Thursday, August 11, 2011

Your political compass

Where do you stand politically?

Take this anonymous online test called The Political Compass, and see your position on the grid between Authoritarianism and Libertarianism, between Left and Right.

You can answer each question Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, or Strongly Disagree. You'll probably find several where you want to answer "No Opinion," or even "I Don't Care." But, there being neither of those options, you must chose between the given responses to finish the test.

Here is my result. I guess my middle-of-the-road libertarian philosophy is why I've clashed from time to time with more rigid, right-wing, authoritarian Masonic "authority figures."

What's your position on the graph?

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Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Selfish? Or uncaring?

"If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it." -- Stephen Colbert

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Monday, August 08, 2011

Let the sun shine in!

It's been over a year since I've posted on The Burning Taper, and longer than that since I've posted anything actually relevant or even interesting.

It was burnout that kept me from writing, but more, much more than burnout, too. My life literally fell apart, layer by layer, until I ended in a hospital bed with doctors telling me that the emergency surgery they were about to perform might save my life, but that they could offer no promise. More than 50% of people who develop necrotizing fasciitis, a horrible condition resulting from bacterial infection, do not survive the first 48 hours. Depending on the location of their infection, survivors are often left without hands, arms, or legs, or if they do keep the infected extremities, they are unable to fully use them.

I consider myself blessed. I survived with hands, arms and legs intact and functioning.

Let me rephrase that: I am blessed because I survived. Period. Hands and arms and legs are a bonus. I'm alive!

I am today not only a modern medical miracle, but am now thoroughly a believer in the power of God, the Universe, prayer, positive thinking, the Law of Attraction, and most of all, in the incredible power of the love I felt from my friends and family during my three-week hospitalization and subsequent months of recovery and rehabilitation.

I am grateful I have hands to write with, legs to walk with, arms to hold my loved ones with, and a mind to think thoughts with.

No longer do I feel the desire or the need to rail against problems within Freemasonry. I hope that I have made some difference in Masonry and in the world through analysis and exposition of our brotherhood's "dirty laundry," and I hope that I have also published many good things about the fraternity and, with the "We All Shine On" series, about the brothers who make up this fraternity.

The Burning Taper blog lives on, but it is my desire and plan to use it from now on to light a path towards positive things. I hope not to succumb to the baser urge to point out the negative. Life is too short and too precious to spend it bitching and complaining and pointing fingers, even if that bitching, complaining and pointing of fingers brought about positive changes in whatever it was I was writing about.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Guess who's coming to dinner?

It seems many rank-and-file Masons, in many locales, are becoming more and more fed up with the actions of Grand Lodge leaders.

This short article was sent to The Burning Taper recently. The author wishes to remain anonymous, for fear of retribution for reporting events and expressing his opinion.

Arizona Grand Lodge Annual Communication began with the Royal Banquet on Wednesday evening, June 2, 2010 prior to the official opening of proceedings on Thursday morning.

The Head Table consisted of Arizona Grand Lodge officers and their wives. Seated near them were the visiting dignitaries representing various Masonic grand lodge jurisidictions. There were 13 listed on the list handed out to all attending members. Most were "line" officers representing their State or jurisdiction with two currently sitting grand masters.

The two grand masters attending the Banquet were Most Worshipful Martin E. Warren, Grand Master of Masons from the Grand Lodge, F&AM of Arkansas, and Most Worshipful Lewis R. Brent, Grand Master of Masons from the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Arizona. They were not seated at the same table.

When the Grand Lodge opened in Due Form in the 3rd Degree on Thursday morning the MW Lewis R. Brent from Prince Hall was present, but the MW Martin E. Warren was conspicuously absent. He was not seen in any of the subsequent tiled lodge meetings all day Friday or on Saturday.

It is the custom of the Grand Lodge that, when a pedestal officer (Grand Master, Senior Warden and Junior Warden) leave their stations during the proceedings that they place the Jewel of their office on one of the brothers in the room.

Several times during the proceedings on both days, the Senior Grand Warden Brook Cunningbrook chose a highly decorated Phoenix policeman, who is a member of one of the Arizona F&AM lodges and had been shot in the line of duty, to sit high on the chair located on a pedestal in the West to replace him temporarily. He is black.

There were two other black members of Arizona F&AM lodges present and the Senior Grand Warden had them also replace him in the West. It is quite an honor to do this.

In this case, in my opinion anyway, it was kind of an "in your face" type of gesture to some of the members of the Arizona jurisdiction who have moved to Arizona from one of the 10 states that do not recognize Prince Hall and have complained about having to sit in a lodge with a black man. Whether it was directed towards the Grand Master of Arkansas, I can only speculate.

What's interesting about this is that the Grand Master of Arkansas spent the money to fly to Arizona only to have dinner. Since it is customary for Grand Lodges to pay for the travel expenses of their grand masters, I wonder if the brethren of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas got their monies worth. Since he did not attend any of the business meetings by sitting in a tiled lodge with a black man but only attended the social functions, it seems to me that he spent a lot of money just for a free dinner and drinks, even if the cost came out of his own pocket.

This obviously was an example of the kind of “Imperial Leadership” prevalent in many jurisdictions and is not restricted to Arkansas alone.

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Living with War: Memorial Day 2010

For the past four Memorial Days [2006, 2007, 2008, 2009], I've honored the memory of those who have died in the War in Iraq, or whatever we're calling that quagmire this year, when we talk about it at all.

Since last Memorial Day, the number of American soldiers who have lost their lives in Iraq has grown from 4,300 to 4,400. Another 100 men and women have died; another 100 families will never see their loved ones again. Officially, 32,000 have been wounded, and God knows how many more are emotionally scarred from the insanity they have lived through.

For what? For nothing I can see.

Don't get me wrong. I'm glad, I'm thankful, and I'm proud there are American men and women in the U.S. armed services protecting us.

I just don't see how their sacrifices in Iraq are at all protecting America's shores or America's interests. People in the Middle East have been warring amongst themselves for thousands of years. That hasn't changed in the seven years American troops have been there. 4,400 American deaths haven't changed that.

