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US & Recog

United States Grand Lodges

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

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

Michigan & Minnesota – 2002
New York & Minnesota – 2002

On May 1, 2002, the Grand Master of Michigan issued the following edict:

To: All Grand Lodges with which we are in Amity
Worshipful Masters, Officers, and members of all Michigan Constituent Lodges

My Brothers:

An unfortunate situation has presented itself, which threatens to undermine the very foundations of Freemasonry, both in North America and Worldwide. The Standards of Recognition require that when a Grand Lodge occupies the same jurisdictional territory as a previously established Regular Grand Lodge, they must first establish a treaty of mutual consent with the Regular Grand Lodge. Only in this way can the proper relationship between Grand Lodges be preserved, and the Craft strengthened.

When one Grand Lodge begins to recognize Grand Lodges that are not recognized by the Regular Grand Lodge with which they share Jurisdiction, then the entire fabric of Freemasonry is threatened. Nothing then would prevent such a Grand Lodge from recognizing irregular Grand Lodges within our own Jurisdiction, without our prior approval.

The Grand Lodge of Minnesota has done just this. They have recognized the Grand Lodge of France, which is not recognized by the Regular and recognized Grand Lodge of that jurisdiction, the Grand Lodge National of France, and have done so in contravention to the customs and usages of our Fraternity. All attempts to whisper good counsel have been rebuffed, and the Grand Lodge of Minnesota refuses to abide by said customs and usages, thereby placing themselves outside of the bounds of Regular Freemasonry.

It is, therefore, my order, that from this day, and until the Grand Lodge of Minnesota once again adheres to those principles with which all Regular and well-governed Grand Lodges agree, the recognition of the Grand Lodge, AF&AM of Minnesota by the Grand Lodge, F&AM of Michigan, is suspended. No Mason who holds membership in a Lodge chartered under said Grand Lodge, including those who hold dual membership in a Michigan Lodge, may participate in any function of any Lodge chartered under the Grand Lodge F&AM of Michigan, and no member of said Grand Lodge may hold membership in, or participate in any way, in any activity, of any Appendant, Affiliated, or Concordant body of Freemasonry operating within the Territorial Jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Michigan, including but not limited to: the Ancient Arabic Order, Nobles of the Mystic Shrine; the Order of the Eastern Star; York Rite Bodies; Scottish Rite Bodies; Amaranth; Hi-12; Tall Cedars of Lebanon; DeMolay; Job’s Daughters; or Rainbow. In like manner, no member of any Lodge chartered under the Grand Lodge of Michigan may participate in any way in any activity of any Lodge chartered under the Grand Lodge AF&AM of Minnesota, or any of its Appendant, Affiliated, or Concordant bodies.

Sincerely and Fraternally,

Paul N. Cross
Grand Master


On May 6, 2002, the Grand Lodge of New York adopted a motion by Grand Secretary Gary Henningsen, to suspend fraternal relations with the Grand Lodge of Minnesota because it had recognized the Grand Lodge of France.

Georgia & Idaho – 1992

The Grand Master of Georgia issued an edict on February 28, 1992, severing fraternal relations with the Grand Lodge of Idaho because of Idaho’s recognition of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Oregon (which also covers Idaho). This edict referred to the Oregon Grand Master’s objection to Idaho’s action (described below), which had come up at the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons In North America, held just before the issuance of this edict by the Georgia Grand Master.

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 “Idaho Issue.” He said that the Grand Lodge of Washington in June 1990 recognized the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington, and, “Fact is, even though they did have the right to do that, it has created a few problems for Oregon members who desire to visit in Washington. Also, dual members who hold membership in Oregon and Washington are not allowed by Oregon Masonic law to attend any meeting, any place, if Prince Hall Masons are present.”

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

He said that in the last few years eight Grand Lodges within the U.S. had recognized Prince Hall Masons, but “not all members of those Grand Lodges agree as to the wisdom or judgement (sic) of that action and even if all members did agree 100 percent, eight Grand Lodges out of 51 are not a landslide. Several other Grand Lodges expressed support and concern. However, to date, only the Grand Lodge of Georgia has dropped recognition.” He concluded his discussion of Prince Hall by saying, “I firmly believe we should obey our laws and rules and continue to recognize only regular Masons (italics in original). If Prince Hall members want to belong with us they should join with us in our regular lodges.”

The Grand Master of Oregon then described the “Idaho issue.” He said 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 and then 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 of Oregon 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 exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction and therefor was a violation of Section 4 and Section 5 of 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 Lodge Trustees on October 27, 1991, and invited the Jurisprudence Committee and the Committee on Recognition of Other Grand Lodges. “We had unanimous agreement that I had no other choice but to issue an Edict that withdrew Fraternal Recognition between the Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Oregon and the Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Idaho.” Grand Master Rinck said he “waited and had a meeting” with the Grand Master of Idaho, Harry Fry, on November 11, 1991, while they were attending the Grand Lodge of Nevada, but, “He offered no attempt to reconsider the action of Idaho nor any other effort to do anything to resolve the issue. I told him then, and also wrote a letter telling him, what it would require of the Grand Lodge of Idaho to comply with our Constitution. He has not answered that letter yet. I told Harry Fry that I would wait 30 days more before taking any action. Thirty-five days later I issued the Edict that withdrew recognition.”

