RECOGNIZING PRINCE HALL MASONRY: TO BE OR NOT TO BE?
by W:.Tim Bryce, PM, MPS
Palm Harbor, Florida, USA
"A Foot Soldier for Freemasonry"
I guess it is time for me to finally weigh in on the subject of recognizing Prince Hall Masonry. This has been a subject that has been debated for a number of years and, as a young Mason, I originally bowed to the wisdom of my elders in this regard. But the Grand Lodge of Delaware recently recognized Prince Hall and thus brought the issue back into the spotlight. This leaves the Dixie states as the only remaining jurisdictions who have yet to recognize Prince Hall. (For a U.S. map showing Prince Hall recognition, see Bro. Paul Bessel's web page.
I have heard several rationalizations down here as to why this is so, such as, "Well, its those AF&AM's up north; they do things differently up there." Translation: "We have the true faith, the northerners are wrong." Another cop-out is, "According to our constitution, we are prohibited from approaching another Masonic body, but they can approach us." Translation: "They can kiss our ass."
I have listened to all of the arguments and I have come to the conclusion that no matter how you slice or dice it, it is all about bigotry. Don't let anyone con you on this; Its not about who recognizes who or who practices the proper degree work, its about bigotry. Period.
I have read many news clippings where Prince Hall Masons do exceptional work in the black community. They offer help, aid, and assistance when others will not. As such, they are a positive influence on their communities. Why? Because they took the same obligations as all other Masons do. I would much rather have Prince Hall Masons work with our communities than the Black Panthers or some other extremist organization. They are positive role models for others to emulate.
I've also heard stories that their degree work is every bit as good as any other jurisdiction (perhaps better), and their members every bit as committed to the fraternity as any other grand jurisdiction. If this is all true, I can think of no reason why we wouldn't be willing to sit down and discuss cooperation, unless of course we are unwilling to sit down with the black man. And understand this, recognition of a Masonic body is most definitely not the same thing as merging; it simply means we recognize it as a legitimate organization (not clandestine) and that the Brothers are entitled to be treated the same as any other Mason, with all of the rights and privileges thereof.
In 1994, the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) adopted a resolution recognizing the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. Since then, the UGLE has also recognized Prince Hall in many other states (source, Bro. Paul Bessel). If the UGLE, the mother of Grand Lodges in the United States, recognizes Prince Hall, one has to wonder if the Dixie jurisdictions are in some sort of violation for not conforming with their mother Grand Lodge.
A few years ago the Grand Lodge of Minnesota created a stir in the fraternity when it recognized the Grand Lodge of France which was considered clandestine by many grand jurisdictions. Consequently, many jurisdictions rescinded their recognition of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota until they finally revoked recognition of France. Using this same logic, if the Dixie jurisdictions truly consider Prince Hall Masonry as clandestine, they should revoke recognition of all grand jurisdictions who recognize Prince Hall (including the UGLE). Failure to do so is hypocrisy. This of course won't happen as the Dixie jurisdictions would face isolation in a remarkably similar fashion as the southern states did in the American Civil War.
Back in the early 1960's, Alabama Governor George Wallace gained national recognition for his opposition to school integration. But Wallace's opposition was overturned by the federal government. To Wallace's credit though, he changed with the times. For those people who saw Wallace as nothing more than an icon for discrimination in the 1960's, they never saw the many black government appointments he made in the 1970's and 1980's. Although Wallace has been gone for some time now, he left behind a legacy of black officials who are performing their tasks as competently as their white counterparts. The point is, once Wallace recognized it was time to change, he adapted admirably.
Brothers, the choice is rather obvious: we either put our hatred and hypocrisy aside and sit down and act like Brothers, or we continue to embarrass the fraternity by fighting the Civil War for another hundred years. What will it be?
Keep the Faith.
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