Grand Master’s Ruling Hurtful

I recently returned from the 138th Grand Session of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Arkansas which was held from February 25-28, 2010 in Pine Bluff. It was a great time with wonderful brotherhood marred by only one disappointing incident not of the making of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Arkansas.

Freemason License PlateOne of the items on the agenda of business was to announce and explain the Arkansas Freemason auto license plate as created by Prince Hall Arkansas.  This was a project that had been worked on for more than a year and was completed just a few months ago finally receiving state approval.  It was noted that there seemed to be an inordinate amount of roadblocks in the path of the completion of this project.  But Arkansas Brother Anthony Johnson, who headed the project, continually redid what was rejected in the submission of paperwork.  He dotted every I and crossed every T. A few months before Grand Session the Grand Lodge received notification that  the Freemason license plate had gone through and was approved.  The Grand Lodge session afforded an opportunity for an announcement and explanation of this program.

Briefly stated, the Arkansas Masonic license plate consists of the Square and Compasses and the word “Freemason” at the very bottom of the plate.  It is a generic Masonic plate neither mentioning Prince Hall nor Mainstream Masonry.  However, a portion of the sale from each license plate is earned by the Prince Hall Grand Lodge.

Now no one expected a round of applause from the Mainstream Grand Lodge of Arkansas.  The fact that Prince Hall thought of the project first and had the perseverance to see its adoption through the many hurdles placed in its path is a credit to the Prince Hall Grand Lodge.  A silent boycott by Mainstream would have been disappointing but not unexpected.  However, an open, loud denunciation of Prince Hall and the Freemason license plate is most distressing and uncalled for.

Presented below is the letter from the Mainstream Grand Master of Arkansas with its Seal and his signature to all his chartered Lodges.  All or portions of this ruling appeared on many Mainstream Arkansas constituent Lodges’ websites viewable by the public which is why I say this was an open denunciation.

Ronald Hedge, Grand Master

On the chance that the inserted letter is nor fully readable I will retype it and print it here below:

Dear Brother Secretary,

I am sending this letter to your lodge in the hope of heading off a possible problem which has been caused by the State Revenue Department.  It has been brought to my attention that the state has come out with with a Freemason license plate.  The best I can find out is that this license plate originates from the Grand Lodge of Prince Hall Masons and part of the money derived form (from) the sale of these license plates goes to a charity sponsored by the Prince Hall Grand Lodge.

After several phone calls to ascertain what the procedure was for obtaining these plates; I came to the conclusion that the method of screening individuals, to see if they were eligible to purchase the plates was not sufficient to ensure that our members could not purchase them.  We have laws which strictly prohibit communication and Masonic intercourse with clandestine lodges and members of clandestine lodges.  It is my opinion as your Grand Master that the purchase of these license plates would be in contradiction to our laws.  Thus I am directing that no member of a subordinate lodge under the jurisdiction of the M.W. Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Arkansas purchase the license plates.

I am sending your lodge this letter to be read at your next stated communication.  I am further directing that the Worshipful Master appoint a phone committee to contact every member of your lodge, who is an Arkansas resident, or that a letter be sent out to the same;  informing them that they are not to purchase one of these license plates.

I appreciate your attention to this serious problem and will thank you in advance for your efforts to help ensure that our members are informed and do not inadvertently violate our Masonic law.

Fraternally,

Ronald Hedge, Grand Master

The first thing I expect from a Grand Master is that he have a credible understanding of the terms he uses.  The term clandestine refers to pedigree.  As in the case of a dog the question would be are you  AKC registered and approved?  In Masonry it refers to whether you were properly chartered. The fact that all Prince Hall Grand Lodges can trace their lineage back to The Grand Lodge of England’s chartering of African Lodge #459 either directly or indirectly rules out the possibility that Prince Hall is clandestine.  Neither is Prince Hall irregular.  Every recognized Masonic authority, even Albert Pike,  has stated that Prince Hall practices regular Freemasonry and follows the Landmarks.

Furthermore a license plate cannot be clandestine.  It is an inanimate object.

