It is a long-standing belief within Freemasonry and the world for that matter, that each person, each individual conscious mind, has an inalienable right of personal liberty, personal choice, personal belief, and the freedom to explore those rights in the search for happiness. Thomas Paine writes in The Rights of Man, “Whatever is my right as a man is also the right of another; and it becomes my duty to guarantee as well as to possess.”
In this quote, we find the general position of the enlightened world. To verdantly assert the individual's right to all things, and within this–what is good for the goose, is good for the gander. That is, if one has complete freedom, all must have the same. What of these freedoms are tangible?
A tangible Freedom is an idea made real by its practice in the world in which we live. We think, and those thoughts beget action. When we act on these thoughts, we have unleashed a wave of probable outcomes, infinite in consequence. In just one example, we have freedom of speech, yet, we are not immune from the consequences of the words we write or that we vocalize. The rights guaranteed to all humanity are so divine, so spiritual and so personal–they are an ingrained part of our being. They determine how we act, who we are friends with, what groups we belong to, and can even determine our socioeconomic statuses.
The topic in this paper is the freedom of belief, and the respect the Masonic Fraternity has for the individual rights of men to hold whatever beliefs they see fit, so long as they check a number of ascribed boxes to which our fraternity is bound. Of those boxes within regular male craft Freemasonry regarding belief–we would see the acceptance of a Supreme Being (some will argue monotheism). Outside of this singular qualification which speaks to personal belief, there are two other attributes outlined within the interrogatories and question and answer portions of our ritual. Whether or not the ritual is to be taken literally or not, is a matter to be taken up by the Grand Master in each state, for only the Grand Master in each state can make such a judgment.
These other qualifications stipulate that a candidate who has come before the lodge for initiation is of “good report and well recommended.” In obvious terms, this means that the candidate is known by the proposers to be a good man, free from the allurements of vice and crime. A man who can be trusted. The other qualifications are to do with proper age (at least eighteen) and that the candidate is vouched for. These last two pieces as they relate to being admitted into our fraternity speak nothing of the general character of those whom we seek to initiate.
We ask our candidates if they are members of any group to which membership within the Masonic Fraternity is incompatible. In our 27 years of combined service to the Craft, we have never stopped an initiation due to a response to this question. Of this question, we have much to discuss. It is a question that when contemplated, opens a door that cannot be shut. For it forces us to look to the hearts and consciousnesses of our existing members and our petitioners. To what organizations do they belong that the various Masonic credos would be in opposition? Belonging to such an organization is a physical and real-world, tangible enterprise born from a personal ideology.
After a proper investigation of the petitioner, or a reflective moment on a current member and their ideological alignments–we get an objective view of where they stand in the geography of the moral landscape.
These ideologies live in the minds of humans, and in many cases are secret. The secret beliefs of men, held within the prisons of their own minds are often due to an intrinsic shame, or perhaps a general fear that the beliefs they hold are such of a minority opinion, they'll be looked at as a pariah. There’s even a chance that by the extolling of one's personal ideologies they will be accused of one or more of the many deadly sins of the 21st century–forever labeled in a pejorative manner. They will forever be tormented–or “canceled.”
Men today belong to many organizations who may not have anything to hold against Freemasonry, however, should we be now concerned enough to ask whether or not a person is a member of an organization to which Freemasonry is incompatible? Organizations that hold values, beliefs, or practices that are antithetical to what our Craft teaches? Contrarily, flipping the tables as it were. Are there such organizations? Are there such ideological beliefs that are in fact, incompatible with membership in this gentle Craft?
Antifa? The Klu Klux Klan? The Proud Boys? QAnon? While we may answer unequivocally that one could not reconcile Freemasonry and any of the aforementioned groups–the fact remains that we have members within our organization that do belong to these schemes. Not only this, they financially back these organizations (while complaining about Lodge dues, mind you.) They share articles and disinformation on social media networks, attack ideologies that are contrary to theirs, and criticize all of the principles counter to their beliefs.
The organizations mentioned above are just that–organizations of peoples bound together by beliefs in particular ideals or shared goals. But what about religious beliefs? Are their religions that teach their truths that are also misaligned with what the Craft teaches? And staying with the theme of this article, and using the same mindfulness we’re talking about in respect to morality and compatibility–shouldn't it apply to religions as well? It is an ideology, after all.
It's often assumed and said that “It's common to respect others’ beliefs”. Borrowing from another famous quote, “respect is earned, not given”, which is actually part of a larger quote from Pakistani Beggar King Hussein Nishah, “Treat people the way you want to be treated. Talk to people the way you want to be talked to. Respect is earned, not given.” Respecting one's religious and political beliefs is certainly common happenstance, so long as they fall within cultural norms (which are always evolving), or to extend that for this piece, the tenets of Freemasonry–the Progressive Moral Science.
This is nothing more than a distraction from the original argument. The answer is of course, yes, everyone is entitled to their own particular beliefs. We are not, however, required to respect them. These two things are mutually exclusive, I can respect your right to your own opinion while at the same time not having to respect it. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and as outlined above, while we have freedom of speech, that speech can have consequences. Say or support speech that is unbecoming of a Mason, and you’re likely to be reminded of your error.
Let’s remember that no matter how good someone's ritual is, no matter how many times they were there for the lodge, or how much they donated–it doesn’t make them a good person.
Defining Principals or Mission Statements of note:
Freemasonry - (Varies from state to state.)
To promote a way of life that binds like-minded men in a worldwide brotherhood that transcends all religious, ethnic, cultural, social, and educational differences; by teaching the great principles of brotherly love, relief, and truth; and, by the outward expression of these through its fellowship, to find ways in which to serve God, family, country, neighbors, and self. (Taken from Reading Lodge No. 254, CA).
The above description of Freemasonry certainly doesn't square with any of the descriptions below. As such, anyone identifying with such groups, should not be allowed into our fraternity.
The Klu Klux Klan-
The Proud Boys-
The Proud Boys are a right-wing extremist group with a violent agenda. They are primarily misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic, and anti-immigration. Some members espouse white supremacist and antisemitic ideologies and/or engage with white supremacist groups. Public rallies and protests. Members have been known to engage in violent tactics; several members have been convicted of violent crimes. Proud Boys members accounted for one of the highest number of extremist arrestees in relation to the Jan 6 insurrection. In 2021, Proud Boys latched on to anti-mask and anti-vaccine activism, showing up at school board meetings as well as related protests and rallies. (Taken from ADL.org)
~RHJ & KH
WBro Kevin Homan was Raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason in August of 2007 at Olive Branch Lodge No. 114 in Leesburg, VA., and since then, has like many Masons, involved himself in more and more bodies. In addition to being a Past Master of Olive Branch Lodge, Kevin is a member of Potomac Chapter No. 88, RAM, currently serves as the Eminent Commander of Piedmont Commandery No. 26 and the Alexandria Scottish Rite Bodies. Additionally, Bro Kevin is a member of several of the York RIte invitational Bodies.
Bro Homan has been married to his wife Hillary for the past ten years and they have three wonderful (mostly) children. When he’s not doing something with his family or the Lodge Kevin enjoys a good glass of Scotch, the occasional cigar, and reading a good book in his office, which “smells of leather-bound books and rich mahogany”.