Georgia Freemasonry outlaws homosexuality in its ranks

AP file/The Delaware News Journal, Matthew Jonas

Credit: Jim Galloway

Credit: Jim Galloway

The Grand Lodge of Georgia, the over-arching masonic body in the state, completed its two-day, Macon convention on Wednesday.

The result: We have a new player in Georgia's culture wars. From the website Freemasons for Dummies by Christopher Hodapp:

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.

Your daily jolt on politics from the AJC's Political insider blog

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.

The "edict" in question was issued Sept. 8 by McDonald, who lives in Cornelia, Ga. You can read it here. A summary appeared in an October newsletter posted on the Grand Lodge's website, and includes this:

Freemasons must constantly strive to keep their integrity intact, for it is our integrity that holds our way of life together, and when integrity is lost, all is lost; that good moral character is a pre-requisite for admission into Freemasonry and a strict observance of the moral law is essential for advancement and retention of good standing within the Fraternity….

The Edict concluded, "Homosexual activity with anyone subjects the offender to discipline." Let us not forget that Webster's Dictionary defines "irreligious libertine" as a person who shows a lack of religion and is morally or sexually unrestrained.

“Adultery or fornication” was indeed cited in the edict as an act that also subjects a member to discipline, but women with Masonic ties were described as a special no-go zone:

"[W]here the woman in question is known by the offender to be the wife, widow, mother, daughter or sister of a Master Mason, there is the added guilt of the breach of a Masonic obligation, and the want of chastity on her part does not excuse the offender."

This isn’t the first time that Freemasonry in Georgia has been in the news. From a 2009 piece in the AJC:

Gate City Lodge No. 2 and its head, Michael J. Bjelajac, filed the complaint in DeKalb County Superior Court. It names the Grand Lodge of Georgia Free & Accepted Masons, the state level of an international fraternal organization; Douglas Hubert Ethridge of Atlanta; Starling A. "Sonny" Hicks of Stockbridge; and W. Franklin Aspinwall Jr. of Kingsland as defendants.

Aspinwall, a Georgia attorney, is named in the suit because he was appointed to chair the internal "trial" the group plans to have.

Bjelajac and Gate City claim when they accepted 26-year-old Victor Marshall into membership last fall, Hicks and Ethridge wrote letters to the state organization, saying allowing a nonwhite man into the group violated the association's moral and Masonic laws.

ExploreA New York Times account remains online.

It isn't the first time a Georgia Freemason branch has been in the spotlight for its membership practices. One of your correspondents wrote this piece in 2009:

There are a few prerequisites for anyone applying to be a Freemason: You must be a man, you can't be a slave, you must have good character and you must have faith in a supreme being.

Those broad rules have allowed some of the more progressive chapters in the centuries-old fraternal organization, such as Atlanta's Gate City Lodge No. 2, to fill their ranks with diverse members.

The chapter's leaders say that racial harmony was threatened recently when other Freemasons sought to revoke the lodge's charter for allowing Victor Marshall, who is black, to join up. The dispute has drawn the normally secretive group into a rare public battle.

The chapter sued the Grand Lodge of Georgia on June 18, claiming the charges are based on "racial animosity and hatred" and violate the organization's principles.

***

The first openly gay black lesbian state legislator is leaving office.

State Rep. Simone Bell, D-Atlanta, is headed to Lambda Legal's Atlanta office as a Southern regional director. Bell had previously worked as a community educator for the gay rights group.

Said Bell in a statement:

"I am so proud of what Lambda Legal has accomplished, but my experience in the General Assembly tells me the work cannot stop. This is a particularly exciting time to be a part of Lambda Legal's work in the South, challenging laws and public policies that discriminate across lines of sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV status, income and race and to achieve full equality for all."

***

One of your Insiders was in Boulder, Colo., last night, with a spin-room account of criticism aimed at CNBC for its handling of the Republican presidential debate. Here's a Georgia-tinged version of the pushback:

***

You might have missed this, but it's a big deal. From our AJC colleague Ty Tagami:

The funding subcommittee of Deal's Education Reform Commission was tasked with streamlining the way some $8 billion is divided among Georgia's 180 school districts and the nearly two dozen charter schools that operate under contract with the State Charter Schools Commission.

All but nine school districts come out ahead under the proposal. (They are Gainesville City, and Floyd, Burke, Coffee, Crisp, Lumpkin, Tattnall, Worth and Haralson counties.)

Let that sink in: One of the biggest losers in the new school funding formula overhaul would be a district from Deal's home county. You can see how your school district would fare here.

***

Tim Echols, a member of the state Public Service Commission, has a piece on nuclear energy in the current issue of Power Engineering. It includes this passage:

Rust's research demonstrates that just one of the new nuclear units at Plant Vogtle, if it had been a fossil-unit instead, would consume 230 million tons of coal or 5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas over its 60-year lifetime.

In essence, nuclear power plants extend the life of our fossil fuel reserves far out into the future and reduce future price increases. I guess that is good news for India, China and Germany—who will have the opportunity to buy up cheap American coal.

About the Author