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

The Recognition of Other Grand Lodges Committee included a discussion of this subject in its report to Grand Lodge, “to determine the will of this Grand Lodge.” The committee said the recognition of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Oregon by the Grand Lodge of Idaho denies the Oregon Grand Lodge’s exclusive jurisdiction over Freemasonry in Oregon, and “thus constitutes a deliberate invasion of the Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Oregon.” The committee pointed out that the Commission on Recognition (sic) of the Grand Masters Conference in North America included “Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction” among the standards for recognition, and said, “The Grand Lodges of Oregon and Idaho are both members of the Grand Masters Conference in North America and as such both were required to include the above written standards in the Declaration of Principles in order to qualify for membership in the Grand Masters Conference in North America.”

The committee therefore recommended that fraternal relations between the Grand Lodges of Oregon and Idaho be suspended until the Grand Lodge of Idaho would “conform to the standards for recognition.” This report was adopted and recognition was suspended.

The next Grand Master of Oregon, G. William Oldham, reported that he arranged to 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 Oregon Grand Master:

“Each participant agreed to try certain things in their own jurisdiction. Our part was to see that legislation to recognize Prince Hall was introduced. Prince Hall’s part was to try to get a Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Idaho started, at which Idaho would withdraw recognition of Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Oregon and apologize to Oregon. Six weeks later, the Grand Master of Idaho had not even talked to his committee about the possibility of working something out.”

He concluded that:

“Idaho is not being bothered by this much with the exception of a few people on the Oregon-Idaho border not being able to visit in Oregon, whereas we have been kept from visiting other lodges where Idaho is present. Until Idaho desires to get this worked out there is not much pressure we can put on them unless some of our other neighbors join us. I will continue to try — as long as I can take a breath — to get a solution to this problem.”

At the same Oregon Grand Lodge meeting in 1993, the Committee on Recognition of Other Grand Lodges reported that the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Oregon has formally requested recognition from the “predominately white” Grand Lodge of Oregon. However, the committee said it had “not investigated the petitioner on the merits” because “this Grand Lodge is the sole and exclusive body pertaining to Ancient Craft Masonry in Oregon.” The committee recommended that this request for recognition be denied, and it was.

The next Grand Master of Oregon, Lyle C. Logan, was even tougher on this subject. 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 the Idaho problem had not been resolved by the beginning of this Grand Lodge year I would waste no more time or Grand Lodge funds on it. Idaho has violated our Grand Jurisdiction, shows no remorse, and is waiting to do the same to other Grand Jurisdictions, if given the opportunity. They have stated as much in their own Grand Lodge proceedings dated September 1993, from which I quote [he then quoted from the Idaho report on the requests for recognition from the Prince Hall Grand Lodges of Washington and Nevada, as quoted above]

“Duplicity under any guise is still duplicity. It is amazing to me that the Grand Lodge of Idaho can make a statement such as that when Oregon was never considered for the same courtesy. As for the bordering states that recognize Idaho, let me remind them of an old adage: ‘If you sleep with a snake you are going to get bit”

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

In his message, Grand Master Logan also described his experiences with, and recommendations concerning the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America:

“The Annual Grand Masters’ Conference of North America was held in Washington, D.C. this year. Some time ago I was faced with the dilemma of attending that event or boycotting it — as my better judgment advised. Against my own advice I relented and decided to attend in the hope thereby bringing on the floor the debate of the issue of exclusive jurisdiction as it pertains to the American Doctrine and membership to (sic) that body. I wished to have our side of the story heard regarding the conflict between the Grand Lodge of Idaho and the Grand Lodge of Oregon.

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

The Grand Masters’ Conference is even more impotent than its reputation. It can neither lead Masonry into the future or defend or enforce its own rules for membership 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 and uninspiring. For the cost involved of attending this annual event, the funds could be better spent in the state of Oregon for the membership of this Grand Jurisdiction. And yet year after year, like pilgrims trekking to an empty shrine, we pay homage to an institution that can never remember having been a viable and worthwhile organization. Terrified of controversy, the conference avoids reality..”

The next Grand Master of Oregon used a different tone in his message on June 1, 1995:

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

“Conclusions: We solicited support from other Jurisdictions, with Georgia being out only source of assistance. We applied to the Grand Masters Conference, addressing several areas of noncompliance, with no results. We also appealed to the Grand Lodge of Idaho, again with no results. Once again we discover that to expect others to go out on a limb for you or fix your break is to expect too much. Brethren, if this is to be rectified, we are going to have to find the solution and fix it ourselves. It is a deplorable situation and a sad state when brethren can not associate. However, our Code is clear on that subject. . . .