Weapons of mass destruction were never shown to exist in Iraq, and the terrorists who hijacked the planes in 2001 weren't from Iraq.

The Iraq War has never been properly explained or justified.

As I've said for the past five years: Bring 'em home, now!

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Is Freemasonry 'just as good' as Christianity?

The Burning Taper received the following email a few days ago. Anyone like to take a shot at answering this woman's questions?
sir, as a Christian I've always been troubled with the mason being "yoked"as it would seem to non believers, which (to me) would give the non believer the inference that his religion is just as good as Christianity. The "all roads lead to the top" line would sorta fit in that category also would it not?.. Unless Jesus lied, His way is the only way to heaven, so why would the Craft allow the impression that there's more than one way? As such, how could a Christian remain in the bond with non believers without abandoning his stance on wittnessing,contending for the faith etc.?? curious.Appreciate any response. Because late in life my uncles ,for instance, finally had great difficulty remaining in the lodge ,especially, after their dedication to the church/knowledge increased.
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Thursday, May 13, 2010

'One battle over, but the war continues,' by Bro. Derek Gordon

The following is reprinted from the website of Bro. Derek Gordon.

One Battle Is Over, But The War Is Not

A great man and Mason, who was overshadowed by the three-term Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, stated: “Carry the battle to them. Don’t let them bring it to you. Put them on the defensive and don’t ever apologize for anything.” Harry S. Truman, a native of Missouri, was not from a political elite family. In fact, this pivotal man came from a farming family. He achieved an end to World War II after approving the use of two nuclear weapons on the Rising Sun of the Empire of Japan.

Many of us don’t realize how much power we have by defying the status quo and standing up for what’s right in life. We come from all sorts of families; I grew up in a blue-collar household. Certainly, we don’t grow up thinking we can drop a figurative nuclear weapon. But, there are times when each one of us must stand strong to shine that bright spotlight on those harming what we all stand for.

However, when we are leading a resistance, it is futile to continue a long battle that will continue to degrade into a slanderous quagmire. There would be nothing to gain from doing so. And, it would hinder one’s own desire to introduce change of disgusting policies designed to destroy those who defy the corrupt leaders; and it would bring about a notion that the fight isn’t as righteous as it truly is.

I stood down against the Arkansas Oligarchy in an effort to allow change to foster. Unfortunately for the time being, the reaction from the leadership is to portray me as a liar, a cheat, and a scoundrel. Some will believe their shallow attempts, but many will see the holes in the points they make. Every comment I made I offered proof. Each comment their cronies made have been backed up with more libelous statements.

A post below discussed that I resigned and did not expel myself. Accusations are rampant that I hid information. I would appreciate it if the oligarchy would provide the documentation. Further, I requested written documentation from the U.S.P.S. that there were not attempted deliveries between April 14th, 2010 and May 3rd, 2010. A phone call confirmed this; however, I feel such documentation added atop my continually-growing pile would be a wonderful addition.

The war against the evil lurking at 700 Scott St. in Little Rock will continue as the deep-rooted unprofessional ideologies are perpetuated by the leadership. There are many more abused Arkansas Masons who are just realizing how important it is to speak out. Once again, I point to the article detailing my life as a Mason in Arkansas and the provided phone logs. I’ve tried civil and professional means and have continually offered to let the issue end. I tell you, Grand Lodge, you still are playing a game that you miscalculate and under appreciate the importance of. I challenge those in charge to meet on neutral ground to end the matter professionally, orderly, and most important, as Masons “meeting on the level” would expect.

“It is important to fight, and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then can evil be kept at bay, though never quite eradicated.” — Albus Dumbledore; J.K. Rowling, The Half-blood Prince

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Follow the travelling man across the USA

This is a message from Bro. Darrell Waddell.

One of our Louisville, Kentucky brothers has embarked on a tremendous journey across the United States! Iraq War Veteran Troy Yocum, who is an Entered Apprentice Mason with Jeffersontown Lodge #774, F&AM is hiking 7,000 miles across America, banging his drum and sounding the call for $5 million to help military families in need. With "Emmie the Super Dog" by his side, he took the first step of his 16-month quest on April 17, 2010. Tonight he is near Pittsboro, Indiana.

Here is the link to follow his travels. I'm sure he could use some Masonic encouragement. He's definitely a man on a mission.

Darrell G. Waddell
Daylight Lodge #760 F&AM
Kosair Shrine Temple A.A.O.N.M.S.
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Monday, May 10, 2010

Not your grandfather's Freemasonry

Bro. Fred Milliken has written an excellent piece titled "I Resign."

Though the information presented about Bro. Derek Gordon's ordeal with the Grand Lodge of Arkansas is interesting and enlightening, the real meat to the article is Bro. Fred's summary:
  1. This is no longer your Grandfather’s Chevrolet... er, Grand Lodge. Freemasonry must stop living in the past as West Virginia and Arkansas are doing. Instead it needs to adapt to the mores of present day society.

  2. Running a closed society that allows no freedom of expression and muzzles its members is antithetical to Freemasonry of the Enlightenment.

  3. Operating a society with laws, rules and regulations that conflict with civil law and civil rights is not only not in the spirit of Freemasonry but also blatantly immoral.

  4. An organization in this day and age, especially a nonprofit volunteer one, cannot realistically force a person against his will to remain a member. It should be the option of any Freemason to simply resign from any Grand Lodge.

  5. Making up silly and vindictive rules such as prohibiting members from using the Internet or any electronic means to discuss Freemasonry is unbecoming and un-Masonic.

  6. It’s been almost 50 years since Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement transformed America. It is past time that Grand Lodges reflected that change.

  7. It is painfully evident that Grand Lodges can no longer operate as they have done in the past. This is the 21st century with new ways of looking at different lifestyles and morality. Grand Lodges are now in a public-private partnership yet they refuse to recognize their duty to civil law and their new commitments. Failure of Freemasonry to operate within the framework of present day moral, societal and political civil practice could be very costly to the Craft.
Bro. Fred makes some excellent points. Read the entire article.

