Welcome to Paul M. Bessel's website about Table of Contents

Masonic Recognition Issues

United States
Home Minnesota NY DC

U.S. Grand Lodges' recognitions of other Grand Lodges in the U.S.

It is generally assumed that all U.S. Grand Lodges("mainstream," meaning those that belong to the Conference of GrandMasters of Masons in North America, or the 51 Grand Lodges in the 50 states plusthe District of Columbia) recognize each other.

However, this is not always the case, as shown in the followingexamples.

Minnesota and others, concerning Grand Lodges in France - 2002

In April 2001, the Grand Lodge of Minnesota voted to recognize the GrandLodge of France (GLF) in addition to the National Grand Lodge of France (GLNF).The Minnesota Grand Lodge took this action on the recommendation of its ExternalRelations Committee.   (A copyof this committee report, and any other documentation from Minnesota will be placed here, if and when I am able to obtaina copy.)

Apparently some people expected the Minnesota Grand Master to rescind hisGrand Lodge's recognition of the GLF, but that did not occur, and no action wastaken on this subject at the next Minnesota Grand Lodge session, in April 2002.

For details about this, including official documents of Grand Lodges thattook actions concerning this, or that discussed it, please see (click on thefollowing):


Georgia & Idaho - 1992

The Grand Master of Georgia issued an edict on February 28, 1992, severingfraternal relations with the Grand Lodge of Idaho because of Idaho's recognitionof the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Oregon (which also covers Idaho). This edictreferred to the Oregon Grand Master's objection to Idaho's action (describedbelow), which had come up at the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons In NorthAmerica, held just before the issuance of this edict by the Georgia GrandMaster.

Oregon & Idaho - 1991 through 1996

The Grand Master of Oregon ("predominately white" Grand Lodge),Ivan D. Rinck, included in his Annual Message, which was delivered on June 4,1992, a discussion of Prince Hall, and of what he termed the "IdahoIssue." He said that the Grand Lodge of Washington in June 1990 recognizedthe Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington, and, "Fact is, even though theydid have the right to do that, it has created a few problems for Oregon memberswho desire to visit in Washington. Also, dual members who hold membership inOregon and Washington are not allowed by Oregon Masonic law to attend anymeeting, any place, if Prince Hall Masons are present."

The Grand Master went on to say the Grand Lodge of Oregon had no rulesagainst "Black Masons" and there were some in its lodges, but theGrand Lodge did not keep records on this subject and questions about it wereUn-Masonic.

He said that in the last few years eight Grand Lodges within the U.S. hadrecognized Prince Hall Masons, but "not all members of those Grand Lodgesagree as to the wisdom or judgement (sic) of that action and even if all membersdid agree 100 percent, eight Grand Lodges out of 51 are not a landslide. Severalother Grand Lodges expressed support and concern. However, to date, only theGrand Lodge of Georgia has dropped recognition." He concluded hisdiscussion of Prince Hall by saying, "I firmly believe we should obey ourlaws and rules and continue to recognize only regular Masons (italics inoriginal). If Prince Hall members want to belong with us they should join withus in our regular lodges."

The Grand Master of Oregon then described the "Idaho issue." Hesaid that while he was attending the Idaho Grand Lodge meeting on September 20,1991, that Grand Lodge presented a committee report on Prince Hall Masonry andthen adopted a resolution to recognize the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Oregon,Inc. "For the record, we must remember that the Prince Hall Grand Lodge ofOregon has one lodge in Idaho; there is no Prince Hall Grand Lodge in Idaho.This action by the Grand Lodge of Idaho was an invasion of our exclusiveTerritorial Jurisdiction and therefor was a violation of Section 4 and Section 5of the Constitution and Section 135 of the By-Laws of The Grand Lodge of A.F& A.M. of Oregon."

Grand Master Rinck said he called a special meeting of the Oregon Grand LodgeTrustees on October 27, 1991, and invited the Jurisprudence Committee and theCommittee on Recognition of Other Grand Lodges. "We had unanimous agreementthat I had no other choice but to issue an Edict that withdrew FraternalRecognition between the Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Oregon and the GrandLodge A.F. & A.M. of Idaho." Grand Master Rinck said he "waitedand had a meeting" with the Grand Master of Idaho, Harry Fry, on November11, 1991, while they were attending the Grand Lodge of Nevada, but, "Heoffered no attempt to reconsider the action of Idaho nor any other effort to doanything to resolve the issue. I told him then, and also wrote a letter tellinghim, what it would require of the Grand Lodge of Idaho to comply with ourConstitution. He has not answered that letter yet. I told Harry Fry that I wouldwait 30 days more before taking any action. Thirty-five days later I issued theEdict that withdrew recognition."