“[I]t appears that we are locked into position by the dictates of our Code. We have reached a stalemate.”

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

“. . . MWB Winther [of Idaho] assured me that the Grand Lodge of Idaho would not, in any way, consider rescinding its recognition of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Prince Hall Masons of Oregon, Inc., Suggestions of modification of visitation privileges for a brief time, by members of the Grand Lodge of Idaho to Prince Hall Lodges in Oregon, met with no support. Such action was deemed a ‘step backward’ by authoritative representatives of the Grand Lodge of Idaho. . . . It is my opinion that . . . the Grand Lodge of Idaho is unwilling 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 rules that it said had prevented it from considering recognition of Prince Hall, and recognized the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Oregon, as described later in the section on “Oregon.” It appears that the Grand Lodge of Oregon quietly restored fraternal relations with Idaho, but this may not have been printed in any of its Proceedings.

Louisiana & Connecticut – 1989

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

At Louisiana’s annual meeting in February 1991, the Grand Master recommended restoring relations with Connecticut, and the Grand Lodge delegates approved that recommendation, but this action was later overturned by the Louisiana Grand Lodge Committee on Masonic Law and Jurisprudence, which ruled that reestablishment of relations would require a resolution instead of a Grand Master’s recommendation.

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

So, on March 12, 1992, the Louisiana Grand Master issued an edict clarifying the right of Louisiana Masons to sit in lodges where Connecticut Masons were present. Then, in February 1993, the Louisiana Grand Lodge delegates approved a resolution revoking the 1990 ratification of the Louisiana Grand Master’s edict withdrawing Masonic relations with Connecticut. The resolution pointed out that several other U.S. Grand Lodges, in addition to Connecticut, had recognized Prince Hall Masonry, and recommended that the Grand Lodge of Louisiana either withdraw recognition of all of them, or reestablish recognition of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut.

California & New Jersey – 1984

The Grand Lodge of California withdrew recognition from the Grand Lodge of New Jersey, effective August 29, 1984 (this was done by the Grand Master of California, and ratified by the Grand Lodge of California in October 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 of California.” (California Grand Lodge Proceedings 1984, page 68)

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

The break has lasted about 2 months, during which time California Lodges were ordered “to have no fraternal relations with a Mason carrying a New Jersey dues card … including Scottish Rite, York Rite, Eastern Star and Order of Amaranth.”

Note: The Grand Master of California said to the California Grand Lodge (1984 Proceedings, page 69): “The alternative to your concurring with my decision would be to amend our law … as at least one other jurisdiction has done, to make it possible for a resident of this Jurisdiction to apply to a Lodge in any jurisdiction without first obtaining a Waiver of Jurisdiction.” It was not said which other jurisdiction had done this, and it would be interesting to find out which one it was, when it did that, and under what circumstances, as this might indicate another U.S. Grand Lodge that has specifically rejected adherence to the Doctrine of Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction.

The basis for the dispute between the Grand Lodges of California and New Jersey was the fact that Danny Thomas, the well-known entertainer, applied in February 1984 to become a Mason in New Jersey, while he was a resident of California. The New Jersey Grand Master was said to have claimed 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. Before Danny Thomas was given his degrees, the Grand Master of California had talked by telephone with the Grand Master of New Jersey, and made it clear that California claimed jurisdiction and would not grant a waiver of jurisdiction. The Grand Master of New Jersey issued a Dispensation permitting a New Jersey Lodge to proceed 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 in California, and was told that if New Jersey did not cooperate, he would have to go through all the degrees again, including the required proficiencies. It is not clear if Danny Thomas was required to that, because the new Grand Masters in California and New Jersey came to agreement on October 19, 1984, and Danny Thomas was said to have become a dual member in both jurisdictions.

The California Committee on Jurisprudence produced a report about this incident, going into some history of the “American Doctrine (sometimes called ‘Territorial exclusiveness’)”. They found that there had been repeated violations of the Doctrine for nearly 100 years, but that the doctrine had become universally accepted in the U.S. by the end of the 1800s. They supported the actions of the Grand Master of California, but pointed out 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 California membership. The California Committee on Policy and General Purposes referred to the consequences of this situation on the “unrecognized or ‘irregular’ Masons of New Jersey.” But this committee said that the Grand Master of California directed dual members in California and New Jersey to request dimits from their New Jersey Lodges, and failure to present proof of this would result in immediate bar to communication with California Lodges in which they hold membership. They also questions what would happen to California Masons living in New 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 Grand Masters in California and New Jersey came to an agreement, the exact details of which are not shown in the Grand Lodge Proceedings.

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