There is nothing more common within the ranks of Freemasonry than the misuse of the word communication. The word communication as is commonly applied in Freemasonry denotes a tyled Lodge meeting not a conversation.  So in most jurisdictions it is perfectly lawful to discuss Freemasonry, excluding the signs, tokens , grips, words and obligations, with Freemasons from another jurisdiction or another obedience.  The Grand Master knows this for later in his letter he talks  about reading this information “at your next stated communication.”

However what is most distressing is the prohibition against Masonic discourse.  I know that some Grand Lodges on both sides have this ruling yet most carry its application to an absurd degree. If  an Arkansas Mainstream Mason meets an Arkansas Prince Hall Mason at the grocery store is it against Masonic law to say hello?

Does my Christian church say to me that another denomination does not follow Christian Theology correctly, therefore you are to have no discourse with them?  Does a Republican refuse to talk to a Democrat or vice versa? Is this conduct rooted in the  teachings of Freemasonry or the Teachings of the Holy Bible which rests upon the Masonic altar? Or could there be another motivation for what the Grand Master of Arkansas calls “a possible problem?”

I’m going to let the reader draw his/her own conclusions.  You are all adults and adept at reading between the lines. But I, for one, am going to ask this Grand Master and others to stop calling Prince Hall Masonry bogus, spurious and clandestine.  For a Grand Master to do so is just plain ignorant. Grand Master Hedge, Prince Hall is not irregular or clandestine or bogus it is just unrecognized.  You just refuse to recognize Prince Hall.  Why can’t you be a bit more gracious in your disagreement?

But I don’t think the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas is stupid.  He knows what he is doing and why.  It seems that this Grand Master just wants to name call and thereby hurt, demean and degrade other Freemasons. He is acting like a third grade bully. I would point him to our ritual which says, “By the exercise of Brotherly Love we are taught to regard the whole human species as one family.” And I would invite him to crack the Holy Bible once in awhile, that work of God which adorns every American Masonic altar.  There are numerous verses that are our rule and guide but the one that comes to mind is, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”

Finally it becomes incumbent upon me to once again for the umpteenth time to ask when Mainstream Masonry is going to police itself?  Recently we can point to Frank Haas’ expulsion in West Virginia and the nasty actions of Georgia Mainstream Masons when a black man was raised in an Atlanta Lodge.  There are many more examples  too numerous to catalog here.  I am fully aware of the tradition of one jurisdiction not messing in the affairs of another jurisdiction.  But what ever happened with whispering wise words of advice into the ear of another Brother?  Could not a few other Grand Masters pick up the phone?  And if push comes to shove, rather than interfere, those Mainstream  Grand Lodges that are following the moral authority could wash their hands of these matters by just pulling recognition from what are really rogue Grand Lodges.

And finally I cannot help but ask do you see or hear about such outlandish behavior from Prince Hall Grand Lodges?  Do they scream and yell discrimination?  Do they impose such rulings on their brethren?  Will the Prince Hall Grand Master of Arkansas strike back?  I know he won’t, but I will.

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About Fred Milliken

Fred is a Past Master of Plymouth Lodge, Plymouth Massachusetts, and Past Master of Paul Revere Lodge, Brockton, Massachusetts. Presently, he is a member of Pride of Mt. Pisgah No. 135, Prince Hall Texas, where is he is also a Prince Hall Knight Templar . Fred is a Fellow of the Phylaxis Society and former Executive Director of the Phoenix Masonry website and museum.

Comments

  1. Daniel Maas says:

    This ruling by the Grand Master of Mainstream Freemasonry in Arkansas is backwards, ignorant, unenlightened and bigoted. I find this a shameful act and until Arkansas recognizes the Prince Hall Lodges, I for one will never visit a Mainstream Lodge in Arkansas.

    To my Brothers in Prince Hall Lodges… Never bend to this kind of behavior. You are the true Masons in Arkansas.

