Posts Tagged ‘Masonic Law’
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 unidentified “members 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 evidence – the 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 evidence” to 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.
(Contains 10 attachments.)
Below are documents and a write-up from a brother out of Florida. His expulsion seemed to be an effort to diminish the brother’s testimony. He reported on possible abuses of a DeMolay father to the Grand Lodge because he wanted to protect future children from molestation by a “well-respected” leader in Florida Freemasonry. At least sixteen boys were victims. This continues to show the abusive, and sometimes perverse, attitudes perpetuated by the Grand Lodges in the United States.
The Grand Lodge system, particularly in the South, is one of the greatest failures of American Masonry. Instead of upholding strong virtues, the system has become one of abuse, fraud, perversion, and evil-doing. The leaders developed methods to abuse the protective Masonic landmarks for their own purposes, forever smearing the good name of Freemasonry.
Grand Lodges that have incorporated (and most have), are no longer purely private organizations, but have entered the civil realm, and are now subject to civil authority and to the rules of incorporation in their state. They can no longer legally violate the civil rights of their members, nor commit injustices with impunity. Civil courts will rule upon their practices because they’ve removed themselves from the exclusive private world, and become public entities.
My expulsion couldn’t have happened at a better time in my life! I’d just finished serving as the Worshipful Master of Northside Lodge No. 283, in St. Petersburg, Florida, where I was confronted by the petty politics of those jealous of my accomplishments. I served as Curator of the Florida Masonic Museum at the Masonic Home, and was ready to spread my wings and move on to other Masonic projects I’d been planning!
The Internet was still new to me in 1998, but I quickly saw the educational value, and tried to persuade the Deputy Grand Master and incoming Grand Master, Jacque Couture, to display the museum collections online, thereby making them accessible to people all over the world. Grand Master Couture had already recognized my work on behalf of Masonry, and appointed me to the General Services Panel at the Masonic Home, as well as the Masonic Renewal Committee, and the Penal Affairs Committee.
The website, to which I’d hoped to dedicate my time, however, was not to be. Grand Master Couture claimed that the $19.95 per month web hosting fee would be a strain on Grand Lodge finances, so it quickly became evident that I personally had to fund the new museum/library venture on my own. It became Phoenixmasonry.
Within days, I was sent a certified letter from the Grand Master, terminating my appointment as Curator of the Florida Masonic Museum. A few weeks later, my lodge charged me with un-Masonic conduct, and Grand Master Couture appointed a committee to investigate those charges. The committee determined the charges were unfounded.
First, I protested being discharged as Curator of the Florida Masonic Museum, after Grand Master Couture accused me of selling Masonic artifacts that didn’t belong to me. The truth was that 90% of the collection at the Masonic Home Museum actually DID belong to me, and I had every right to buy, sell or trade as I saw fit, to improve the quality of the display. That fact was understood by Past Grand Master Samuel Cowan, who envisioned the Masonic Home Museum, and dedicated it in 1997. After a thorough investigation by Past Grand Master David Eschrich, of the Grand Lodge Jurisprudence Committee, it was recommended that I be reinstated as Curator. No one else was qualified, or wanted to do the job!
Second, I had to respond to my lodge about their charges of un-Masonic conduct. It was alleged that I lied on my petition to gain admission to Freemasonry, but the timing was certainly questionable, as I’d been a perpetual member in good standing for nine years. I’d been through the chairs, served as Worshipful Master, and was currently serving on a couple of Grand Lodge committees!
The un-Masonic conduct charge was untrue, and I supplied letters from many reputable Masons who investigated my petition when I joined. I read to the lodge letters from Past Grand Master Samuel Cowan, Right Worshipful Louis Drake, Right Worshipful Paul Leathers, Worshipful Charles Jatko, and my father, James R. Lettelier.
I did have a criminal conviction in my past, but I served my probation honorably, and my civil rights were restored before I ever applied for membership in Northside Lodge. The Masonic Digest of Florida is very specific about having civil rights restored before becoming a Freemason!
Grand Master Couture succeeded in pushing the un-Masonic conduct charge from the lodge level to a Grand Lodge Tribunal, after violating every Masonic Law of due process. Penal Code Section 44.25, states: “Charges shall be in writing and conform to the following: …(d) Each charge shall specify…the name or names of witnesses having knowledge of such action and upon whose testimony the accuser or accusers will rely upon at trial of the accused.” The charges filed on October 3, 1998, failed to specify the names of any witnesses of the alleged violation of Penal Code 44.07, and were legally insufficient.