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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Arkansas Grand Lodge resignations confirmed

Below is a recent email from Doug Simmons, Past Deputy Grand Lecturer and Past District Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas, published with his permission:
Your post referencing the resignations of the Grand Secretary and Grand Treasurer of the Arkansas Grand Lodge has all the trappings of the best of the "Tabloids," taken completely out of context, and devoid of any facts researched before publication...

Grand Secretary James Weatherall has been carefully planning his retirement for the last 4 years, due to culminate in the Spring of this year;

Grand Treasurer Garry Jones has been urged by his doctors to permanently curtail his activities due to on-going and increasing health problems. Knowing he would not want his medical history discussed with strangers, I will not elaborate.

I have known both of these honorable gentlemen for over 20 years, and have spent many, many hours in pleasant conversations with both of them, on personal and Masonic levels. Their resignations have nothing whatever to do with any current dealings of the Grand Lodge or any of its officers.

Doug Simmons
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Monday, May 03, 2010

Arkansas Grand Lodge officers said to have resigned

Update, May 5: The resignations of Bros. Weatherall and Jones have been confirmed by an officer of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas. I am awaiting his permission to publish his email on The Taper.

The Masonic backchannels are buzzing with unconfirmed reports that the Grand Secretary James Weatherall and Grand Treasurer Gary Jones of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas, F&AM, both tendered their resignations on Saturday, effective June 1. Both men have served in their respective capacities since the early 1990s, my sources say.

If true, this is a most interesting development in light of the recent brouhaha over the Prince Hall license plates, the upcoming trial of Bro. Derek Gordon, and the many stories over the years that have alleged a general sense of vindictiveness and overt racism in the Grand Lodge.

If you have more information or official documentation, please post it in the comments section, or contact The Burning Taper via email. Your identity will not be disclosed.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

'Remember the beginning! Prince Hall plates!', by Bro. Derek Gordon

The following is by Bro. Derek Gordon.

Remember the beginning! Prince Hall plates!

by Bro. Derek Gordon

Someone asked how this whole mess began. So, I thought it would be best to remind people. The issue began with the ARGL barring Masons from purchasing Arkansas license plates because of Prince Hall being involved in their creation. I posted a note on Sebastian Lodge’s website to spread the word as the Letter required; I added a note that we did not condone the Letter because it stunk with racial undertones.

Many writers and bloggers saw this and copied our text in their articles. This sent the ARGL into a major defensive posture, something the ARGL can never be forced to take because it is too righteous. In retaliation, the whole issue with me started. Their latest and greatest charge is that I posted secret Masonic ciphers on the Sebastian Lodge website. In fact, should that have occurred, all data on the website came from the ARGL website and websites it linked to. By the way, they removed their website because so many bloggers mentioned this obvious connection.

But one thing is for certain: ARGL and Grand Master Warren will continue to deny that race has any part in their actions. BUT, this problem came from a racial letter sent out by ARGL. If it was not for that, there would be no action against me.

The website was known to ARGL prior to the RACIAL incident. I spoke with Grand Secretary James Weatherall requesting a link to be made to the site. I wanted him to let me know if content wasn’t acceptable. This of course was in the summer of 2009. Other comments were made throughout the rest of that calendar year. No problems, no complaints. But, amazingly enough the ARGL now has a cause of action against me AFTER the RACIAL incident.

I wonder, did they want to hold onto a cause of action in case it was ever needed? Is this how a Grand Lodge operates to make sure it can remove its dissidents? The ARGL has had its opportunity to make peace with the matter, but there is no desire on their part to resolve this matter in an ethical and moral fashion.

Want to really see how this unraveled? Take an open-minded approach by viewing some of the most prominent articles and blogs that kicked off the ARGL’s attack against me:

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Searching for light in the Arkansas night

The following article is by Bro. Derek Gordon, who is currently awaiting Masonic trial by the Grand Lodge of Arkansas, for purported but unspecified "unmasonic conduct."

The Story of my Search for Light

This is an ongoing, growing effort to provide the history of the a problem in Arkansas.

by Brother Derek Gordon
Last updated April 8, 2010

I became a Master Mason in March, 2008. It took me four days to memorize all of the necessary material to return the Fellowcraft work perfectly, no errors. A week later, I was a Master. In May, 2008 I was sent away on military orders. I returned in October, 2008 and began to get involved with the lodge as much as possible. I was nominated, and accepted, for the position of Secretary.

Due to problems with the previous Secretary, I took over a month early. It was a real mess. Documents weren’t properly kept, money seemed to have gone missing before being given to the treasurer, and what not. I made it my personal quest to sort through and rebuild the lodge’s documentation. After completing my review, I reported to the lodge a list of recommendations. In March, 2009 the recommendations were accepted. One of those recommendations was to build a website.

The website was built in May 2009. In determining the content, I looked at other Arkansas lodge websites linked to on the Arkansas Grand Lodge website. I found that each website listed lodge information and history; but, there was also information regarding the degrees and historical lectures. Some Masonic information was taken from the Grand Lodge of Arkansas’ website as well. Seeing it on several sites that the Grand Lodge personally linked to, and in my opinion gave acceptance via precedent, I decided to post the same information on

The website was a great success. Being a hobby software developer, I knew how to write scripts to get the website listed on many websites and search engines. We ended up having over 20,000 visits before it was forcibly taken offline. The website became fully active in early July, 2009 after informing the Grand Secretary of it and requesting a link be made to it from the Grand Lodge website. The website met no objections until the license plate fiasco. The link request never came through. No discussion of the website came forward. The other websites continued operation. At the time our lodge lost its charter and I was given a notice of trial for expulsion, all websites remained online except for two that seemingly neglected to pay their bills.

