The ritual of the Grand Lodge of California, in the first degree, speaking of Brotherly Love states:
By the exercise of brotherly love, we are taught to regard the whole human species as one family, the high and low, the rich and the poor, who, as created by one almighty parent and inhabitants of the same planet, are to aid, support and protect each other. On this principle, Masonry unites men of every country, sect and opinion, and causes true friendship to exist among those who might otherwise remain at a perpetual distance.This is pretty typical of the teaching in all grand lodges, and that is what makes the map above so wrong. You see, the states in red are those states that do not recognized that Prince Hall Masonry is FULLY REGULAR MASONRY. In some cases, for instance North Carolina, the issue has come up at their Grand Communication and received a majority vote, but has yet to receive the supermajority that Masonic tradition requires for changes to be implemented.
It is not the intention of the author to hold any one Grand Lodge, any brother, or any group of men up to ridicule, but to question a status that is simply unmasonic and untenable in this day and age. One of the Grand Lodges that, as of this writing, December 10, 2006, still do not recognize the legitimacy of Prince Hall Masonry stated, as recently as 1990 and upheld this in 1991:
… Grand Lodge adopted a resolution that included: "...the Grand Lodge of xxx ... has always considered ... Prince Hall affiliate, to be totally irregular and clandestine, having absolutely no Masonic authority, and the members thereof not to be Masons ... the Grand Lodge of xxx ... most strongly disapprove and condemn in the strongest terms available that action of any other Grand Lodge that may hereafter extend fraternal recognition to any Prince Hall affiliate organization at any time and anywhere located ... any contact or communication whatsoever between a xxx Mason ... and any Lodge under the jurisdiction of any Grand Lodge that does now or may hereafter make any fraternal recognition of any Prince Hall affiliate organization, or between a member of any Lodge under the jurisdiction of such a Grand Lodge ... shall be cleared through the ... Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of xxx ... and approved by the Grand Master of Masons in xxx, on a case-by-case basis."So, you are a Mason as long as you are white… according to this Grand Lodge. Some of these Grand Lodges make the, weak, argument that Prince Hall is not regular Masonry because of its provenance. However, a cursory, or in-depth review of the facts of the matter show the Prince Hall Grand Lodges to predate the antecedents of most existing grand lodges today, AND their original charter was issued by the Grand Lodge of England, a charter still on display at the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts once per year.
Then, as we look at the map, we see among the states that do not recognize the legitimacy of the Prince Hall Masonry to be many of those that were members of the Confederacy, where a war was fought, in part, to end slavery. Is this a coincidence? This author will not go so far as to stipulate cause and effect, but a brother has to wonder why all the Grand Lodges of those states, including most recently (this year) the Grand Lodge of Texas, recognize the legitimacy of Prince Hall Masonry, and only the southern states, do not.
This situation needs to be remedied, but how can it be fixed from outside, and more importantly, should it? Each grand lodge is sovereign unto itself. This was settled in the late 1700’s when Wr. George Washington was offered the position of Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of the United States, and rejected the idea. The whole concept of a single, overarching United Grand Lodge of the United States died, though it is occasionally revisited, never very seriously. As American’s, we value our independence.
The whole idea of territorial sovereignty is a new one, created, it seems, out of whole cloth. The rationale for it was to deal with Prince Hall Lodges. It gave the “Mainstream” grand lodge a way to consider a Prince Hall Lodge as clandestine and irregular for violating its territorial sovereignty. This left African American men on the horns of a dilemma: They could not join a mainstream lodge because of racism, but if they joined a “black” lodge, they would be treated as clandestine and irregular, that is, not recognized as regular Masons, by their brother Masons. Their choice was one of: Give up Freemasonry or be an “irregular” Mason. Tough choice. Thankfully, many men chose to be considered irregular and to pursue Freemasonry anyway.
Territorial Sovereignty is ingrained in freemasonry today, at least in the United States, and it is unlikely that it can be addressed simply or easily. There is, however, a recent example of other grand lodges influencing the behavior of another grand lodge using recognition.