"Many brothers in this Jurisdiction, and others, try to convert thisproblem to a Black and White issue, which it is not. The facts are simple: TheGrand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Idaho now recognizes two Grand Lodges in Oregonwhen we do not. . . . We still claim exclusive Masonic Jurisdiction inOregon."

The Recognition of Other Grand Lodges Committee included a discussion of thissubject in its report to Grand Lodge, "to determine the will of this GrandLodge." The committee said the recognition of the Prince Hall Grand Lodgeof Oregon by the Grand Lodge of Idaho denies the Oregon Grand Lodge's exclusivejurisdiction over Freemasonry in Oregon, and "thus constitutes a deliberateinvasion of the Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge ofOregon." The committee pointed out that the Commission on Recognition (sic)of the Grand Masters Conference in North America included "ExclusiveTerritorial Jurisdiction" among the standards for recognition, and said,"The Grand Lodges of Oregon and Idaho are both members of the Grand MastersConference in North America and as such both were required to include the abovewritten standards in the Declaration of Principles in order to qualify formembership in the Grand Masters Conference in North America."

The committee therefore recommended that fraternal relations between theGrand Lodges of Oregon and Idaho be suspended until the Grand Lodge of Idahowould "conform to the standards for recognition." This report wasadopted and recognition was suspended.

The next Grand Master of Oregon, G. William Oldham, reported that he arrangedto meet with the Grand Master of Idaho, the Prince Hall Grand Master of Oregon,and a Past Grand Maser of California as an intermediary. According to the OregonGrand Master:

"Each participant agreed to try certain things in their ownjurisdiction. Our part was to see that legislation to recognize Prince Hall wasintroduced. Prince Hall's part was to try to get a Prince Hall Grand Lodge ofIdaho started, at which Idaho would withdraw recognition of Prince Hall GrandLodge of Oregon and apologize to Oregon. Six weeks later, the Grand Master ofIdaho had not even talked to his committee about the possibility of workingsomething out."

He concluded that:

"Idaho is not being bothered by this much with the exception of a fewpeople on the Oregon-Idaho border not being able to visit in Oregon, whereas wehave been kept from visiting other lodges where Idaho is present. Until Idahodesires to get this worked out there is not much pressure we can put on themunless some of our other neighbors join us. I will continue to try — as longas I can take a breath — to get a solution to this problem."

At the same Oregon Grand Lodge meeting in 1993, the Committee on Recognitionof Other Grand Lodges reported that the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Oregon hasformally requested recognition from the "predominately white" GrandLodge of Oregon. However, the committee said it had "not investigated thepetitioner on the merits" because "this Grand Lodge is the sole andexclusive body pertaining to Ancient Craft Masonry in Oregon." Thecommittee recommended that this request for recognition be denied, and it was.

The next Grand Master of Oregon, Lyle C. Logan, was even tougher on thissubject. In his message to his Grand Lodge, on June 2, 1994, he stated:

"Long before I assumed this position, I had made up my mind that if theIdaho problem had not been resolved by the beginning of this Grand Lodge year Iwould waste no more time or Grand Lodge funds on it. Idaho has violated ourGrand Jurisdiction, shows no remorse, and is waiting to do the same to otherGrand Jurisdictions, if given the opportunity. They have stated as much in theirown Grand Lodge proceedings dated September 1993, from which I quote [he thenquoted from the Idaho report on the requests for recognition from the PrinceHall Grand Lodges of Washington and Nevada, as quoted above]

"Duplicity under any guise is still duplicity. It is amazing to me thatthe Grand Lodge of Idaho can make a statement such as that when Oregon was neverconsidered for the same courtesy. As for the bordering states that recognizeIdaho, let me remind them of an old adage: ‘If you sleep with a snake you aregoing to get bit"

"Does anyone wonder why Idaho, after recognizing Prince Hall of Oregonin 1991, then took three years to recognize Prince Hall of Washington, and, todate, Prince Hall Lodges of other Grand Jurisdictions as well as autonomousPrince Hall Lodges that exist in Idaho are not recognized by the Grand Lodge ofIdaho? Is it not a fact that politics are more important to the Grand Lodge ofIdaho than conscience? That conscience that they are so fond of referring towhen defending their deplorable stand against the Grand Lodge of Oregon."