    Twitter: dmaas357

  2. How sad. Here in Kentucky, we are still wrestling for recognition with our Prince Hall counterparts….but we both sport Kentuckys Masonic plate with pride! I have found it very nice to meet Brethren from the PHGL and, although I cannot meet with them in Lodge…I enjoy talking with them on the street.
    Besides, the charity supported is just that, a charity! I guess this GM does not believe that it deserves the support of his membership as his GL did not set it up. I bet he could have arranged to have the money go to a charity that both GLs could agree upon….but I doubt he wasted any of his phone calls researching that avenue.
    Good for you Arkansas PH Freemasons…nice job getting plates issued and good luck in all of your endeavors.

  3. James Gooden says:

    wow, Brother Milliken. Just…wow!

  4. To call someone ignorant is is to say that the lack some piece of information. It is no insult to call someone ignorant. Each and everyone one of us is ignorant of something if not many things.
    stupidity is when one has access to information and yet lacks the capacity to understand and make use of it.
    As Masons we are regularly presented with information concerning the importance of brotherly love. If we fail to exemplify brotherly love in our behavior we could hardly claim ignorance as an excuse.

  5. Steve Brettell says:

    Thanks for this article. There is one more thing to make me sad. The entire public discourse is degrading to a level I haven’t seen in forty years. I guess that when something is coming to critical mass, the energy gets greater, but it still depresses me to see that an institution such as ours, which should promote enlightenment is so endarkened.

  6. This letter by the Grand Master Hedge is not only backwards, ignorant, unenlightened and bigoted it actually makes no logical sense. It has no juris prudent structure and lacks precedence. Send Grand master Hedge an application for the licence plate if he completes it,. I will pay the fee.

  7. Brucec McGinnis says:

    It is difficult to understand at this time how backward is the thinking of so called Masonic leaders. I fully concur in opinion expressed. Clearly the Grand Master is trying to base his opinion on a totally false assumption of what is Masonic Communication. It would appear his has another agenda.

  8. This must have been one of M\W\Hedge’s last acts as Grand Master. The current GM in Arkansas is M\W\Martin Eugene “Gene” Warren.

  9. Jeffrey Blaisdell says:

    Is it possible that the letter was worded wrong, that what was meant was that there is no way to screen irregulars from getting these plates? That would make more sense.

  10. You are right, Tim

  11. PM Randy Allen says:

    I am very disappointed by the ruling of the Grand Master of Arkansas concerning the license plate issue. Seems to me that he missed an opportunity to lead here and therefore also missed a teachable moment to his craft. Far be it from me to instruct a GM as to how he should act or govern himself, but why not petition the State Revenue Department to share the revenue with one of his GL charities? I guess its not worth the price of recognizing Prince Hall to him though. This shows us that even though Masonry has made great strides in the recognition of PH Grand Lodges, especially in California where I currently reside, we still have far to go.

  12. Albert H McClelland says:

    Why do Grand Lodges that recognize Prince Hall Masonry,
    recognize Grand Lodges that don’t ?
    Furthermore why do Grand Lodges that don’t recognize Prince Hall Masonry,
    recognize Grand Lodges that do ?.

  13. BRO. ROBERT BROWN says:

    PRINCE HALL MASONRY DOES NOT HAVE TO BE RECOGNIZED BY SO-CALLED “MAINSTREAM” MASONRY. THE ORIGINAL CHARTER OF AFRICA LODGE IN BOSTON OF PRINCE HALL MASONRY CAN BE TRACED BACK TO THE GRAND LODGE OF ENGLAND. MANY OF THESE “MAINSTREAM” LODGES THAT LIKE TO PASS JUDGEMENT ARE IN FACT UNCHARTERED AND NEED TO ASK PRINCE HALL MASONRY TO RECOGNIZE THEM!!!.

  14. Bro. Francis Dryden says:

    Directed to Bro. Milliken and the Bee Hive and Brethren,

    Your article of the great license plate “debate” (read edict) in Arkansas brings me to describe this “gem” from a so-called Mason.

    I subscribed a couple of years ago to an e-mail delivery from a Bro. (not sure of actual honorific) Carl E. Jones. Although most of the information that was coming in was at best colloquial, the odd thing was interesting and I continued to receive this missive (sometimes 2 or 3 a day!)