For personal and Masonic reasons, I requested a letter of good standing so that I could enter into Masonic communications in Latin American countries. My request was first made in late September, 2009. The Grand Secretary was very reluctant on being helpful; however, on November 17th, 2009 a letter was finally mailed. It came too late for the trip it was needed for. As numerous brethren know, I decided to do a Masonic good deed in the name of Masonry of Arkansas. At least 350 children freeze to death every year in the Andean region. I decided to develop a network with Masons in Latin America to have coats made and handed out to the young children in a humanitarian effort. That was the sole purpose for obtaining the letter. And, with my upcoming expulsion, the Masonic good deed must be carried on by a good-standing Mason. I doubt the Grand Lodge of Arkansas wants to take on noble causes as that.

In late October, 2009 it became apparent that Sebastian Lodge was heading for the red financially because of financial losses in the recession. The timeline for the end of the savings account was less than four years away. A decision was made to move to another location which would save approximately $3,000 annually, creating a surplus in our budget. However, the Grand Secretary wasn’t too keen on supporting the maneuver and desired the lodge to dissolve or merge. I didn’t like his attitude of telling me that it wouldn’t happen because there was no legitimate reason to withhold support of this Masonic Endeavour. The Digest rules made it acceptable.

Needless to say, I stuck to my guns. I wrote a strong letter to, then, Grand Master Ronald Hedge regarding the need to move to another location stating the financial crisis and that the lodge had taken a loss in its annual income from the perpetual membership. The annual payments are controlled by Grand Lodge. As I understood it, the Grand Lodge had increased its withholdings from the perpetual interest to maintain its own operations. He responded in a very protective manner, as was expected. However, after much discussion about Masonic good and the like, Hedge granted dispensation and the move happened as of January 1st, 2010.

Upon the mailing the Dispensation to move the lodge’s meeting place, Ronald Hedge phoned me to discuss the issue. He read my letter intently and made sure to defend the actions of Grand Lodge as a necessary move to keep Masonry alive. I outlined that I understood the reasons and had no quarrels with it. However, I wanted him to understand that the financial crisis has taken its toll on lodges; a loss in extra income expected from the perpetual membership interest required that we move. In the end, everyone seemed to be fine. For the time being!

A couple of weeks prior to Grand Lodge 2010, Ronald Hedge sent his last mass mailing to the Secretaries of the Subordinate Lodges. I opened and read it at our February 1st, 2010 stated meeting. It outlined that Prince Hall’s are clandestine and that all lodges were to notify members that they were prohibited from buying Arkansas Masonic License Plates. The letter was poorly written and bled with what seemed to be racial undertones. Our lodge decided to post on the website the basic points and I added a personal note that the lodge didn’t condone the letter. I tried to play a politically-correct position for the lodge because we did not believe in what the letter stood for and did not want to be in a position to look as if we did. The post was made on around February 3rd, 2010.

After the election of the new Grand Master, I sent a petition for reinstatement of a brother who left Masonry in 2006. He left because his pastor declared that if the brother stayed in Masonry, he would not be allowed to participate in his congregation. I sought to resolve the issue promptly to welcome the brother back into our ranks. The secretary for the Grand Secretary explained to me that the petition need not be filled out entirely since it was for reinstatement. I took him for his word and didn’t stress the petition since we had the original from around 1987.

The new and current Grand Master, Martin “Gene” Warren, phoned me on March 10th, 2010. He informed me that the petition was wrong and that we needed to comply with some new digest directives. I said allright and that I would take care of it at the April stated communication. But, I did reiterate the point that the Grand Lodge feeds misinformation and there should be uniformity on these operations. He and I discussed many issues that are going to bring problems to Arkansas Masonry.

I brought up the Arkansas license plate letter and how racially-charged the letter came across. He told me that he understood and that it was a problem everywhere. He said it was all over the internet and causing Grand Lodge grief. I asked him what the lodge should do; he said that he knows lodges have to do things to protect their members and he understood I must do what was necessary.

Further, I suggested that we need to create a committee to open discussion with the Prince Hall Masons of Arkansas. He informed me that the Prince Hall people had no desire to be involved with “us” and that it would “ten years at least” before any communication would begin. I recall being told that the he (the Grand Master) has “a black friend at work” who is a Mason. But, the Grand Master doesn’t speak to him about Masonry.

On Wednesday, March 17th, 2010 I was in an airport flying to Peru. I received a call from our Worshipful Master informing me that the Grand Master has summoned us to a meeting on March 19th, 2010 and that I was required to attend with all lodge records. I said I couldn’t be there and the Worshipful Master said that most of our lodge members couldn’t attend with such short notice. We attempted to change the time but the Grand Master refused to do so. I left messages with his wife and the Grand Secretary informing them of my situation. They never returned a single call.

On Saturday, March 20th, 2010 I noticed a message from the Worshipful Master. He said the Grand Master spoke the “politically correct” language in assuring him that what was going on was “for the good of Masonry.” What was that you might wonder? The Grand Master demanded the charter of the lodge at the end of the meeting. This took everyone by surprise. We were led to believe it was just a general visit sit a Grand Master has not visited our lodge in several years. The Grand Master ordered the WM to notify me to remove the website immediately.

Rumors started circulating that I was to be expelled. No person at the Grand Lodge would return my phone calls. I called the Grand Master at home on March 24th, 2010. His wife answered; and when she heard my name, she got very quiet and her voice became shaky. This reaction told me that the rumors were true and that I would not receive an ounce of fairness and that my dignity would be wiped away.

Upon receiving the letter of expulsion, I had no further information was to what the real reason was. All it stated was for un-Masonic conduct in the “purchase, sell, or use of” Masonic ritual ciphers. Here I must note that the letter was not sent to me. The lodge treasurer received it (on March 25th 2010 approximately) and directed it to the Worshipful Master (WM). Then, the WM forwarded it to me. I received a copy on March 27th, 2010. The WM read it to me over the phone so that I would have an understanding quickly. Originally, various sources told me that the action was related to the website and license plate issue. Again, I reiterate that all website information came from other Arkansas lodges and the Arkansas Grand Lodge itself. However, the racial issue grew as I explain ahead.