In his message, Grand Master Logan also described his experiences with, andrecommendations concerning the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in NorthAmerica:

"The Annual Grand Masters' Conference of North America was held inWashington, D.C. this year. Some time ago I was faced with the dilemma ofattending that event or boycotting it — as my better judgment advised. Againstmy own advice I relented and decided to attend in the hope thereby bringing onthe floor the debate of the issue of exclusive jurisdiction as it pertains tothe American Doctrine and membership to (sic) that body. I wished to have ourside of the story heard regarding the conflict between the Grand Lodge of Idahoand the Grand Lodge of Oregon.

"All attempts failed. Even the assurance of the programming committeewas reversed on the last day before we departed for Washington, D.C.

The Grand Masters' Conference is even more impotent than its reputation. Itcan neither lead Masonry into the future or defend or enforce its own rules formembership in the conference.

It is little more than a social gathering, that offers little education,scant direction and no real purpose. Its seminars are amateurish anduninspiring. For the cost involved of attending this annual event, the fundscould be better spent in the state of Oregon for the membership of this GrandJurisdiction. And yet year after year, like pilgrims trekking to an emptyshrine, we pay homage to an institution that can never remember having been aviable and worthwhile organization. Terrified of controversy, the conferenceavoids reality.."

The next Grand Master of Oregon used a different tone in his message on June1, 1995:

"My principal goal as Grand Master was to find a solution to our problemwith Idaho and I am sorry to report that I have failed to do so. . . . [W]e wereable to discuss the subject objectively and without anger, but without results.. . .

"Conclusions: We solicited support from other Jurisdictions, withGeorgia being out only source of assistance. We applied to the Grand MastersConference, addressing several areas of noncompliance, with no results. We alsoappealed to the Grand Lodge of Idaho, again with no results. Once again wediscover that to expect others to go out on a limb for you or fix your break isto expect too much. Brethren, if this is to be rectified, we are going to haveto find the solution and fix it ourselves. It is a deplorable situation and asad state when brethren can not associate. However, our Code is clear on thatsubject. . . .

"[I]t appears that we are locked into position by the dictates of ourCode. We have reached a stalemate."

And this continued under the next Oregon Grand Master, John H. Smith, whosaid in his message:

". . . MWB Winther [of Idaho] assured me that the Grand Lodge of Idahowould not, in any way, consider rescinding its recognition of the MostWorshipful Grand Lodge of Prince Hall Masons of Oregon, Inc., Suggestions ofmodification of visitation privileges for a brief time, by members of the GrandLodge of Idaho to Prince Hall Lodges in Oregon, met with no support. Such actionwas deemed a ‘step backward' by authoritative representatives of the GrandLodge of Idaho. . . . It is my opinion that . . . the Grand Lodge of Idaho isunwilling to consider any changes in it current posture on any of the issues.."

The following year the Grand Lodge of Oregon adopted changes in its rulesthat it said had prevented it from considering recognition of Prince Hall, andrecognized the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Oregon, as described later in thesection on "Oregon." It appears that the Grand Lodge of Oregon quietlyrestored fraternal relations with Idaho, but this may not have been printed inany of its Proceedings.

Louisiana & Connecticut - 1989

The Grand Master of Louisiana severed Masonic relations with the Grand Lodgeof Connecticut in 1989, after the Grand Lodge of Connecticut recognized thePrince Hall Grand Lodge of Connecticut. This edict was ratified by the GrandLodge of Louisiana at its annual communication in February 1990.

At Louisiana's annual meeting in February 1991, the Grand Master recommendedrestoring relations with Connecticut, and the Grand Lodge delegates approvedthat recommendation, but this action was later overturned by the Louisiana GrandLodge Committee on Masonic Law and Jurisprudence, which ruled thatreestablishment of relations would require a resolution instead of a GrandMaster's recommendation.

However, in February 1992 at the next annual meeting, when the Grand Master'srecommendation to ratify the earlier Grand Master's recommendation waspresented, it was rejected by the delegates.

So, on March 12, 1992, the Louisiana Grand Master issued an edict clarifyingthe right of Louisiana Masons to sit in lodges where Connecticut Masons werepresent. Then, in February 1993, the Louisiana Grand Lodge delegates approved aresolution revoking the 1990 ratification of the Louisiana Grand Master's edictwithdrawing Masonic relations with Connecticut. The resolution pointed out thatseveral other U.S. Grand Lodges, in addition to Connecticut, had recognizedPrince Hall Masonry, and recommended that the Grand Lodge of Louisiana eitherwithdraw recognition of all of them, or reestablish recognition of the GrandLodge of Connecticut.