    On February 1st, 2010 I received (as did thousands of other Masons) the following e-mail from Carl (as he likes to refer to himself)… and this is copied and pasted: “Bro.” Carl states:

    “This is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard of taking place at a United States Military Academy.

    Would you want your son or daughter to be forced to room with someone who is a professed and practicing witch?

    Do you REALLY want someone who believes themselves to be a witch in command of the most advanced weaponry on the face of this planet?

    I am in shock over this idiotic move on the part of the Academy. I intend to register a complaint with the USAFA as well as our elected officials from Texas. I would suggest you consider doing the same thing.

    Carl

    —————————————

    Here is the news headline and a link to the story.

    Witches Welcome at Air Force Academy

    Newly-built Wiccan prayer space, puts it on equal footing with Christian, Jewish and Buddhist chapels on base
    Subject: Neo-Pagans Get Worship Circle at Air Force Academy –

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,584500,00.html

    In response to this e-mail I responded thusly… (also cut and pasted):

    Hi Carl,
    I am in shock over your extreme lack of tolerance over this matter… this is completely upside down to the Freemasonry I have practiced and find your e-mail completely repugnant. Although most members of my Lodge were unaware (and still are) what Wicca is about, we got a Petition for Initiation from 2 very respected Brethren for a fellow who was a Wiccan. The sponsors felt they should explain his choice of religious practice and did so in open Lodge. After a thorough investigation which found him favourable his ballot in open Lodge was also favourable. This chap has been an excellent addition to our Lodge over the pass 10 years or so and has just finished his second tenure as Worshipful Master being pressed into service by the untimely departure of another Brother from the line in Lodge.
    As Secretary of the Lodge for his first year (and I served under 14 Masters in my tenure) I say that without a doubt he was easily the most profound in his monthly messages to the Lodge (and I will add… punctual) and nothing he ever had to say conflicted with Masonic tenets like your tirade below.
    I personally am not a church going man but definitely fit to the norm of Freemasonry of a true belief in a Supreme Being and am thrilled that there is no intolerance in Freemasonry of any man other than an atheist.
    I think you should re-introduce yourself to the Craft you belong to and cease and desist in this line of thought completely or alternatively demit at once.

    Francis Dryden
    Exemplar Lodge No. 175 A. F. & A. M.
    Edmonton, Alberta, Canada”

    “Bro.” Carl responded with this little gem which is also cut and pasted from the thread of e-mails:

    “If Masonry supports witchcraft then I won’t hesitate to demit. However, it doesn’t. It doesn’t support or condemn any “religion.” I however, have NO hesitation in saying this is a HUGE mistake. Christians must stand up. I am a Christian and I do attend church and there is but one God and he’s not worshipped by wiccan’s. This is a personal email list of mine and as such I can take any stand on any issue I want to take. I stand firm as a Christian, not as a weak-backed politically correct person.

    carl”

    That seemed to sum up “Bro.” Carl’s point of view and I did not feel another missive to him was going to be any different.

    His e-mail list is no doubt personal but it is made up of an awful lot (if not mainly) Freemasons and he has no right in the world to spout off like that. Hence, I looked up and e-mailed the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Texas and sent him the entire thread and asked his feelings on this and if the Grand Lodge found this behavior okay… I have not had a response from the Grand Lodge of Texas and thankfully dear “Bro” Carl unsubscribed me which is perfectly okay with me as I probably wouldn’t have been able to attend to all the Fish Fries he announced anyway.

    As far as I know, his little e-mails keep going out and everything is okay in Texas… a place where there are a huge number of Freemasons who I trust would not condone his vitriolic e-mails.

    Bro. Francis Dryden
    Alberta, Canada

  15. You will get about as far with the Grand Lodge of Texas as I did with “other” problems. Which is why I am a Prince Hall Mason. Get it? They don’t want to solve these problems. They go all the way to the top and involve a certain mind-set that says WASP only.

