Anti-Gay, Fornication Edict Upheld by GL in Georgia

Discussion in 'Masonic Blogs' started by My Freemasonry, Oct 28, 2015.

  1. Well, Georgia did it. The Grand Lodge of Georgia met yesterday and the voting members upheld Grand Master Douglas McDonald's edict outlawing homosexuality, and throwing in fornication for good measure. After several impassioned speeches on the floor against the measure, it passed with a very close vote that probably should have been counted individually, but wasn't. The Grand Lodge now officially looks into a Freemason's private bedroom.

    Thank God I live in Indiana where don't have such things, and we sure don't allow Past Masters the right to vote in Grand Lodge.

    For background on this issue, CLICK HERE.

    Continue reading...
     
  2. Glen Cook

    Glen Cook G A Cook Site Benefactor

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    I do not agree with the legal analysis provided. As a private organization we discriminate on the basis of religion and sex, as do churches. When you look at private associations who have felt compelled to change their exclusions, I would be interested in an example not based upon liquor licenses or local law.

    Having discussed the Haas matter with an attorney in that case, I do not see it asapplicable regarding discrimination or government regulatory action. It is applicable for the principle that an organization must follow its own rules. It would be useful to review what the jury awarded as damages for those who think there is great liability involved.

    I see the better argument as that of changing the GL rules once membership has be granted; one party unilaterally changing the contract to the detriment of the other party.

    I would also question why we are quite happy to recognize GLs which limit membership to Christians, but find limitations on sexual activity offensive.

    I also find the captions incomplete. It is not gays per se, but those who gave in to fornication. It is acting upon the desire that is targeted.
     
  3. Marc N

    Marc N Registered User

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    Glen, I agree with your legal analysis.

    I think that the bigger picture is more important. Freemasonry isn't church. It does not specify any one volume of the sacred law, and certainly then can't go on to give an authoritative reading of certain passages in it. There are very few Christian only Grand Lodges, and I think that it is better to treat them as an historical anomaly, simply on the grounds that when most Freemasonry dropped Christianity 200 or so years ago, they maintained it as a condition of membership, and there hasn't been any change since. Their's was the original position, and it is the rest of us that have changed. It could be argued that it is them tolerating our change to become more inclusive, rather than the other way round. I think you make the point well though that this would only be an issue if Grand Lodges started to try to going back to being exclusively Christian. Perhaps that is the actual crux of the problem. For 200 years we have been based on Enlightenment ideals of toleration and equality; we haven't had definitions of morality. It's not original to me but there is a very, very strong case to be made that the moral content of Freemasonry is based on Aristotelian virtue ethics, rather than normative prescriptions. If you read the Nichomachean Ethics, you will find that Aristotle give the example of the virtue of courage, being the midpoint between rashness and cowardice, which we act out in our Lodges. You will also see that if you are in the virtuous position between two extremes of vice, but for all the hundreds of different virtues, you will be standing at the centre of a circle. This is very explicitly stated by Aristotle. So I tested this by going and looking through obscure manuscripts in the UGLE library, and there is one 18th century manuscript that has an alternative opening for lodges, which includes the phrase "Brother Aristotle". The morality of Freemasonry isn't prescriptive because virtue ethics isn't prescriptive. Both try to shape a person's character over their lifetime. What we have in Georgia is an attempt to impose prescriptive moral laws on Freemasonry, and in a sense, the (ex?) Grand Master is trying to reimpose Christianity by the backdoor on an organisation that gave it up as definitive 200 years ago. The Enlightenment ideal of toleration was a response to the terrible wars of religion in the previous century and it is with good reason that discussion of religion is banned in our lodges. By picking one interpretation of one sacred volume and trying to impose that across a whole Grand Lodge, religious disputes have been reintroduced and I think it is pretty safe to say that harmony between Freemasons and lodges, and masonic neighbouring jurisdictions, has been seriously upset in Georgia. This affects all of us because now our enemies can say there is a Grand Lodge that excludes gay people (and although technically amended to include fornicators, I would be astounded if the number of disciplinary actions was proportionate between gay and straight relative to their numbers). This is a terrible retrograde step; it plays into the hands of our enemies; it is probably a foolish reaction to the Supreme Court's equal marriage ruling; it creates major disharmony between brothers, and between jurisdictions; and it sets us back in the eyes of the public years if not decades.
     