(While some other Grand Lodges apparently were negative about Connecticut'srecognition of Prince Hall, I am not aware of any Grand Lodge that broke offMasonic relations with Connecticut over this issue, other than Louisiana asdescribed above.)

California & New Jersey - 1984

The Grand Lodge of California withdrew recognition fromthe Grand Lodge of New Jersey, effective August 29, 1984 (this was done by theGrand Master of California, and ratified by the Grand Lodge of California inOctober 1984), because, in the words of the then Grand Master of California,"the Grand Lodge of New Jersey does not intend to abide by, nor [sic]recognize the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Grand Lodge ofCalifornia." (California Grand Lodge Proceedings 1984, page 68)

On October 19, 1984, a new Grand Master of Californiaannounced an agreement with the Grand Master of New Jersey to"correct" this situation, and restored fraternal relations by theGrand Lodge of California with the Grand Lodge of New Jersey. (CaliforniaGrand Lodge Proceedings 1985, page 58)  This action was ratified at thenext session of the Grand Lodge of California, in 1985.

The break has lasted about 2 months, during which timeCalifornia Lodges were ordered "to have no fraternal relations with a Masoncarrying a New Jersey dues card ... including Scottish Rite, York Rite, EasternStar and Order of Amaranth."

Note: The Grand Master of California said to theCalifornia Grand Lodge (1984 Proceedings, page 69): "The alternativeto your concurring with my decision would be to amend our law ... as at leastone other jurisdiction has done, to make it possible for a resident of thisJurisdiction to apply to a Lodge in any jurisdiction without first obtaining aWaiver of Jurisdiction." It was not said which other jurisdiction had donethis, and it would be interesting to find out which one it was, when it didthat, and under what circumstances, as this might indicate another U.S. GrandLodge that has specifically rejected adherence to the Doctrine of ExclusiveTerritorial Jurisdiction.

The basis for the dispute between the Grand Lodges ofCalifornia and New Jersey was the fact that Danny Thomas, the well-knownentertainer, applied in February 1984 to become a Mason in New Jersey, while hewas a resident of California. The New Jersey Grand Master was said to haveclaimed that Danny Thomas was a "citizen of the world" and thus,apparently, could be made a Mason in New Jersey as well as in California. BeforeDanny Thomas was given his degrees, the Grand Master of California had talked bytelephone with the Grand Master of New Jersey, and made it clear that Californiaclaimed jurisdiction and would not grant a waiver of jurisdiction. The GrandMaster of New Jersey issued a Dispensation permitting a New Jersey Lodge toproceed to give Danny Thomas the Masonic degrees on March 15, and that was done.Later, it appears that Danny Thomas applied for the degrees of Masonry inCalifornia, and was told that if New Jersey did not cooperate, he would have togo through all the degrees again, including the required proficiencies. It isnot clear if Danny Thomas was required to that, because the new Grand Masters inCalifornia and New Jersey came to agreement on October 19, 1984, and DannyThomas was said to have become a dual member in both jurisdictions.

The California Committee on Jurisprudence produced areport about this incident, going into some history of the "AmericanDoctrine (sometimes called 'Territorial exclusiveness')". They found thatthere had been repeated violations of the Doctrine for nearly 100 years, butthat the doctrine had become universally accepted in the U.S. by the end of the1800s. They supported the actions of the Grand Master of California, but pointedout that a Mason might be a member of both a California and a New Jersey Lodge,and could continue to attend California Lodges because of his Californiamembership. The California Committee on Policy and General Purposes referred tothe consequences of this situation on the "unrecognized or 'irregular'Masons of New Jersey." But this committee said that the Grand Master ofCalifornia directed dual members in California and New Jersey to request dimitsfrom their New Jersey Lodges, and failure to present proof of this would resultin immediate bar to communication with California Lodges in which they holdmembership. They also questions what would happen to California Masons living inNew Jersey who did not know about this situation and attended New Jersey Lodges.Would they be "tainted"?

It appears questions were resolved when the new GrandMasters in California and New Jersey came to an agreement, the exact details ofwhich are not shown in the Grand Lodge Proceedings.

Copyright © 1998-2012 by Paul M. Bessel - all rights reserved

If you have any suggestions, comments, or questions about this website, pleasefeel free to send an email message to me:  paulb'at'bessel.org 

To see an index of other webpages with similar information, such as webpageswith charts comparing Grand Lodge policies, please feel free to click on thefollowing:  http://bessel.org/webindex.htm