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Freemasonry Is Not A Private Society


"Just in case"
Premium Member
well, it is a private association in that it is "not publicly owned"


Registered User
Freemasonry is a private organization and it does have the right to set forth its own rules and force its members to abide by them.

Squire Bentley

Premium Member
As long as its rules do not conflict with the civil laws, rules and regulations it is obligated to uphold as a nonprofit corporation. Civil Law trumps Masonic Law.

I'm not arguing opinion here, just stating facts.


Registered User
I'm also stating facts. Of course masonic law is subject to the law of the land. However that does not mean that private organizations can not set forth rules and force its members to adhere to them.

For example.. the US supreme court has ruled that the Boy Scouts of America do not have to accept into its members atheist and or homosexuals.

Ronald D. Martin

Registered User
First of all these are not public corporations in the sense many might think, in some cases they are incorporated but they do not have to follow the rules of publically traded companies. In addition, in those states where their tax status requires a Board of Directors the GM can still make the decisions in between sessions just as CEO’s make decisions every day because the Board has empowered them to do such. Furthermore, the laws of a Grand Lodge can be in conflict, or at least what appears to be a conflict (which really isn’t), with rights granted us under the Constitution and other documents. Since Freemasonry is a private society/association we have a right to join, if they will have us, we can assemble together, but we have to follow the rules as members. There is no need to discuss anything of a criminal intent because everyone knows that there is no Grand Lodge that has a Code that requires criminal acts; therefore, we are only talking about civil issues. Freemasonry is a private society and it has a right to restrict its membership from doing things we are guaranteed elsewhere, and if we don’t want to abide by the rules we are allowed to leave. It is a beautiful system because we can freely associate with whom we want as long as they also want to associate with us. It is pretty simple, every association of any type we join restricts the rights we otherwise have. They cannot give us more than we are already promised by the Constitution and all subsequent legislation. They can only restrict our actions and limit our rights by their private bylaws and codes.


Hi Squire.

Your quotation in the initial posting is from me, although you haven't attributed it to me. You assert that I'm "dead wrong" on the basis of an article which (inter alia) discusses the consequences of a GL becoming incorporated.

IF a GL is an incorporated body, then yes it does have some additional duties and restrictions on its powers imposed by corporate law, although exactly what those additional factors may be depends upon the laws of the individual civil jurisdiction, i.e. in the case of the US on the laws of individual States and in other countries on the laws of that country. Obviously each masonic jurisdiction must make its own choice about whether or not to incorporate.

My own jurisdiction (UGLE) is not incorporated and is purely a private association. So far as I can see most of the US State GLs are also not incorporated, although I note that most of the PHA is incorporated ... but my latest information on that is a few years old in most cases, so perhaps the typical situation in the US may now have changed.

It's evident from his article (the one to which you refer us) that BeeHive is not a corporate lawyer, whatever his other virtues may be. It's difficult to generalise about the consequences of incorporation, because the rules vary considerably from State to State. He seems to be assuming that GLoAR is incorporated, and perhaps he is assuming that because he comes from a PHA background in which incorporation is usual. However, I'm not so sure that GLoAR is incorporated - last I heard, they were not incorporated, although I accept that that might subsequently have changed. If it is still the case the GLoAR is not incorporated, then most of what BeeHive is saying does not apply to them.

Certainly if it is the case that they have incorporated, then civil law would be more relevant. Even so, civil law in most jurisdictions tries not to interfere in the internal affairs of non-profit corporations, mostly concerning itself with the public interface of the organisation. If a board of directors is compulsory, which is true in some places but not necessarily everywhere, then it is still the case in most places that the board may agree to delegate all of its day-to-day powers to a CEO (which in the case of a GL would mean to the GM). Usually the full board could over-ride him if it chose to do so, but only if it so chose, and only a few restricted issues (usually financial matters) would necessarily have to be considered by a meeting of the full board.

There may be some places where a decision to incorporate would indeed have significant consequences for the internal rules of a GL, but in most places the existing rulebook could be (and presumably will already have been) adapted to leave the situation largely unchanged, unless the existing rulebook is wholly unreasonable. It might be the case that the GLoAR rulebook is unreasonable in the eyes of civil law, or it might not ... you'd have to ask a specialist in Arkansas law, which I am not (and I'm pretty sure BeeHive also is not).

IF a GL is based in a civil jurisdiction where the consequences of incorporation would imply substantial interference in the internal affairs of freemasonry, then it raises the question of whether that GL could incorporate without losing sovereignty over the Craft in its own jurisdiction. And sovereignty over its own affairs is a universal Landmark of regularity, so it could become impossible to recognise such a GL if it incorporated - it would have to remain unincorporated to remain regular. This is an interesting question which has hitherto not been of widespread relevance because laws in most places did not intrude upon us in a major way, but with civil law in many places becoming increasingly intrusive into private conduct as liberty is gradually abolished by governments in most countries, it may now have to become an active consideration in masonic recognition.

Thus, if it has become true in some places that Freemasonry is no longer a private society, then we must face the question of whether it is still genuine Freemasonry at all.

T & F,