How does Freemasonry accept and remove members?

Today’s reader’s question is a thoughtful one, and it reads, “Please explain what circumstances led to applicants being declined and masons being expelled.” That would clear up some of the confusion that shadows this fraternity. Well, I get where you’re coming from, and please understand that while I can respect your question, I will be completely blunt here and sidestep it in a way.

How does Freemasonry accept and remove members

Grand Lodge of Ohio

How do we accept and remove members?

And the reason is, you know, we have certain questions we want to ask people and we want to get their honest answers to them, and if I try to delineate all of the things somebody might say that would disqualify them from being allowed into the fraternity, then really all I’m kind of doing is teaching the test and telling everybody, “Hey, don’t give this answer.” Hey, don’t give that answer. Hey, make sure you say this, and it really takes away from the value of the interviews that we do.

But generally speaking, we’re looking for somebody who is already of good moral character. We don’t have to try to, you know, change the community’s opinion about what kind of a person they are. We want them to already have at least a baseline that we want them to be neutral in the community at the very least.

And then we can hopefully give them some tools and information that allow them to have a better reputation in the community, but we’re not in the position of taking somebody who is disliked throughout the community, bringing them into their fraternity, and trying to convince the community that they’re really a good person. That gets said a dozen different ways that you can look up at your own time on freemasonry, making good men better, and so forth.

But, to me, the general idea here is that we want somebody who we can help build themselves and not have to fight the community or the general public about why we allowed this person into our fraternity. So with that, you’ll find that many jurisdictions require that criminal background checks be done because once you’re made of mason will take you at your word.

But when you want to become a Mason, we’re going to be very cautious and want to make sure that you are an honest person. So when you tell us that you’ve never had a felony, we want to go and check with the law and make sure that you did not, so you’re going to see that sort of thing take place as well. Other jurisdictions will still use a man’s word as being good enough, coupled with the intuition of the investigation committee, that is, asking this person questions about why they want to become a mason, what they already know about masonry, what they think freemasonry is about, and many others.

So, your question here is what circumstances lead to applicants being declined. The straightforward answer is that unsatisfactory answers to what questions I don’t know, because it’s not a set set of questions asked by any particular lodge or by any particular jurisdiction, and certainly not here in the United States nationally.

Now, whether or not there are other jurisdictions that do have specific questions that have to be asked and answered beyond the very few that are on the petition itself, I’m talking about during the investigation of a petitioner. Then again, that’s something I have not been made aware of. I’m not familiar with jurisdictions having that for the investigation process, and it being declined. This is how it works.You fill out a petition. You have to ask somebody, how do I join freemasonry, or can I become a member? Or however, you ask, you ask somebody to join Freemasonry and they get you a piece of paper called a petition, where you fill out all your information about who you are, where you live, what you do for a living, how long you’ve lived there, which is important because most jurisdictions require something to the effect of a six-month residency. You have to have lived in the area for some time.

And then you have to answer that you do believe in a deity, that you believe in a god that you heard about in Mississippi, and you have to declare that you’ve not been a felon. and other questions as well. So you fill out this petition, you take it back to the lodge, they read it aloud in the lodge, and a committee is formed to investigate you. And so you get these three guys, and I’ve got other videos that I’ll link to that tell you about the investigation process. And then that committee comes back to the lodge and they say whether or not they find you favorable or unfavorable.

Now it matters what the committee says. The committee comes back with this opinion, and sometimes people in the lodge will ask questions of the committee to get more information about a guy, but the lodge provides this, or excuse me, the committee provides this report, and then the lodge votes, and if the committee says, hey, we think this person would be a good fit for our lodge, we think they would be a good fit for freemasonry.

The lodge can still turn around and vote no, and it can happen. The other way around The committee could say, you know, hey, we don’t think this is the best idea, and then the lodge vote him in. though I would say that has a whole lot lower chance of happening than the first option. So that is what would get you in or not get you in the vote. So, so there you go. And there have been times in the past, I don’t know that this is still a case anywhere in the United States or even globally. but my understanding is that I have no actual proof to put up on the screen here to show you this. But supposedly, at some point in the past, it was a thing where the first time somebody petitioned to lodge, they were always rejected, just to see whether or not they had enough of a desire to come back and ask again, and then if they asked again, they most likely had a chance of getting in.