After over twenty attempts at reaching the Grand Master via telephone, he returned my phone call from a phone on SPEAKER on Saturday night at 9:50pm. He tried several times in a row; he left a hateful voicemail that the last call, which I answered, was going to be the last one and then “it’s over.” Upon answering, I explained I was out with friends and didn’t have my questions in front of me. I requested that he return my phone call sometime on Sunday. He demanded to know the questions and laughed at the idea I didn’t know them all by heart. I asked a few of the main questions; he refused to furnish answers.

I was told that the COMMISSION has many questions for me and that I better be at the trial. Should I not be able to attend, I “better send someone” in my place. I explained that I didn’t know the charges, evidence, or testimony against me. He remained silent. I told him that this was a very un-Masonic reaction and this was beneath that of a Grand Master. He said “good bye.” I can only imagine who else was listening on the other end; one would bet that it was the upcoming COMMISSION as backed up by background noise in the voicemail left.

On Monday, March 29th, 2010 the Grand Master informed the former Worshipful Master of Sebastian Lodge that the website was not entirely offline. The Grand Master said that the lodge failed to comply with his mandate. The WM immediately notified me to remove all information, namesakes representing Sebastian, and to shut down the website immediately. Sebastian Lodge’s website expired on April 3rd, 2010. Immediately, I moved the letter and other information to my personal website.

During a discussion, with several friends, on Tuesday March 30th, 2010, the real issue came to light…the only issue that the Grand Lodge could use against me that no other Arkansas Mason has admitted to doing. In a prior conservation with Grand Master Warren Martin (Wednesday, March 10th, 2010 at 8:23 PM), I spoke of attending lodges in which Black Masons participating. I openly shared that I shook their hands and had other Masonic ties with them. These I was and will be happy admit. Some of those lodges were in Oklahoma and Texas, others were overseas. Nevertheless, all of the lodges were mainstream lodges. I have not had the honor to visit a Prince Hall lodge, though I hope to in the future. In the end, I told Grand Master Warren that no Mason can force me never to recognize another Mason because of his race, religion, or origin. I know he wasn't pleased by that statement.

The sole accusation poised is based upon entry 4.0.61 in the digest. That states:
The... use of cipher rituals of the three Symbolic Degrees of Masonry is forbidden; and ANY Mason who shall hereafter... use anything purporting to be a cipher ritual or written, printed or otherwise delineated ritual or exposition of Masonry shall be expelled from Masonry.
After debating any method of breaking such a by-law aside from the apparent Arkansas license plate and website stance, I realized that I overlooked one of the most obvious arguments. I gave the Masonic handshake (and another common sign of brotherly affection) to well over twenty Black Masons. I have sat in lodge with at least thirty Black Masons. I have spoken and had Masonic discussions with a Prior Grand Master of a Prince Hall jurisdiction. I have long-running Masonic relations with several Black Masons who served with me in the United States Air Force. They are some of my dearest friends and brothers.

If this comes down to expulsion because I have admittedly supported and fraternized with Black Masons (Prince Hall Masons), then I deem it to be a worthwhile adventure. Let's take a historical journey: it has been well over 250 years since the United States was given its freedom from tyranny. The Civil War took place 150 years ago. Importantly for Arkansas' racial crises, it was 59 years ago that the 101st Airborne drooped into Little Rock, Arkansas to force integration of Central High School.

On April 5, 2010 at 12:02pm I finally had a chance to speak with the COMMISSIONER of my pending trial. He refused to answer any of my questions about the cause of action and told me to figure it out on my own. I requested documents to assist in understanding the charge and he refused to send them. In the end, he said that so long as I provide proof that I’m in the military and was at drill, the trial date would be changed. I quickly offered to send him my calendar to ensure that the dates would be acceptable to everyone without any risk of conflicts on my end. This was outright refused. The phone call was enlightening in regards that I will not write about at this point, but may choose to do so once the verdict has been passed down. As of April 8, 2010 the new trial date has not been established and I cannot determine what will come next.

One can say that the Grand Lodge has always appeared been hostile. From the get-go, everything was difficult. However, I did my best to follow the rules and tried to get clarification at times when it was needed. I find that the lack of brotherly love was always apparent and I have no doubt that many more Arkansas Masons, expelled or good standing, feel the same way. Unfortunately, many are afraid to stand up and demand the change necessary to continue mainstream Masonry in Arkansas.

— Bro. Derek Gordon

Image: Bro. Derek Gordon

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The handshake of expulsion

The following is by Bro. Derek Gordon, a young Freemason from Arkansas. The Grand Lodge of Arkansas has charged him with unmasonic conduct. If "convicted," he will be expelled from Masonry.

The Handshake of Expulsion: The true story about “un-Masonic conduct*” of a respectful brother

by Brother Derek Gordon Last updated on: April 5, 2010

After much reflection, I have concluded that the true crime for which the Grand Master wishes to accuse me has come to light. And it is a violation that I take no shame in committing.

As my brethren around the world have now seen, I did not provide secret information on the Sebastian Lodge website but used information from other Arkansas lodges and as well as the Grand Lodge itself. The Grand Master’s claim has been defeated by the massive trove of evidence gathered by many Masonic brethren in support of me.

As I was denied my right to due process, I am left to my own devices to determine why on this great earth and in this great country I would considered for expulsion. And then it occurred to me…what my violation will be. In a conversation with Grand Master Warren Martin I spoke of attending lodges in the presence of Black Masons. I openly shared my reflection of the warm conversations we had. The lodges were not in Arkansas but rather in two other states as well as overseas. All were mainstream lodges. I have not been invited to a Prince Hall Lodge; however, because of this process I can say that I would be honored to do so.

I realize now that I overlooked one of the most obvious arguments. I gave the Masonic handshake (and another common sign of brotherly affection) to well over twenty Black Masons. I have sat in lodge with at least thirty Black Masons. I have spoken with a Prior Grand Master of a Prince Hall jurisdiction. I have long-running Masonic relations with several Black Masons who served with me in the United States Air Force. They are some of my dearest friends and brothers.

