From Light to Darkness
by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners
This week I ran across a rather sad and confusing incident which has happened in Massachusetts. Instead of trying to relay what happened, I will copy it from the St. Johns Lodge Facebook page: (https://www.facebook.com/St.JohnsLodgeNewburyport). Here it is below:
Dated July 9, 2022, @ 6:35 P.M. - Author Unknown
Friday, July 1st was a dark day for St. John’s Lodge and Freemasonry as a whole. It is important that the membership and those who care for us are informed:
On Friday, July 1st, via email communication, The Grand Master M.W. Richard Maggio Expelled one of our Brothers and suspended three others. These four men together had contributed a combined 82 years in the craft, two were Past Masters, and all were loved and respected by our Lodge. Along with them, many other brothers both of St John’s and St Marks received reprimands, all for their involvement in reversing his decision to cancel the May 14th LGBTQ+ Youth Dance sponsored by NYS.
For those unaware of the circumstances, here is just one of many articles:
The fallout from the Grand Master’s action to cancel the Dance, purportedly at the request of a Barnstable County political activist and their Facebook group aimed at disrupting similar events, was swift and unrelenting. This action was taken, without the knowledge of the local Lodges and without any attempt to hear from anyone involved in the event or in our Community. Grand Lodge additionally made no public statement and this created a vacuum for speculation and worse.
Community members labeled our Lodge as bigots and homophobes, Building tenants asked to have their signs removed and questioned their continued business, family, friends and neighbors questioned our character, and Riverwalk Brewing pulled their partnership in our Charity Oktoberfest event. Many Members even questioned their own future involvement in Lodge.
The Brethren asked the Grand Lodge for help and a public statement, but none came, only a directive to not speak to anyone in the media and that none can speak on behalf of Freemasonry or even for our own Lodges. After repeated failed attempts to get the Grand Master to take accountability for his actions and address the public, a large group of Brothers worked hard to assess the situation, find a solution to repair our image and to do the right thing for the youth of Newburyport. They knew they were putting themselves at risk of disciplinary action, but acted accordingly to what was in their hearts and the tenets of our Craft.
On May 4th, The MTA voted to reinstate the Dance and a statement was released to the City to inform the public. To the Grand Master’s credit he did come to speak after the close of the May 5th Communication to attempt to explain his actions, we will keep the details private, but those in attendance know the outcome.
The event went off without incident and the appreciation of our Community and the youth who attended lifted the spirits of everyone involved. The brethren of both St Johns and St Marks who were involved, felt a sense of unity and solidarity that hadn’t been felt before.
Now nearly two months later, we have shockingly been dealt a serious wound as retribution for that effort. You can surely imagine the pain those Brothers, cast out of a Fraternity they love, are feeling and the uncertainty this severe reaction has caused. Currently the future of St. John’s Lodge is in jeopardy as the Men who hold the line are questioning how they can continue without a reversal of these unjust actions.
If you know these Brothers, please reach out to them and show them support.
If you would like to have your voice heard and please keep all communication respectful and productive, you can reach the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts , M.W. Richard Maggio at: GrandMaster@MassFreemasonry.net.
Thank you for your continued support through this challenging time.
I will state for the record that I do not know any of the brothers at St. John's Lodge or St. Mark's Lodge, nor do I know WB Maggio. I will also state that the below opinions are mine and do not reflect any official position of the Grand Lodge of Illinois nor any Masonic Body that I am affiliated with. I will also state for the record that I believe that these brethren did the right thing, even though they knew in doing so they were putting themselves at risk for disciplinary action in doing so. While the actions of the Grandmaster are seen as unjust, they had to expect a reaction for disobeying his edict even if I and others disagree with his actions.
While I can only surmise that the author of the Facebook post knows more than I do, reading between the lines it seems that the reason for the cancellation was political pressure from those that opposed it due to it being an LGBTQ+ event. It is unfortunate that we live in an age where everything is politicized, and I'm sure that some will accuse me of taking a side here. But let's talk about the elephant in the room, and while once again I do not know the real reason why the dance was canceled, the idea of a Grandmaster basing decisions about what lodges can or can't do due to his political beliefs and/or political influence should be unfathomable to any Freemason.
As an allegorical tale let me ask you to ponder this:
Let's assume that there is an imaginary state of Z, and Z's Grand Lodge has a Grand Master. This Grandmaster learns that one of his lodges is having a gun raffle. He is pressured politically by outside forces and he issues an edict banning Gun Raffles from being used as a fundraiser in his Grand Lodge's jurisdiction. However, many of the lodges in the state of Z use Gun Raffles as their primary fundraising campaign. Members of Saints John of Jerusalem lodge #123 decide to hold a gun raffle anyway. The Grandmaster of The Grand Lodge of Z then suspends and/or expels members of the Lodge. The Lodge then ends up having to fold due to the membership that was suspended/expelled and those that demit in protest. So what essentially has happened in this tale? The Grandmaster of the Grand Lodge of Z has killed Freemasonry in a town in his Grand Lodge jurisdiction due to a decision influenced by his own politics and/or political pressure.
If you were okay with the Grandmaster of MA's decision, but not with the Grandmaster of Z's decision; then I can only tell you that you're not upset with the one and not both because of your own internal biases or beliefs. Neither example is okay. Freemasonry is local, and the Grandmaster interfering in the decision of a local lodges activity based purely on political pressure is not okay. It's not okay either way regardless of where you fall personally on the political spectrum. There is a danger when we allow politics and religion to infiltrate our lodge buildings and more so when they infiltrate into a Grand Lodge. It can lead to disharmony in the Craft and in this case the possible downfall of a historic lodge.
My fear is that we will begin to see similar actions become commonplace. We must push back against this. We must keep our political and religious ideology in the world of the profane because when it infiltrates into our Lodges and/or Grand Lodges, it does nothing positive. It ends up causing harm to the membership and potentially to the community in which the lodge resides. How can we serve as an example to our communities as an organization that promotes Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth when we allow Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth to be defined by one individual instead of by the Ancient Landmarks of our Fraternity? How can we convince younger men to join our organization when we do not live by the tenets we profess?
We are an organization that is needed now more than ever before because Freemasonry allows men of all political and religious ideologies to come together and improve themselves and each other. When we keep the profane world outside of our buildings we can learn that we have more in common than that which divides us. When it infiltrates then you can see the potential results, the light of Freemasonry which is burning bright in a Lodge with a deep history is quickly extinguished due to the actions of a Grandmaster. That's the real tragedy here, one which will have future repercussions for that lodge, its members, and its community.
WB Darin A. Lahners is our Co-Managing Editor. He is a host and producer of the "Meet, Act and Part" podcast. He is currently serving the Grand Lodge of Illinois Ancient Free and Accepted Masons as the Area Education Officer for the Eastern Masonic Area. He is a Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL), where he is also a Past Master. He’s also a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282, Salt Fork Shrine Club under the Ansar Shrine, and a grade one (Zelator) in the S.C.R.I.F. Prairieland College in Illinois. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.