  16. Michael Ford says:

    I am a second generation mason, but I had a problem with my step-father. Right next to he’s apron was his hood. I have found that to be true for most southern mason lodges…. give it up the north won. I am a PH Mason and proud to be one,we are not clandestine. We can trace the linage of Prince Hall back to the Grand Lodge of England. PRINCE HALL MASONRY MUST BE RECOGNIZED BY WHITE LODGES!

    Mike Ford MM True Level #226 Houston Texas

  17. Patrick Heffernan says:

    An interesting article, about what I see as a terribly disappointing stance by the Arkansas GM. I am a Mason in Texas, a past master of my lodge, and I think the resistance to Prince Hall lodges (we have those issues in Texas as well — we recognize them as legitimate Masons but cannot communicate with them as Masons) amount to the last dying gasps of a generation that knows it’s not going to be around very much longer. Will the two systems of grand lodges ever integrate? Honestly, I doubt that they will, but I think the time has long since come and gone that we recognize one another and be able to visit in one another’s lodges. It’s high time that Masonry brought itself into the Third Millennium.

  18. Ron Burton says:

    I have personally known M.W. Ronnie Hedge P.G.M. for many years and believe him to be one of the finest men that I know. I think that his ruling has been twisted and taken out of context. My understanding is that his concern was that the state of Arkansas does not have guide lines in place to guard against just anyone “Non-Masons” obtaining the plates thereby misrepresenting theirself as a mason. I am a P.M. of an Arkansas “F.&A.M.” Lodge and it saddens me to see how this mis-understanding has snowballed. I hope that we as true Masons can keep our sight on the “One True Light” and remember our obligations that we swore on the “Holy Bible” and proceed instead of finding fault and back-biting! “So Mote It Be!”

  19. Now Brother Burton did you not notice in the letter also that the plates were made by CLANDESTINE MASONS. My goodness you seemed to over look this flagrant dig. So is expelling a Brother and closing down the whole Lodge an appropriate action or is it overkill to instill fear so that no one else dares to object?

  20. HCL #347 PHA F&AM says:

    Ask Ringling Brothers if they everlet one clown stop a show. ‘m from HCL #347 PHA F&AM. CLANDESTINE MASONS??? Come on…really. Nothing about my lodge is Clandestine. We stand on three legs with equal balance. Bottom line, we beat the four legged stoles to the punch. They were not thinking about this opportunity to drive revenue into “their” lodge to help fund and support their “so called” charitable events. The funds generated from the plate simple go towards, scholarships, family/community based events (city wide picnics, homeless shelters, families in need,..etc..etc).

    The Grand Lodge of the State of Arkansas is 100% NON-PROFIT! Each brother is assessed a set amount of dues yearly to support “OUR” lodge as a whole without the license plate. Bottom line, this was brought about by a caring lodge that gives back on a consistent basis. Honestly, the plate is simply the cherry on top. HCL #347 gives thousands of dollars away in scholarships YEARLY (before the plate was established)! HCL is a lodge filled with high end executives that fund events straight out “our” own pockets and hard work. Don’t hate because we decided to use our brain power to work smarter and not harder. This will not set us back on bit in Arkansas.

    HCL is proud of spearheading this initiative to generate positive funds for the Grand Lodge of Arkansas to better serve the state. Our plumb line is straight in the Natural State. People can join in or join out! Look Well To The East. S.M.I.B

    The plate is still being purchased heavily, so continue to hate and bring awareness to the plate. This is better than having a TV commercial advertising to increase sales. And we thank you for your support

  21. Bro Derek there are some questions I would like to ask you:

    1.Are we talking about the same MWGM or are there two different ones? Who has done what?

    2.Where there any meetings with the MWGM held at Lodge 706 about this matter? How many? Were you asked to attend? Did you?

    3.How can the “Mainstream” Masons have a race issue when there are black members in their lodges?

    4.Jaye says, Rumor has it, and this has been mentioned to me by many many Arkansas and Oklahoma Masons, that a PGM of ARGL walked out of a meeting with the GM in OKGL because the meeting included “black masons.” I was at that meeting and it DID NOT HAPPEN. Were you there Jaye?