The sole accusation poised is based upon entry 4.0.61 in the digest. That states: "The... use of cipher rituals of the three Symbolic Degrees of Masonry is forbidden; and ANY Mason who shall hereafter... use anything purporting to be a cipher ritual or written, printed or otherwise delineated ritual or exposition of Masonry shall be expelled from Masonry."

There is only one possible way to accuse me of violating the above quote from my Notice of Trial letter. Simply put, I would have to be accused of knowingly sitting in a lodge, mainstream aside, with Black Masons. And, being that the brothers were Black Masons, it is reasonable in the eyes of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas to assume those men must be Prince Hall. I must humbly point out to the Arkansas leadership that Black men can be Mainstream or Prince Hall; Arkansas tends to frown upon certain races, religions, or origins, yet this does not mean that all other Mainstream jurisdictions must act as a unified bigot.

These United States have stood in solidarity against tyranny for greater than nearly 250 years. The Civil War and great Abraham Lincoln brought emancipation to all nearly 150 years ago. Just over 50 years ago, Arkansas was at the epicenter of the death of segregation when “The Little Rock 9” entered a high school for white students supported by the 101st Airborne Division. How can it be that Arkansas is one of the three states that still forces segregation of the brotherhood? Why is this tolerated? Who will stand up to such hatred?

Let your voices be heard along with mine. Tell Grand Master Martin Warren and Grand Secretary James Weatherall what is truly “for the good of the Masonry**.” As the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called out, “Let freedom ring,” and this time let it be from the capital of Little Rock, Arkansas.

Whether the Grand Master still believes that my expulsion is “for the good of the Masonry” is for him to determine. In my heart and with a clear conscience, I can say that I will always hold the values of the Free Masons... the truly “free” Masons.

* I stand accused of “un-Masonic conduct” for reasons that the Grand Lodge of Arkansas refused to delineate. The Grand Inquisitor (Chairmen, Grand Lodge Trial Commission), John Penrod, was kind enough to inform me that I must determine the causes of action the Grand Lodge of Arkansas has against me. And, the Inquisitor refused to provide materials that might shed light on such issues.

** The Grand Master assured the Worshipful Master and other brethren of Sebastian Lodge that revoking its charter, and my expulsion, was "for the good of Masonry." I would disagree with that statement; but, I'm unworthy in their eyes of being a Mason.

Added note: The phone call discussing Prince Hall Masonry with the Grand Master of Arkansas took place on Wednesday, March 10th, 2010 at 8:23P.M. CST.

— Bro. Derek Gordon

Images: Bro. Derek Gordon

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Friday, April 02, 2010

Letter from an expelled Arkansas Freemason

The Burning Taper receives many emails from Freemasons and others interested in Masonry. With the writer's permission, I'm sharing with you a recent email from an expelled Mason from Arkansas.

Dear Brother WS,

I read the posts regarding the recent events in Arkansas Masonry with great interest and consternation for I had hoped this sort of thing was finished in Arkansas following the debacle of the schism of 2004-2005, sparked by the refusal of then Deputy Grand Master Franks to answer to the brethren their questions regarding the rules of succession in the event the Grand Master is unable or unwilling to fulfill his duty as specified in the Digest of Rules, Laws, and Edicts. I should clarify that statement: DGM Franks didn't "refuse" to listen to the questions of the Brethren — his reply simply consisted of an attitude of "because I said so" followed by a speedy threat of suspension pending Masonic trial. If one were so bold as to ask again, he would be met with stony silence and could expect a letter in the mail specifying time and place for his trial. Expulsion was the guaranteed outcome.

I should know, for I received trial in their kangaroo court.

Now, we find that Bro. Gordon is suffering the same fate, all because he chose to communicate via the internet to his Brothers the edict issued by the GL regarding the purchase of Masonic license plates for their vehicles.

I was always told that only the esoteric work of the Fraternity was never to be published in any form whatsoever and that anything found in print offered by the Grand Lodge was open to all. After all, the Fraternity is not a "secret organization" but an organization with secrets. Evidently, the GL of Arkansas has decided to close all communications to the "profane" or un-initiated unless it be spun, washed, and manipulated in such a manner to meet approval of the powers-that-be. I pity those who would choose to subjugate themselves under such a tyranny and would hope the eyes and minds of the Brethren in Arkansas and elsewhere be opened to the truth of such self-serving actions by those who are supposed to lead the fraternity.

As you might expect, I must ask that my identity be withheld as there are some I am proud to still call Brother and do not wish to cause them any harm from retribution by the Grand Lodge of Arkansas.

Please feel free to contact me at your leisure if you have any questions.

Fraternally yours,
[name deleted]
Expelled Mason
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What is the purpose of Freemasonry?

"The purpose of Freemasonry is not charity nor is it a fraternal society. These are but attributes which have developed. The real purpose of Masonry is the eternal search for truth, the truth about God, and the immortality of the soul. The various degrees represent the different levels through which the human mind passes while moving from ignorance to knowledge. The collecting of all the symbols and mysteries throughout the ages is but man's search for the divine truth. As we say in our ritual, 'from darkness to light.'" — Rt. Ex. William Adrian Brown (Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Virginia), "Facts, Fables and Fantasies of Freemasonry," Missouri Lodge of Research, 1968

The above quote is the basis for an excellent article titled "From Darkness to Light," on one of my favorite Masonic blogs, Three Ruffians.

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Bro. Hodapp on Masonic racism

In the comments section to his own March 30 blog article "Grand Lodge of Arkansas Pulls Charter, Files Charges Over Website," Bro. Chris Hodapp posted the following words, which I found especially direct and meaningful. With his permission, I am reposting his comments as a guest article here.

I have stacks of emails from Masons in many states with stories about frankly appalling decisions, actions and behavior by grand lodge officers over the last dozen years. I'm sure Fred Milliken and Widow's Son have them as well. I have no desire to drag them across the internet — much of it is gossip, much of it is hearsay, much of it is hard to prove. But much of it is not.