There are all these little nuances to that. Now, We’ve spoken enough about that. What about getting kicked out? Well, like most organizations, we have bylaws, and these are rules that we have established for ourselves about everything: how much it costs to be a member, what sort of behavior we expect out of people, all those kinds of things. In some cases, how many meetings you have to be present for, there’s a lot of different bylaws and it’s going to be different from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and, in some areas, lodge to lodge. 

So getting kicked out, you know, I can’t share with you specifics because it’s not fair for me to tell you the business of our lodge about a specific person. But I can tell you that I know of occasions where people have had to be removed from the fraternity and it all boils down to because they refuse to abide by the bylaws and just like most employment, it’s very rarely an occasion where you mess up and you’re out, usually their steps.

So like in employment, you might get a verbal warning, then a written warning, and then maybe a suspension before you’re finally terminated from the job. And freemasonry does sort of the same thing. You can just talk to somebody and get a committee to talk to an individual that needs some counseling and nothing else ever happens. Maybe it could be something that goes to trial and at trial, maybe the person is just given a reprimand, maybe they are suspended for one meeting or 10 meetings. Maybe they were suspended indefinitely, which means until the lodge decides, you know, hey, okay, this guy has had enough of a break, let’s bring them back, or they could totally kick you out forever. Don’t even bother coming back. Don’t ask., so, you know, an easy example is here in the state of Mississippi. If you are convicted of a felony, the lodge must, without any question, kick you out plain and simple.

And if we don’t, the lodge itself could have its charter arrested, which means we’re no longer a lodge. We lose our right to operate as a lodge if we fail to provide Masonic discipline to somebody who has fallen into disrepute with the law of the state. So there’s that, but there’s also a litany, just a huge list of things that might be considered Masonic offenses, and depending on the severity of those offenses and the willingness of the people involved to sit down and discuss the situation, it depends on how far it goes from there.

So I would say that a vast majority of disciplinary actions in freemasonry center around the belief of forgiveness. Not only is that a lesson that’s taught in freemasonry and even more so in New York and Scottish rite, it keeps getting brought back up about how to be a good judge and to be fair in judgment. A lot of it is, hey brother, you made a mistake.

Now we’re not here to kick you out. On Day One, we’re here to tell you that this is a mistake and we need you to be aware that you’re making this mistake and we need you to be willing to correct it. If you correct it, then great; and if there’s something we can do to help you correct it, we want to. But if you don’t correct it, We can’t allow you to go around saying that you represent our lodge or freemasonry in general, and we’re going to need to do something about it. So that probably isn’t exactly how that conversation would go, but I hope that it lets you see the type of conversation that might take place. Should somebody need to be counseled by a brother? So what sort of things would stop an applicant from being included or would kick somebody out?

I hope that gives you some kind of information. Is that what you’re looking for here in the state of Mississippi? You can just google Mississippi Grand Lodge and you can go over to where the forms are and you can download the bylaws of the state of Mississippi. They’re public. You can go in there and read what constitutes a Masonic offense. You can read about how large trials are completed and all that kind of stuff.

So a part of your question, and sorry to end this, but you say it’s a confusion that shadows the fraternity. I argue that it doesn’t. I argue that people who want it to look like it’s a shadow don’t go out and look for the information. You can do the same thing for other states as well. Go to their websites and download a copy of their bylaws.

And reading, what does a person have to do to be accepted by a lodge? What does a person do, what sort of disciplinary action has to be taken when certain things take place, and all that? You can read every bit of that if you want to go out there and do the research. But because I guess we don’t write it on the side of the wall with the big square encompassed on the side of the building, People think that it’s some sort of secret when it’s really not. So I would encourage you, if you want to learn more about it, to go look for that. The words you’re looking for are our bylaws, Grand Lodge of and then whatever jurisdiction you’re looking for. If it’s in the United States, use the name of a state, like Mississippi. If you’re looking in another country, it might be the name of the country, but just keep working around those types of words and you will find it and go from there.

So, if you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to leave them down below and I will do my best to try to answer them for you. Thank all of you for taking the time to read and for sharing this blog post in your local lodges, on your local Facebook groups, on Reddit and other places. so that more people can get involved in the conversation.

Thanks again, we’ll see you next time. Bye

By Brother Jared, a Master Mason of Grad Lodge Mississippi