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Presidents – Ronald Reagan and Freemasonry

Ronald Reagan and Freemasonry

The purpose of this webpage is to present information about the involvement of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan with Freemasonry. Please feel free to contact me — Paul M. Bessel at [email protected] — with information, suggestions, or corrections about this subject.

As described in —

1988 Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia, pages 66-67

The New Age Magazine (now called The Scottish Rite Magazine, and published by the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction), April 1988 edition, cover, inside cover, and pages 1-2, and inside back cover

1999 Transactions of the Supreme Council, Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction, pages 62-63

The Northern Light Magazine (published by the Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction), May 1988 edition, cover and pages 12-13

On February 11, 1988, several Masonic officials visited President Ronald W. Reagan in the Oval Office of the White House. Among the Masons present were:

Most Wor. Raymond F. McMullen
Grand Master of Masons of the District of Columbia

Most Wor. Stewart W. Miner, PGM
Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia

Wor. William E. Chaney, Jr.
Grand Marshal of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia

Ill. Francis S. Paul
Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction

Sidney R. Baxter
Assistant to the Sovereign Grand Commander, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, A.A.S.R.

Ill. C. Fred Kleinknecht
Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction

Carroll M. Bowman
Assistance Grand Secretary General, Southern Jurisdiction, A.A.S.R.

Ill. Voris King
Imperial Potentate of the A.A.O.N.M.S. (Shrine) of North America

Jack H. Jones
Imperial Recorder, A.A.O.N.M.S. (Shrine) of North America

The Grand Master of D.C. presented President Reagan with a “Certificate of Honor,” which said that President Reagan’s life was a testament to his firm belief in brotherly love, relief, and truth, and his service to the public has broadened the applications of temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice to the benefit of all mankind. This Certificate further said that in recognition of President Reagan’s efforts to promote good will and understanding throughout the world, this certificate was issued to him by the Grand Master of D.C. on February 11, 1988. A complete copy of the Certificate is printed at page 67 of the 1998 D.C. Proceedings.

According to a press release issued by the D.C. Grand Lodge, the two Scottish Rite Grand Commanders jointly gave President Reagan a Scottish Rite Certificate, and the Imperial Potentate gave him a Shrine certificate.  According to The New Age Magazine and The Northern Light Magazine, the Scottish Rite Grand Commanders jointly presented President Reagan with a certificate (a copy of which is shown in The Northern Light Magazine, April 1988 issue, page 12) that “conferred the title of Honorary Scottish Rite Mason,” and the Imperial Potentate presented him with a certificate with the designation “Honorary Member of the Imperial Council” of the Shrine.  The Northern Light Magazine pointed out that the certificate of honor presented by the Grand Lodge of D.C. “should not be confused with the ‘Mason-at-sight’ ceremony performed by a number of other Grand Lodges.” 

President Reagan gave Grand Master McMullen, Sovereign Grand Commanders Paul and Kleinknecht, and Imperial Potentate King, “Private Section Initiative Commendations” for the charitable and philanthropic programs of the Masonic organizations.

In a February 22, 1988, letter from President Reagan to Grand Commander Kleinknecht (a copy of which was printed in The New Age Magazine, April 1988, inside front cover), the President said he commended “the outstanding charitable work of the Masons as one of our nation’s oldest fraternal organizations.”  He also thanked the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction, Grand Commander, for “the framed certificate of membership,” and said he was “honored to join the ranks of sixteen former Presidents in their association with Freemasonry.”

Later, it is noted in the 1988 D.C. Grand Lodge Proceedings that the Grand Master issued a Decision in which he said that a non-resident Mason, regularly employed in full time Masonic work within Washington, D.C., challenged the authority of the Grand Master and the Grand Lodge.  In response, the Grand Master ruled that the authority of the Grand Master and the Grand Lodge extended to the exercise of sovereignty within the confines of that Grand Lodge (Washington, D.C.) over all Masons, resident or transient, so long as they are physically within the confines of that Grand Jurisdiction.  

Then, on September 23, 1988, the Grand Master issued an Edict, which said that Brother C. Fred Kleinknecht, Sovereign Grand Commander of the A.A.S.R., Southern Jurisdiction is a sojourning Mason employed within the confines of the Grand Jurisdiction of D.C. and therefore subject to the laws, rules, and regulations of the Grand Lodge of D.C., and he has “persistently and willfully disregarded the authority” of the Grand Lodge of D.C. and the courtesies due all Grand Lodges and Grand Masters, and he had “scornfully rejected lawful requests” to him by the Grand Master of D.C. to appear in response to an official Summons issued by the Grand Master, and has “unilaterally assumed the right to edit, without the concurrence of the Grand Master or the Grand Lodge, a White house produced tape account of a Masonic visit with the President in the Oval Office on February 11, 1988.”  Therefore, the Grand Master issued an Edict which said Brother Kleinknecht was suspended from all the rights and benefits accorded Sojourning Masons in that jurisdiction, and all Masons all D.C. Masons that so long as that Edict was in effect all Masonic intercourse with him was illegal.

The Proceedings say that after the issuance of this Edict, the Grand Master of Maryland acted as a mediator in an effort to settle this dispute. On October 6, 1988, in the office of the Grand Master of Maryland, the Grand Master and Grand Secretary of D.C. met with the Sovereign Grand Commander and his Grand Secretary General, who was also a Past Grand Master of D.C.  The Grand Secretary of Maryland was also present.  An “accommodation” was arrived at, and the Maryland Grand Master issued an announcement, and the D.C. Grand Master rescinded his Edict on October 20, 1988, saying that at the Maryland meeting Kleinknecht had “transferred custodianship of the White House produced tape of a Masonic visit with the President in the Oval Office on February 11, 1988, along with all known complete copies made of that tape, to Grand Master Bryan for safe keeping in the office of the Grand Lodge of Maryland.” It also said that during the meeting Kleinknecht had acknowledged the “primacy” of the Grand Master of D.C. within his jurisdiction, and he and the Grand Master has signed a “memorandum of understanding” prepared by the Maryland Grand Master and distributed by him to all Grand Lodges in the U.S.  Therefore, the Grand Master’s Rescission Edict stated that Brother Kleinknecht was restored to all the rights and benefits due Sojourning Masons in the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of D.C.

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