I have been wanting to write this for a while, but the full scope has not become clear until now. I am still reeling from my “Masonic Death” (i.e. Expulsion) and thusly still sorting my way through it.
I also will say up front that my thoughts and opinions which follow applies only to Masonry in Tennessee. Most other Grand Lodges do not have such things that they persecute their members for.
To give you some plain-speaking context, let me explain how I feel about Masonry this way. I love this country and the ideals she stands for, namely freedom and self-determination. For thirteen years, the United States government held a check written by me, payable to “Freedom” and the price being “any price, up to and including my life.” That’s a hefty price, no matter how you look at it. I would not trade my knowledge, experiences or friends from that part of my life for anything in the world.
My love for this country is but a pale shadow compared against my love for the ideals and brotherhood of the Masonic Fraternity. The ideals of Masonry extend from this world into the next. While my brothers and sisters-in-arms would protect my corporeal being, my Masonic brothers protected my integrity and my soul.
So when I saw brothers persecuted and in distress, subsequently suspended and recently expelled solely on the basis of publicly expressing their love for each other, I could not stand by silently. Their “crime” consisted of publicly expressing their union with each other when it became legal according to the law of the land.
I do not believe that rules, laws or regulations made by man should be obeyed just because they are duly constituted by established procedures. Any law, codified or societal, needs to be made based on the premise that the individual’s freedom not be subsumed to the demands of the society unless the individual is actively harming the society that they are members of.
For example, the concept of chattel slavery, a permanent elimination of an individual’s freedom of self-determination was once codified law in the United States. The “national discussion” on this subject culminated in a Civil War, where over 650,000 people died horrible deaths because the citizens of this country had a disagreement over whether this concept was acceptable or not.
In the 1980’s the Masonic Grand Lodge of Tennessee decided to codify in their bylaws that any Mason in Tennessee who physically loves another man, or is supportive of that concept is to be expelled, does not make rules like that right or good. The Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry, codified in the 19th Century, is the foundation upon which the Fraternity is built. One of those Landmarks states that the only physical requirements for him to join the Fraternity is that he is male, uncrippled and is of legal age. There was not any inquiry of their sexual preferences nor methods, because the “private” parts of a person’s life are not subject to the purview of any clubs or societies they might join.
The two brothers who were expelled were openly a couple when they petitioned the Lodge they joined. The brothers of this lodge did not have a problem with these men and their sexual preferences. One of them advanced through the officer stations, becoming Master of the Lodge. These two expelled Masons spent hundreds of hours of their time fixing and restoring the lodge building which had fallen into disrepair. When severe storms ripped part of the roof off the Lodge, these two spent thousands of dollars of their own money on building materials and hours of their time to repair that building. One of the appendant bodies of Masonry (other organizations that require their members be Master Masons before they can join) in Memphis had a non-functioning pipe organ. Again, these two men spent hours and hours repairing and tuning that organ until it worked, then one of them played the organ at the meetings. And someone is trying to tell me these men do not belong? I beg to differ.
A brother going through the degrees is not permitted to see the Masonic Code before they swear an oath to obey it. I admit, I never looked at the Masonic Code of Tennessee in its entirety after I became a Master Mason, even after I became Master of my Lodge. If I had known that this was part of the code, I probably would have not assumed the Oath of a Master Mason.
When this issue first came to my attention, I was Master of my Lodge and I initially paid it little mind. Once I heard that they had been suspended, my interest grew. Upon finding out the Past Master had submitted a change to the Masonic Code to eliminate that part of the code, I decided I had to speak up.
The applicable part of the Tennessee Masonic Code reads as follows:
(27) To engage in lewd conduct. To promote or engage in homosexual activity. To cohabit immorally in a situation without the benefit of marriage.
The proposed code change I spoke in favor of would have reduced this to “To engage in lewd conduct.” That part of the Masonic Code had been used rarely if at all in 30 years since it was passed, either for the homosexual part or the “cohabitating without the benefit of marriage.”
The 2015 Grand Master of Tennessee, Dwight Hastings made it clear through his deputies that any comments about Grand Lodge business in public or on social media would result in the offender being expelled. Because I wanted to speak on this at the Grand Lodge, I remained silent against my will. At the 2016 Grand Lodge Meeting (called the Annual Communication), I stood and spoke in favor of eliminating this part of the code. I was shouted down by many of my "enlightened" brothers. I felt disheartened at that moment, not because my “brothers” not wanting to hear what I had to say, but that the Grand Master made zero effort to curtail this immature behavior by exerting any kind of control over the situation, which is his purpose and obligation as Grand Master.
The Grand Lodge of Tennessee was made aware of the sexual orientation of these men in 2007, after they announced on Facebook that they had flown to Scotland and obtained a “civil license.” The fact that the Grand Lodge waited eight years before bringing them up on charges points straight at what kind of men Hastings and Cutlip are.
While I do not know them personally, I will assume that in most parts of their personal and business lives, they are upstanding men. Both of these men are to the best of my knowledge very passionate about their Christian faith. From my impression of them capriciously discharging the duties of Grand Master for the Masons of Tennessee, they are closed-minded, thin-skinned, hyper-religious, childish, insecure, tinpot tyrants who cannot stand the thought of someone publicly disagreeing with them. My impression of them is that they feel driven to “protect their legacy” by driving out or expelling anyone who dares challenge their authority.
Leaders will recognize that not everyone in the organization will agree with them 100% on every subject. Leaders also understand that they need to see what the organization wants and needs, tempering that with where the organization needs to be. Hastings and Cutlip have both clearly demonstrated that their personal morality trumps the views and the will of the brothers.
I had a private meeting with Grand Master Cutlip and several of his Grand Officers when he visited Memphis a couple of weeks after I stood up in Grand Lodge. During that meeting I presented the case that he is on the wrong side of this issue. I told him that several of my friends and acquaintances were considering asking me how to become a Mason (that’s how you start the process. You have to ask a Mason, “How do I become a Mason?”). Because of this controversy, each of them told me they had decided to not ask.
The response from Grand Master Cutlip was approximately [NOT A DIRECT QUOTE], “I would rather have 1,000 Masons who share my beliefs than 10,000 who believe like you do.” Grand Master Cutlip then gave me three choices: 1) Shut my piehole and remain a Mason, 2) Demit (voluntarily quit the Masons) or 3) Be expelled.
The problem about this issue is that Masonry is meant to be non-sectarian. The Fraternity only requires that you profess a belief in and an accountability to a Supreme Being. Who that Supreme Being is, the Fraternity doesn’t (or isn’t supposed to) inquire about. There are religions on this planet that do not believe homosexuality to be an offense to their God. The majority of Masons respect the beliefs of others. When the Masonic leadership usurps this ideal, replacing inclusiveness with exclusiveness of all but their religion, that path will end up destroying or rendering the fraternity irrelevant.
Masonry is meant to unite men of all faiths by their love and obedience to each man’s Supreme Being. It is a long standing policy that Masons do not discuss politics or religion in or near the lodge because they are considered divisive issues in a Fraternity meant to unite men. This policy from Hastings and Cutlip has forced these issues into the Lodge, because this is the only place where it can be discussed now.
This is why I stood in favor of deleting that part of the Masonic Code. This is why I stood and opposed the Grand Lodge and forced them to expel me. On the day that I stand before my Creator and He judges me on my life and actions, I believe being expelled from the Tennessee Masons to be a far preferable thing to remaining silent and quietly condoning the persecution of brothers based solely on the basis of whom they love by continuing my membership in that organization.