Strangely enough, this issue comes from the recognition of the Regularity of the Grand Lodge of France (GLdF) by the Grand Lodge of Minnesota. The GLdF is considered clandestine because they have mixed member lodges, women’s lodges, and do not require a profession of a belief in a deity to become a Mason. Almost immediately upon recognizing the regularity of the GLdF, United States Grand Lodges began withdrawing their recognition of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota.
As Wr. Tim Bryce notes in Recognizing Prince Hall Masonry: To Be or Not To Be?:
…A few years ago the Grand Lodge of Minnesota created a stir in the fraternity when it recognized the GLdF which was considered clandestine by many grand jurisdictions. Consequently, many jurisdictions rescinded their recognition of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota until they finally revoked recognition of France. Using this same logic, if the Dixie jurisdictions truly consider Prince Hall Masonry as clandestine, they should revoke recognition of all grand jurisdictions who recognize Prince Hall (including the UGLE). Failure to do so is hypocrisy. This of course won't happen as the Dixie jurisdictions would face isolation in a remarkably similar fashion as the southern states did in the American Civil War.If any grand lodge in the United States were to remove its requirement that a candidate acknowledge a faith in god, or allow women as members, the other 50 grand lodges in the United States (AT LEAST) would withdraw their recognition and declare them to be clandestine and irregular in their practice before the ink on the declaration had time to dry. That being the case, and seeing as the use of recognition DOES work, and keeping in mind that we are to WHISPER good counsel and thereby seek to bring about a reformation, perhaps something along the following lines might be offered:
At the Grand Master’s Conference on Regularity, the following resolution might be offered:
Resolved: That Prince Hall Masonry is regular Masonry in all respects, and Resolved: That the exercise of brotherly love requires that we extend the Masonic hand of friendship to all regular brothers;This resolution and practice would give the brothers of a grand lodge that does not recognize the regularity of Prince Hall Masonry four years to make the necessary changes so they can be considered regular. As has been noted before: “All it takes for evil to succeed is for men of good will to do NOTHING.” It is time Freemasons stood up and said in a loud and clear voice, NO MORE.
Be it resolved that all Grand Lodges, whithersoever dispersed around the globe that two years from the date of this resolution that any grand lodge that has not extended and amended their constitutions, codes and rules as necessary to recognize Prince Hall Masonry as regular in ALL respects shall have its intervisitation rights withdrawn.
Be it further resolved that all Grand Lodges, whithersoever
dispersed around the globe that three years from the date of this resolution that any grand lodge that has not extended and amended their constitutions, codes and rules as necessary to recognize Prince Hall Masonry as regular in ALL respects shall have their recognition withdrawn entirely and that/those grand lodges deemed clandestine and irregular.
Be if further resolved that all Grand Lodges, whithersoever dispersed around the globe that four years from the date of this resolution that any grand lodge that has not extended and amended their constitutions, codes and rules as necessary to recognize Prince Hall Masonry as regular in ALL respects will have its lodges offered a new charter under this grand lodge and all members healed and action taken to ensure that good men of color are offered the ability to join the lodge by vacating the use of the SECRET ballot for a period of five years.
There may be brothers in these grand lodges that have not taken a stand against this practice of ignoring our Prince Hall brothers because they do not know about it, or because there are other issues before them, or because it does not affect them. Its time that we let them know about the issue, that we made it an issue before them, and that we make it affect them. If a man rejects a brother Mason because of the color of his skin, we must take the time to whisper good counsel in his ear.
Its time we stopped waiting on each other. Some GLs have stated they wanted to wait for the Prince Hall Grand Lodge to ASK for recognition. That should not be a condition, as brothers, we should extend unilaterally the hand of friendship. The whole map should be blue, for we are either all brothers before god, or none of us.
By the exercise of brotherly love, the very least we can do is extend our hand to our brothers.
By an extreme coincidence, the Burning Taper published a similar comment today. Please take a moment to read my brother's comment at the Burning Taper.
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons, may brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.