What is fast becoming clear is that some grand lodges have recently become nervous about embarrassing statements and edicts being leaked to the public, and worse, being posted on the internet. Funny thing about this technology, the way it shines a bright light on things that don't look so good when they are all lit up.

There is no question that not every grand master is perfect. The level of imperfection varies wildly, but there is a certain type of person who believes he has absolute power to rule with an iron whim, exact revenge, and in short, behave in ways that absolutely fly in the face of everything our fraternity teaches us. Fortunately, such men with a misunderstanding of their position and duties don't often make it to the Grand East. Unfortunately, enough do that there are Masons who live in fear every day for their dues card, who fail to stand up for what is right and proper because it's hard to do if the choice is shut up or be expelled. But allowing politics, revenge, racism, criminal misconduct, and worse to enter into the highest levels of the fraternity is something no Mason should stand by and allow to happen without demanding better leadership.

Both of my folks are from Louisville, Kentucky, and I have lived part of my life in Virginia. My father lives in Georgia now. I've seen racism in the Deep South, and in the North. Ignorance knows know boundaries, and I learned long ago not to get fooled one way or the other by accent and diction. I don't see "South" and automatically think of banjo music and rotten teeth. But there is no dodging the fact that all of the states left in the US that do not recognize their Prince Hall counterparts are, with the exception of West Virginia, members of the Old Confederacy. There are states where lodge officers and grand lodge officers are trying hard to make changes. There are other states where an entrenched old guard would rather that Freemasonry die than let a man of a different race pass the Tyler's door. And the same is true on both the mainstream side and the Prince Hall side.

We've all heard the excuses, and it's embarrassing that they are the same ones trotted out back in the days of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. You'd have thought the least that could happen would be some new ones invented. The point is, it's not 1954 anymore. I had an Atlanta police officer (much younger than I was) who was a Mason literally poke me in the chest and tell me I was destroying Freemasonry by allowing black men to join my lodge, that black men could NOT be Masons because of the Ancient Landmarks, and that "down here we know how to treat 'em." I'm sorry, but that cop needs to be up on Masonic charges (and possibly before a civilian review panel, as well). The same goes for any grand lodge officer who shares those sentiments. There is no place for it in a fraternity that trots out the cardinal virtues and proclaims universal benevolence in one breath, and then proves they know nothing about the subjects in the next. And I have no illusion that there aren't Prince Hall Masons who would rather open a vein than let a white man in his lodge, as well.

Our petitions are color blind, and our fraternity should be too.

I'm not a big one for demanding that other grand lodges use the nuclear option and drop fraternal relations with the openly racist jurisdictions. It only hurts sojourning brethren, and it threatens the sovereignty of the grand lodge system. In the 1870s, New York accused Indiana of destroying the fraternity by prohibiting alcohol in lodge rooms, and threatened to withdraw recognition over it (They were probably right.). More recently, the imbroglio over the Grand Lodge of France and Minnesota brought down the wrath of Michigan, New York and other GLs, when clearly they had absolutely zero justification. One man's justifiable reason is another's personal grudge.

But the time HAS come for grand masters outside of the Confederacy to start making noise and whispering good council in the ears of their Southern brethren. Prince Hall recognition has been an issue since 1948. It's been 62 years, and for nearly 20% of the United States to still be having this argument is a disgrace. Young professional men don't find discrimination in their businesses, housing, transportation, or lunch counters. For it to exist in their fraternity is appalling.

— Bro. Chris Hodapp

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Text of letter from GM of Arkansas forbidding purchase of Masonic license plates

In January, 2010 the then-Grand Master of of Arkansas, Ronald Hedge, sent a letter to lodge secretaries forbidding Arkansas "mainstream" Freemasons to purchase or display Arkansas Masonic license plates.

The text of the letter reads:
January 25, 2010

Dear Brother Secretary:

I am sending this letter to your lodge in the hope of heading off a possible problem which has been caused by the State Revenue Department. It has been brought to my attention that the state has come out with a Freemason license plate. The best I can find out is this license plate originates from the Grand Lodge of Prince Hall Masons and part of the money derived from the sale of these license plates goes to a charity sponsored by the Prince Hall Grand Lodge.

After several calls to ascertain what the procedure was for obtaining these plates; [sic] I came to the conclusion that the method of screening individuals, to see if they were eligible to purchase the plates was not sufficient to ensure that our members could not purchase them. We have laws which strictly prohibit communication and Masonic intercourse with clandestine lodges and members of clandestine lodges. It is my opinion as your Grand Master that the purchase of these license plates would be in contradiction to our laws. Thus I am directing that no member of a subordinate lodge under the jurisdiction of the M. W. Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Arkansas purchase the license plates.

I am sending your lodge this letter to be read at your next stated communication. I am further directing that the Worshipful Master appoint a phone committee to contact every member of your lodge, who is an Arkansas resident; [sic] or that a letter be sent out to the same; [sic] informing them that they are not to purchase one of these license plates.

I appreciate your attention to this serious problem and will thank you in advance for your efforts to help ensure that our members are informed and do not inadvertently violate our Masonic law.

[signed] Ronald Hedge
Grand Master
So many questions, thoughts and opinions race through my mind as I read and type this. Some of the issues have been discussed and debated in depth on The Burning Taper before.

The definition of "clandestine" is "hidden or unknown," not "unrecognized." Prince Hall lodges are hardly hidden or unknown, not even in Arkansas. How, in the 21st century, can G.M. Hedge cling to 18th century jargon and call Prince Hall lodges "clandestine"?

And has G.M. Hedge never spoken to a Prince Hall member on matters of Masonry? Maybe not... but if he has, did he commit the "crime" of conducting Masonic intercourse with a clandestine Mason?

How would purchasing a license plate from the state be an act of Masonic intercourse?

Masons take an obligation to abide by "edicts" of their grand lodge. Since when is an "opinion" by a grand master an edict? By tradition, an edict is proclaimed as an edict, and usually given an official name and number.