  4. pointwithinacircle2

    pointwithinacircle2 Rapscallion Premium Member

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    I am planning to permanently move to Georgia next spring and will join a Lodge in my new state. I am in need of a description of what specific sexual practices constitute Masonic fornication in that state. When will the Grand Lodge of Georgia have this document prepared? (What? Too soon?)
     
  5. Marc N

    Marc N Registered User

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    As the rules will be written for straight, white, married men you may be ok. The Masonic bedroom spies will probably not check that you are only using the missionary position. It will make dating a bit tricky for single guys. Probably best stick to holding hands as anything else may get you thrown out of your lodge as there may be a hint of sexual arousal and the Masonic trouser police will notice. If you are gay, it is probably better if you sit on opposite sides of the coffee shop or movie theatre and text to be on the safe side. If about 5% of the population are gay, will it be 5% of the disciplinary actions? Only time will tell.
     
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  6. Marc N

    Marc N Registered User

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    Blank.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2015
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  7. dfreybur

    dfreybur Premium Member

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    The beleaguered brothers in Arkansas sigh in relief. Their jurisdiction no longer holds the moral low ground as the worst one in the country. Their feud is just bickering among grand line members and an appendent body with a history of bickering with grand lines. It's embarrassing but not all that much a matter of what we are supposed to be renowned for.

    The topic should never have been brought up in the first place. It is not within our bailiwick to import specific restrictions from specific religions into a fraternity that is SUPPOSED to be renowned for tolerance.
     
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  8. Glen Cook

    Glen Cook G A Cook Site Benefactor

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    I am so very tempted to make jokes about what constitutes Masonic fornication--something about serving as a GLO.

    It would be the common law definition of fornication.
     
  9. Marc N

    Marc N Registered User

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    I was going to say, why would you use the common law definition when it is defined in Title 16 of the Georgia penal code.

    BECAUSE THE GA SUPREME COURT STRUCK IT DOWN AS UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

    That's slightly embarrassing.

    The justices' remarks on the role of the state in the bedroom apply equally (in a non-legal sense) to the actions of the Grand Lodge. So not only something deeply divisive, offensive, unmasonic but also unconstitutional as well. They will have to resurrect an unconstitutional law for internal
    Masonic purposes to carry out this edict. Madness.

    https://www.aclu.org/news/ga-supreme-court-strikes-down-fornication-law
     
  10. Marc N

    Marc N Registered User

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    I'm no American lawyer, and Glen will no doubt advise, but my understanding of how common law jurisdictions work is that where a statute covers the whole of a common law crime, and is then repealed/declared unconstitutional, the system just doesn't default back to the original common law. We don't have the ability to declare statutes unconstitutional so I'm not sure, but if I am correct, there is now no longer either a statutory or a common law crime of fornication in Georgia. There's nothing for the Grand Lodge to use.
     
  11. Glen Cook

    Glen Cook G A Cook Site Benefactor

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    Private associations may engage in conduct which is prohibited for State actors. Thus, we have the ability to forbid women and the non-professor or, in my case until 1984, certain types of Christians. I point this out not to defend the actions from a Masonic point of view, but only to indicate my perspective of the legal analysis.
    Edit: it is not the incorporation of the penal terms, but the definition that would be utilized.
     
  12. Marc N

    Marc N Registered User

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    Glen, I knew that. To include private citizens it would have to say so.

    It was really about citing the common law definition of fornication. Am I right in thinking that the GA Supreme Court striking down the fornication provision would also strike out the underlying common law provision? So that there is no recourse by state actors to either version after the Court's decision?

    After the racist incident a while ago, and the striking down of Georgia et al's sodomy statutes by SCOTUS in 1998 I think; and the striking down of GA's fornication law, it seems like the GL of GA are on a bit of a losing streak. It seems that certain individuals want to misuse their power to reimpose within Freemasonry, actions that would be unconstitutional with state actors.

    It's a pattern that should alarm the other fifty odd Grand Lodges. These sorts of reactions against higher court rulings, if that is what they are, by very definition enter into the sphere of public (not necessarily party-) political debate. Let alone the religious debate.

