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Masonic Recognition Issues

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Prince Hall Masonry Recognition details

Questions & Answers used in the GL of Virginia

The following Question & Answer paper was used by some ofthose in favor of mutual recognition in Virginia.

Questions and Answers about Prince HallMasonry
Facts Rather than Rumors

What is Prince Hall Masonry?

It is a system of Freemasonry whose history goes back to1775, and that includes Craft (Blue) Lodges, Royal Arch Chapters, Commanderies,Scottish Rite, Eastern Star, and others. It consists primarily, but notexclusively, of blacks, or African American men. It has a longer history andtraditions than most of the "white" Grand Lodges.

Why don’t we recognize Prince Hall Masonry now? Would itcause any harm?

Until 1989 no U.S. Grand Lodges recognized Prince HallMasonry for long, because other Grand Lodges brought pressure on any that talkedabout doing that. Since then, the majority of U.S. Grand Lodges have recognizedPrince Hall Masonry, and they have not reported any problems.

How many other Grand Lodges recognize Prince Hall Masonry?

The United Grand Lodge of England (mother lodge of the world)and 31 of the 51 Grand Lodges in the United States that we recognize, plusalmost every Canadian Grand Lodge, and about a dozen other Grand Lodges inEurope recognize Prince Hall Masonry and its Grand Lodges.

Is Prince Hall Masonry regular?

Prince Hall Masonry — its Grand Lodges, Lodges, and Members— is regular Masonry, just as regular as any other Grand Lodges. The UnitedGrand Lodge of England (UGLE) said in 1994, "the philosophy and practice ofPrince Hall Masonry today are of exemplary regularity." The UGLE hasrecognized the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, which is the originalPrince Hall Grand Lodge, and every other Prince Hall Grand Lodge that has beenrecognized by its U.S. counterpart Grand Lodge. Prince Hall Masonry follows thesame Masonic landmarks that we do, and the way they practice Masonry is almostidentical to our way.

Isn’t there a rule that there can only be one Grand Lodgein each state or country?

This is called the "Doctrine of Exclusive TerritorialJurisdiction," but it does not prevent our Grand Lodge from recognizing thePrince Hall Grand Lodge of Virginia. There can be, and often are, two or moreregular and recognized Grand Lodges in the same State or country. From 1989through 2000, Grand Lodges in 31 of the 51 U.S. jurisdictions recognized PrinceHall Grand Lodges. Some amended their Grand Lodge Codes or Constitutions toclarify that the "doctrine of exclusive territorial jurisdiction" doesnot prevent them from recognizing Prince Hall Grand Lodges, some rejected anyuse of this "doctrine," and some ignored it. Experts on the subject ofMasonic recognitions are unanimous in saying that the "doctrine ofexclusive territorial jurisdiction" is not, and never has been, violatedwhen Grand Lodges operating in the same State or country mutually agree torecognize each other, as has now happened in most of the States of our countrywith Prince Hall recognitions. Our Methodical Digest says that our GrandLodge already shares concurrent jurisdiction with other Grand Lodges, and canadd the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Virginia to that list.

Doesn’t Prince Hall Masonry have to ask to be recognized?Aren’t they younger than us?

The Prince Hall Grand Lodge has asked to be recognized, eventhough that was not necessary for recognition to take place. And, there is noneed for a "younger" Grand Lodge to request recognition from an"older" one. No such rules appear in the Methodical Digest orany resolution adopted by our Grand Lodge. The Prince Hall Grand Lodge inVirginia has made it clear that they do request recognition by our Grand Lodge.Even if they had not, several other Grand Lodges have recognized Prince HallGrand Lodges that did not request recognition, and that were older than the onesbeing recognized. These include the Grand Lodges of Rhode Island, Connecticut,Nebraska, Hawaii, and others. Our Grand Lodge has the authority to recognize anyGrand Lodge we wish to recognize, if we find that to be in the best interests ofthe Craft.

If there are some differences between Prince Hall and us,should we still recognize them?

The Masonic ritual, rules, and practices of Prince HallMasonry are compatible with ours. Masonic officials in U.S. Grand Lodges thathave recognized Prince Hall Grand Lodges and observed their ritual and Masonicpractices tell us that Prince Hall Masonic ritual, rules, and practices are verysimilar to ours. They report that Prince Hall Masons are even more concernedwith ritual excellence than many of those who are already recognized, and evensome in our own Grand Lodge. There are no more differences between Masonicpractices in our Grand Lodge and in Prince Hall Masonry than there are betweenour Grand Lodge and any of the other 50 U.S. Grand Lodges, and all the foreignones, that we already recognize. Masons from the jurisdictions that we have longrecognized, and that now recognize Prince Hall Masonry, report that Prince HallMasonry and its Grand Lodges and Lodges are just as free from partisan politicsand sectarian religion as are our Grand Lodge and the other U.S. Grand Lodgesthat we recognize.

