge. Our charters are issued by that body, and can be removed by that body. The Grand Lodge does not exist to ‘serve’ our Lodges; we are ruled and governed by the constitution and by-laws of that body. The Grand Lodge owes us nothing but the right to operate, and then only in accordance with the rules and regulations established by the Grand Lodge officers and Delegates. Our Grand Lodge is the guardian of the Landmarks of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons, and we are not allowed to promulgate rules, laws, or regulations that are not in compliance with those Landmarks.

Character: We made a number of promises when we were initiated into this Fraternity, and we are failing to honor those promises – all of them! We criticize and nit-pick everything the Grand Lodge officers do and say… we petulantly refuse to do anything those officers suggest… we constantly accuse them of various

plots and schemes that will eventually bring this institution to ruin, without ever wondering why they might want to do that.

When we asked the Grand Lodge to look into the possibility of an ‘umbrella’ insurance plan, a questionnaire was sent to all Secretaries to gather the necessary information required by various insurance providers in order to provide quotes. This generated an outcry that the Grand Lodge was taking an inventory in preparation for shutting down and taking over various Lodges!

When our Deputy Grand Master announced that he was going to honor the election and installation of the Grand Master after his death, and act as the Presiding Officer (as provided by our Constitution and By- Laws), the DGM was accused of trying to steal two years as Grand Master! And it gets worse: The Deputy Grand Master, Presiding has been the target of vicious character assassination attacks; he has been the subject of cruel, personal attacks on his motives, business affairs, personal affairs, and even his competence.

At our last Annual Communication, the main topic of conversation among the Delegates was childish, spoiled-brat complaints about the lack of coffee and doughnuts, and some of those spoiled brats were heard to comment that because there were no doughnuts or coffee, they were not going to vote for the per capita dues increase!

Morality: We no longer live by the standards of morality we swore years ago to uphold. Adultery is an accepted fact among our Brothers unless we get singled out for special condemnation by those with axes to grind; We don’t offer much help to our wives, widows or orphans; We don’t look for men of good character, or those who possess a higher standard of morality than others around them… we just look for more members.

Every year at our Grand Lodge Communications we are faced with attempts to lower our standards for the sole purpose of increasing membership.

We begrudge almost every dollar donated to charities or worthy causes, and criticize the Grand Lodge officers for picking the ‘wrong’ charities.

All this from men who call themselves Masons! I don’t wear my Masonic ring any more – I’m ashamed to be associated with a group of selfish, un-caring, petulant children.

Due to lack of interest from anyone this site was designed for – other than my few notes, nobody has posted much of anything here – I’m shutting down this Board on August 15th until this Fraternity comes to its senses and returns to its honorable principles established so long ago… if it’s possible.

I have a deepening dread that it’s too late for redemption, and I’m afraid Freemasonry will disappear in Arkansas within the next 5 – 10 years.

Doug Simmons

Simmons hosted the Masonic website on which the article above appeared, but he shuttered it as his rise in the Grand Lodge of Arkansas began.  It’s a matter of speculation whether his condescending attitude, and his opinion that Masons exist only to serve their Grand Lodges, was a factor in his many subsequent Grand Lodge appointments.

In recent years, Simmons has served on almost all of the politically motivated trial committees appointed by the Grand Lodge of Arkansas. As an example, he was one of five members of the Grand Lodge trial committee that convicted and suspended every officer of Sebastian Lodge No. 706 in Ft. Smith (as reported in the first Masonic leak published on this site), then immediately thereafter, he was appointed special Grand Lodge “overseer” for the convicted brothers’ lodge!

Simmons later served as one of five members of a Grand Lodge trial committee that convicted and expelled five Past Masters of various Arkansas lodges, including retired US Marine veteran Otis D. Burtcher, who was convicted in absentia after he suffered a heart attack at his Masonic trial and was rushed away in an ambulance to undergo emergency surgery (see: last week’s Masonic leak).

As unbelievable as it seems, after that and similar displays of “morality and brotherly love,” Simmons was presented the Grand Lodge of Arkansas’ highest Masonic award, the “Medal of Honor, Category #1″ for “distinguished service to the fraternity!”  His state’s Grand Master Ronnie Hedge, Deputy Grand Master Gene Warren, and Grand Secretary James Weatherall, traveled more than 200 miles to personally present the award (see: http://blocher.westark.net/trboard.htm ).

Despite his Grand Lodge’s prohibition against electronic Masonic communication, adopted in February 2010, Simmons has continued posting public commentary like the following on “The Burning Taper” blog:  Arkansas Grand Lodge resignations confirmed.  Furthermore, he apparently created, copyrighted, and maintains his current lodge website, while many other Arkansas lodges have been forced to dismantle or drastically alter their similar sites (see: Blocher Lodge No. 247 , Sebastian Lodge No. 706 ).

Even though Simmons has indisputably and repeatedly violated his state’s Masonic by-laws, as well as his own Master Mason’s obligation in numerous ways, the only action taken as a result, has been to heap additional honors and awards upon him.

It appears that Simmons has successfully ascended to a level in Arkansas Masonry that’s exempt from the rules and regulations applying to ordinary Masons, who otherwise meet upon the level of equality, and act by the plumb of rectitude.

Please, review all reference materials and evidence:

Review the archived Grand Lodge of Arkansas website as seen in 2008

Review previous article discussing Simmon’s involvement to expel a brother who had a heart attack during the trial


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