The West Gate Dilemma

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

I have recently encountered a situation within Freemasonry that I had hoped that I would never encounter. I have always been steadfast with my belief that we need to Guard the West Gate. That there are certain men that lack the character to become Freemasons. While my view might be thought of as elitist, I still think that I need to protect the fraternity. This being said, let me discuss my situation.

One of the lodges I belong to read the petition of a man who had committed a felony when he was a young adult. The petition was read and I was the only vote in dissent of accepting it. The man who is the top signer is someone in Freemasonry that I admire. I trust his judgement, but yet I still feel obligated to guard the west gate.

Another brother that I respect and admire also told a story. It was about a brother who as a young man had too much to drink. He passed out in the backseat of a car. His two mates decided that it would be a good idea to take said car, with said brother in the back seat, to steal tools. They were caught and all three of them were booked. Luckily, the brother having no knowledge of the crime and not participating in it did not get in trouble. He went on to be a Past Master and a 33rd Degree Freemason in the Scottish Rite. It could have been a different story. His point was that youthful indiscretions should be forgiven.

We’ve all made mistakes right? Let those among you without sin cast the first stone! Where do I draw the line? I just can’t shake the feeling that I need to do what is right for the Fraternity. I don’t want to judge a book by its cover, however I also don’t want to make a decision that I’ll regret. You see my brethren, if we are so desperate for men to join our ranks that we will consider accepting felons, then I feel like we need to close the doors.

We have a real problem in Freemasonry currently. It’s a crisis of identity. An identity crisis is a period of uncertainty and confusion during which a person’s sense of identity becomes insecure, typically due to a change in their expected aims or role in society. Applied to Freemasonry, we can’t decide what we want to be. Do we want to accept every petition that comes to our lodges just because we have an issue with membership? We need to make a choice. We need to decide what we want to be. Do we want to be an average fraternal organization or do we want something better for ourselves?

I want to have men that want to be Freemasons, but I also want to have men that I can look at proudly as being a member of the Fraternity. We as an organization are who we let into our fraternity. Not every man should be able to be a Freemason just because they pay their degree fees and fill out an application. I have, in my time, voted for members that later became habitually derelict on paying their dues. Those that never show up for lodge, and that we chase year after year for dues, don’t really belong in our organization do they?

We need to do better. If we allow the election of members that have committed a felony, then why do we kick those out that have committed felonies during the course of their membership? In my mind, they are one in the same. I’d go one step further, I’d ask for automatic suspension of any member that has a pending felony charge, along with a communication from Grand Lodge regarding said Felony. What would happen if we had someone that committed a Felony as a member of our Fraternity, but they took a plea deal that lessened their charge to a Misdemeanor? Don’t you feel like you would benefit from having this transparency? I would have a hard time being a member of an organization that put forth an aura of wanting only good men, to find out that we might have skeletons hiding in our closet.

So, I’m still left with my crisis of conscience. On the one hand, if I were in a similar situation, wouldn’t I want a second chance? On the other, I need to guard the west gate. The candidate in question is joining us for our pre-lodge dinner before we vote next meeting. So I’ve decided that I’m going to ask him a question. It’s really simple really. Why does he want to join our Fraternity? It’s a question that I have asked every candidate that I have been able to interview. Based upon what the answer is, then I’ll make my decision. So far a candidate has never convinced me not to vote for them. This is the first time that the answer will determine if I vote for them. I hope it’s the right answer.


WB Darin A. Lahners is the Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of the new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D. and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). He is also a member of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. When he’s not busy enjoying Masonic fellowship, Darin spends his time as a DM for his children’s D&D campaign, reading, golfing, watching movies and listening to music. You can reach him by email at

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