    5.Bro. Derek has the MWGM expelled you from the Masons (which he has the right to do) or are you going on Masonic Trial to answer the charge against you?

    6.Bro Derek why are you still pushing the license plate debate when those are not the charge against you?

    7.Bro. Derek it is plain you are being charged with posting cipher ritual from the letter above. Bro Derek are you using the defense “I did it because others were doing it so it must be OK?”(Sorry Officer, I was just going with the traffic.)

    8.Were the other lodges not punished because they removed anything they were asked to remove in a timely manner?

    9.Bro. Derek when were you asked to pull down Lodge 706’s website by the ARGL?

    10.Bro Derek you said you feel that your trial was deliberately set on a day you have maneuvers. Isn’t that speculation on your part?

    11.Lastly Bro. Derek do you fell as though you have broken any other Masonic Rules? Look at the above letter; are you following the Rule voted on by your Manson Brothers at GL banning any and all Masonic electronic transmissions? You are not being brought to trial on those charges but you have most defiantly violated that rule now.

    Inquiring Minds Want to Know!!!

    Bro Wilson

  22. Jaye Hall says:

    And Bro. John keeps on pasting the same commentary on every thread EVEN WHEN THOSE THREADS WERE NOT ADDRESSING BRO. DEREK.

    Every legitimate question has been addressed and is freely available. Widows Son even commented on this continuous repost.

    Bro. John you should be able to read that this post was created two weeks prior to the actions taken against YOUR lodge and against Bro. Derek. I find myself doubting the lodge claim as we watch your degrading actions and ignorant posts.

    Again this is not helping the ARGL cause by trying to assassinate someones character by reposting on other threads AFTER your attempts have been addressed repeatedly.

    Do us a favor and before posting again, at least find something new for us to read so that we can continue to laugh at this. It would do YOUR cause some justice.

  23. Bro. John says:

    Bro. Jaye,

    Are you a Mason? Where?

  24. Mke stewart says:

    As brethren we are not to judge, we are to lead by example.

    I am confident that the MW Grand Master would see the light if those in his presence were to demonstrate the proper example.

    The MW Grand Master holds the chair for but a year, he is our brother, we should all treat him as such and not stoop to judgment.

  25. Ron Adams, PM says:

    The reputationof the Arksansas Grand Lodge is well known. Once again, the Arkansas Grand Master has acted in a manner that does not befit his office. He has also violated one of the Arkansas precepts by suspending a MM without a trial. It seems that the Grand Master of Arkansas can do anything he wishes, whether or not it is proper, masonic or not. I am embarrassed as a MM to see what is happening in Arkansas.

  26. Brother Gene says:

    If I were an Arkansas mason, I would simply have my wife purchase one of those plates. Problem solved!

  27. Boa noite a todos,.
    Gostaria de informar que no município de Itanhaém litoral sul do estado de São Paulo, um cidadão esta usando o nome da Grande Loja do Arkansas, iniciando pessoas dentro das residências em 40 minutos e cobrando o valor de R$ 200,00.
    Onde informa que tem a carta patente da Grande Loja de Arkansas, onde todos os verdadeiros maçons estão indignados como uma Grande loja renomada expediu para um mercenário maçom esta carta.
    Nome do Cidadão: RICARDO PINA ROSA GARCIA e ANDRÉ DUTRA.]
    Só estou informando devido todos os membros desta digna loja ser irmão ilibados.
    TFA

Trackbacks

  1. [...] this situation in Arkansas, and those of the past including West Virginia, Ohio, Alabama, and across orders with the Jesters, [...]

  2. [...] is the Grand Lodge that declared a generic Prince Hall produced Masonic  license plate clandestine. This is the Grand Lodge that prohibited its members from E-Mailing each other. [...]

  3. [...] is the Grand Lodge that declared a generic Prince Hall produced Masonic  license plate clandestine. This is the Grand Lodge that prohibited its members from E-Mailing or [...]

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