Additionally, Penal Code Section 44.34(c) states: “The accused shall have the right to be present at the time of the reading of the charges and the answer but shall retire from the Lodge immediately thereafter and shall not be permitted to be present at the time of discussion or voting.” On the night my charges were read, October 19, 1998, the Worshipful Master ordered me not to attend.
On November 16, 1998, without notifying me, the lodge took a third vote on whether to pursue charges, and by so doing, violated my right of due process, failing to notify me of the vote, and denying me of the right to be present for the reading of the charges and my answer. (See the letter of protest from my attorney, Alan Rosenthal.)
Finally, my expulsion from the fraternity was in violation of Penal Code Section 44.56, which specifically states: “Expulsion is the severest penalty for the punishment of offenses known to the plan of Freemasonry and it drives its subject from the circle of the Mystic Brotherhood. It is, therefore, properly applied only to the gravest offenses known to Masonic Law. It may properly be inflicted upon a provoking repetition of an offense for which a Brother has been suspended, or for the violation of the Mystic Covenant of Secrecy, or for the violation of any injunction of the moral law which exhibits an intolerable degree of moral depravity.”
I was not found guilty of a provoking any repetition of an offense for which I’d been suspended, nor a violation of the Mystic Covenant of Secrecy, nor for violating the moral law which exhibits an intolerable degree of moral depravity (emphasis added). I was found guilty under Penal Code Section 44.07, of “obtaining a Degree or Degrees of Freemasonry by fraud, untrue statements or representations, or by knowingly concealing and withholding information relevant and material to eligibility for such Degrees.” According to Florida Masonic law, the maximum penalty for that violation is a suspension, and my expulsion was not in accord with the law.
I believe that the expulsion was imposed in an attempt destroy my credibility, as I was to testify on behalf of the DeMolay boys who’d been molested! During the year that took place, I served on Grand Master Couture’s Penal Affairs Committee, in Zone 6, District 21. It was my duty to report problems in my Masonic district, and I did report the incident of John Shirley giving alcohol to DeMolay boys, and taking pornographic pictures of them at a Masonic youth camp. After my trial lodge filed its charges, on December 18, 1998, the St. Petersburg Times published an article about a Mason from a nearby lodge, who was caught molesting DeMolay boys while serving as their chapter “dad.”
I was a member of the Grand Master’s District Publicity and Public Relations Committee, and on December 22, 1998, a reporter from the St. Petersburg Times, asked me what I knew, and when I knew it. I told the Times the same thing I’d told Couture months before, but when the reporter called Grand Master Couture to confirm it, Coutre claimed I was lying! On December 23, 1998 (the very next day), the St. Petersburg Times confirmed I’d been telling the truth, and that the Grand Lodge of Florida, as well as DeMolay leaders at the State and National level, knew very well about Shirley’s reported abuse, yet did nothing.
It’s the old traditional view in Freemasonry that you keep everything in house no matter what the issue is; you don’t sully the name of the fraternity with problems. The leadership of Florida wanted the problems to be “hush, hush” and to sweep it under the rug. They knew that if such horrors became public, it would destroy the fraternity’s name and the membership to decline.
The worst thing about the molestation of these innocent boys by Shirley came when the abuse was made public…the Grand Lodge of Florida and DeMolay International circled the wagons and treated the victims like filth. The boys believed in Freemasonry through DeMolay. No assistance was given for the needed help and counseling. As a result, St. Petersburg Chapter of DeMolay, a once thriving Chapter of one hundred or more, is now defunct.
The former DeMolay “dad,” John Shirley, was convicted and sentenced to multiple life terms in the Florida Department of Corrections for molesting sixteen boys! I received a letter from the Department of Corrections on September 28, 2010, informing me that John Shirley is now deceased. The victims and their parents sued DeMolay International, and settled their lawsuits for many millions of dollars using my deposition testimony! Grand Master Jacque Couture died of cancer in June, 2003.
From time to time, people ask me: “Why are you so loyal to Freemasonry, and why do you keep working so hard to promote the craft, after being tinged with expulsion?” I simply reply that I wasn’t expelled by Freemasonry, rather by men of questionable character who claim to be Freemasons, but have no real concept of the principles Freemasonry teaches, or what it’s truly all about!”
It would be a great success to see the Grand Lodge system reigned in and reestablished as providers and protectors of true Masonic principles.
Bro. Lettelier has since joined the ranks of Co-Masonry after the debacle with the Grand Lodge in Florida. He has continued to build one of the greatest museums and libraries of Freemasonry. Most of it is available online through his website and websites authorized to reproduce the materials he’s derived. Bro. Lettelier invites any Freemason to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org should they like further information or to discuss the above subject matter.