    Freemasonry would have torn itself to bits centuries ago if we didn't avoid politics and religion. Given the massive swing in support for gay marriage among evangelical Christians and republicans, to the point of being almost a complete consensus for younger adults, these leaders are not even in tune with their own constituency. The trouble is it's not only their own grave that they are digging as an organisation.
     
  13. Marc N

    Marc N Registered User

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    Why would they have to use an unconstitutional definition of fornication anyway?

    If the logic is that in your obligation you agree to obey the edicts of Grand Lodge, no matter how unconscionable, and be subject to Masonic discipline including expulsion if you don't; and GL are free to write whatever offences and definitions they like.

    So why not,
    "Whereas the sacred scriptures show marriage is between one man and one woman, and
    "Whereas sacred scriptures teach that marriage is for life, and
    "Whereas sacred scripture teaches that God created separate races, and
    "Whereas sacred scripture teaches the establishment of slavery,
    "Grand Lodge will not accept as a member any man in a purported same sex marriage;
    Grand Lodge will not accept any member in a marriage with a different race;
    Grand Lodge will not accept any member with slavery in his ancestry;
    Grand Lodge will not accept as a member any man cohabiting with a woman; and
    Grand Lodge will not accept adulteries, fornicators or divorcees."

    They are entitled to do that as a private body. Mind you, it would start to resemble the KKK (again); perhaps their regalia is better?
     
  14. Glen Cook

    Glen Cook G A Cook Site Benefactor

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    It is the definition of fornication at issue, not the penal quality. They could just as easily look at Black's, OED or Webster's. I've not compared them, but I suspect they are nearly identical. For that matter, I suspect they would find a similar definition in canon law.


    The state's power to punish is not relevant to whether the fraternity can punish. The state can't differentiate based on my profession of faith--that would be unconstitutional as well, yet the fraternity may do so.

    Whether the fraternity should do so is another matter

    Outside of particular military prosecutions, I do not believe a fornication charge could be successfully prosecuted in the US or EU.
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2015
  15. coachn

    coachn Coach John S. Nagy Premium Member

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    RockandHardplace_01.jpg
     
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  16. Marc N

    Marc N Registered User

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    Glen, I am in complete agreement with you on the law. I'm not sure about the criminal prosecution point (military aside) because apparently about a third of states still have it on the statute books. Prosecutors seem to use it to make a point.

    As for the GL of GA, clearly they are not bound by a lot of law that a state actor would be bound by. But it is divisive to use definitions etc (completely legally I'll grant) that have otherwise been ruled unconstitutional. It's relevance isn't legal but rather in terms of entering the political sphere and taking (the losing side) of a debate, and thereby being divisive. It's interesting that the Grand Master in issuing an edict on sex outside marriage, divorce, adultery etc didn't engage the phrase "marriage is between one man and one woman" but that is the clear message that is being given. Rather than falling into the PR trap of banning gay marriage within Freemasonry, he thought it better to get rid of gay people altogether. A PR disaster, not just for them but for all of us by association.
     
  17. Glen Cook

    Glen Cook G A Cook Site Benefactor

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    Agree with all that, but for
    A. The import of an invalid statute remaining in the books is not great in my view as a prosecution tactic.
    B. You give the GM far more credit for thought than I should have done.
     
  18. Marc N

    Marc N Registered User

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    I hope the collective ranks of American and past Grand Masters are making it clear just how unacceptable this is. If it is true that the vote was very close but there was no actual count, the face-saving door could still be open to a rerunning of the vote.
     
  19. Ressam

    Ressam Registered User

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    I understand The Grand Master!
    Freemasonry is The Organization based on "Traditional Moral Values".
    It cannot promote "sodomite desires".
    But, of course, people should treat gays with tolerance!
    This is just another chance to such people, to correct "the mistakes", which have been made in previous life.
    Hold on, guys!
    And, so help you God!
     
  20. Marc N

    Marc N Registered User

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    Well I know Georgia likes its "traditional values". The case law is full of it. Luckily the refusal to recognise Prince Hall is the traditional 'separate but equal' value. Or do we go back further into traditional slavery and racism. It can be and was justified using select readings from the Bible. How far do you want to go back? Nothing to do with Freemasonry, just the views of a few bigots in leadership positions. Just a question of what sort of bigot they are.
     

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