Isn’t there more than one Prince Hall, or Black, GrandLodge in each state? Which should be recognized?

There is only one recognized and official Prince Hall GrandLodge in Virginia and each other State. Even though many States andCommonwealths, including Virginia, have more than one predominately blackMasonic Grand Lodge, there is a Conference of Prince Hall Grand Masters thatinvestigates and determines which is the official and regular Prince Hall"Affiliation" Grand Lodge in each State. There is only one such PrinceHall Grand Lodge in each State. There are many predominately Black Grand Lodgesin almost all the 31 States where Prince Hall Masonry has already beenrecognized by our sister Grand Lodges, and they have not had any difficultyrecognizing the one official Prince Hall Grand Lodge in their States. As we haverecently found even in our own jurisdiction, there sometimes is more than one"white" Grand Lodge in a jurisdiction, and that does not prevent allother Grand Lodges from recognizing ours as the one that is official.

Doesn’t Prince Hall have different rules about membershipin more than one lodge?

Prince Hall Masonry’s rules against dual or pluralmembership are not different from those of some Grand Lodges that we have longrecognized. For example, the Grand Lodge of West Virginia requires that itsmembers belong to only one Lodge, so even though we recognize that Grand Lodge,its members cannot affiliate with any Lodge in Virginia. The same would be trueof Prince Hall Masons if we recognize their Grand Lodge in the same manner thatwe currently recognize the Grand Lodge of West Virginia. As long as the PrinceHall Grand Lodge of Virginia maintains its policy against dual or pluralmembership, and that is likely to remain in force, it will not be possible forany of its members to petition for membership in any of our Lodges, just as aWest Virginia Mason cannot do that either. Visitations could take place, andthere might be joint meetings, but there would not be dual or pluralmemberships.

If we recognize Prince Hall, who will speak for Masonry inVirginia? Will there be other changes in our Grand Lodge and our lodges?

Our Grand Lodge will speak for our lodges and members, andthe Prince Hall Grand Lodge will speak for its lodges and members, just as weboth have done for centuries. Almost nothing will change, except that Masons inour lodges who wish to visit a Prince Hall lodge will be permitted to do so, andvice versa. Even then, it is likely that as a matter of courtesy visitors willmake advance arrangements to insure that everyone is comfortable with suchvisits. Otherwise, our Grand Lodge and lodges will continue to operate withoutany change that will be noticed by anyone.

Are there other reasons not to recognize Prince Hall Masonry?Are there reasons to do it?

There are no other valid arguments not to recognize of thePrince Hall Grand Lodge of Virginia, and there are good reasons to do so. Sincethe reasons that have in the past been raised against recognition of Prince HallMasonry (such as questions about regularity and exclusive territorialjurisdiction) have been shown to be invalid, it is difficult to imagine anyvalid Masonic reasons — compatible with Masonry’s teachings of thebrotherhood of all men under the fatherhood of God — that might be raisedagainst recognition of Prince Hall Masonry. On the other hand, if our GrandLodge does recognize Prince Hall Masonry, that will bring us in line with themajority of U.S. Grand Lodges, the United Grand Lodge of England, and many otherGrand Lodges in the world. It will extend the hand of fraternal fellowship toBrother Masons who practice Masonry as we do, and whose history and traditionsare as long and honorable as our own. Most importantly, if our Grand Lodgerecognizes Prince Hall Masonry, it will prove to all, non-Masons as well as ourBrethren, that we truly believe what we say in our ritual, that Masonry looks atthe internal characters of men, not the external characteristics such as color,and that Freemasonry is a force for Brotherhood in the world.

Why should I believe any of this? Where can the facts bechecked?

There are books, Masonic magazine articles, and other placeswhere you can check all these facts, and not just believe what others tell you.The other "white" Grand Lodges that have investigated Prince HallMasonry have written reports, in their Proceedings, and you can read thesereports in the library of the Grand Lodge of Virginia in Richmond, or thelibrary of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. These libraries alsohave books and research articles that give all the facts about Prince HallMasonry and all the other subjects mentioned above. You are welcome, andencouraged, to read and research this subject yourself.


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