Is a grand master the presiding officer, judge and jury? By what right does a grand master claim this authority?

What do you think?

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Tell the Grand Lodge of Arkansas what you think

If you would like to make your voice heard to the officers of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas, here is their contact list, adapted from the Arkansas Grand Lodge website, where you can see the full list of 2009 officers.

Grand Lodge of Arkansas
700 Scott Street
Little Rock, AR 72201

Martin Warren, Grand Master
529 Ridgecrest Rd
Heber Springs, AR

Garry C. Jones, PGM Grand Treasurer
17810 Middle Ridge Rd
Ozark, Arkansas 72949

Robert L. Jackson, Grand Senior Deacon
5617 Applewood Dr
North Little Rock, AR 72118

Richard Gambill, Grand Lecturer
1769 CR 342
Jonesboro, AR 72401

Myles Oliver, Deputy Grand Master
503 Indian Bay Dr
Sherwood, AR 72120

Image: M.W. Martin Warren, Grand Master of Arkansas, 2010

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Comments welcome!

Because of the huge amount of robot spam postings during the time The Burning Taper was temporarily dormant, the comment feature was deleted for a time.

The settings have now been changed, and we once again welcome comments to our posts.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

GL of AR's letter to Bro. Derek Gordon

This is the letter the Grand Lodge of Arkansas sent to Bro. Derek Gordon. Details on this story can be found here and here. We will post further developments as they become known.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

'Aftermath of the Arkansas License Plate Scandal' by Bro. Fred Milliken

The following article by Bro. Fred Millikan appeared yesterday on his blog, The Beehive, a part of the FreemasonInformation network. Bro. Fred's article provides more information, and some insight, into the events The Burning Taper reported on March 26 surrounding the shutting down of a lodge website by the Grand Lodge of Arksansas and the upcoming Masonic trial of Bro. Derek Gordon.

Collateral Damage — The Aftermath of the Arkansas License Plate Scandal

March 28, 2010

What follows is the story of a young Mason who is caught in the middle between a Grand Master who is stuck in the past, in pre Civil War Masonry and those of us who have an improved 21st century view of life and practice Masonry accordingly. Far from being some firebrand, screaming reformer, Derek Gordon is a mild mannered, respectful Mason who has no ax to grind. He only wished to present his Lodge as favorable towards the civil rights of all citizens regardless of color. For that he is going to pay the ultimate price for being a human being.

This is his story as he told it to me:

You are secretary and webmaster of your Lodge, Sebastian Lodge #706, Grand Lodge of Arkansas F & AM.. You are a 23 year old student studying law in the neighboring state hundreds of miles from your Lodge. You have decided to volunteer to help Peruvians caught in northern Chile in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. As you stand in line to board your international flight to Peru your cell phone rings. It is the Worshipful Master of your Lodge with an important message – the Grand Master wants an immediate meeting with you. You convey to the Worshipful Master that will not be possible for a number of weeks, but that when you return you would be most happy to accommodate the Grand Master. The Worshipful Master is unable to tell you what this request is all about.

You immediately call the Grand Secretary and apprise him of the situation. He tells you that the Grand Master is in a meeting but that he will pass on to him your information and travel itinerary.

You make your trip to Peru and in your time there you make numerous phone calls back to Arkansas, leaving messages with the Grand Master’s wife at his residence and the Grand Secretary. None of your phone calls are ever returned.

You learn that while you were away that the Grand Master did not wait for your return but proceeded ahead all guns blazing! With just two days notice the Grand Master came to Sebastian Lodge to pull its charter and announce formal charges against you.

You can’t understand how this could all happen. What’s the beef? Friends notify you that the problem was the posting on the Lodge website of the Grand Master’s request that Arkansas Masonic license plates not be purchased by members of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas AF & AM. Other Lodges in the state made similar postings on their websites and their charters are still intact and their webmasters still honored members. Perhaps it was the sentence at the end that this was not necessarily the view of the Lodge. But you complied with the Grand Master’s edict that all members of the Lodge be notified of his ruling.

Other members get in touch with you to tell you that the Grand Master said in his visit to Sebastian Lodge to pull its charter that there were thousands of complaints received by the Grand Lodge about the website of Sebastian Lodge. They tell you that you are being charged with placing Grand Lodge and Masonic information on a public website in violation of a recent Grand Lodge ruling. You are also charged with posting Grand Lodge Resolutions to the Grand Lodge publicly.

You find this hard to believe. You have taken whatever Masonic information is posted on Sebastian’s website from three other Arkansas Lodge websites. A 1700’s lecture is really a historical document not an expose of Masonic secrets & ritual and other Arkansas Lodges have considered it so much a part of their Arkansas Masonic tradition that they have also posted it on their websites. None of them are having their charters pulled. Huntsville Lodge has ten times the Masonic information publicly displayed on its website. You had picked just a few interesting posts from this Lodge to include on Sebastian’s website. Boone Lodge, among others, has posted publicly on its website the Grand Master’s ban on license plates.

Huntsville has posted much more Masonic information publicly for a longer period of time. While you created Sebastian’s website in May of 2009, Huntsville and other Lodges have had posted Masonic information for up to 10 years. Your sources from which you copied the material you posted on Sebastian Lodge’s website included Crossett Masonic Lodge #576 F & AM and The Carroll County Mason, both of which were hosted by the now defunct Geocities. Another source was Key Lodge #7 – None of these other Lodges are under indictment.

If the Grand Lodge is so concerned about electronic transmission of Masonic material why has it posted a link to Huntsville Lodge on the Grand Lodge website for years?

This makes no sense to you. The recent ruling on not posting any Masonic matter on a public website nor the use of the internet for any Masonic matters, including E-Mails was just passed at last month’s Grand Session. It was a little known resolution that received no debate and was passed with a vote made with it grouped with other matters. As secretary of the Lodge you have never received official notification of this ruling in the mail as is the usual custom. You also have not received any written notification of any charges preferred against you.

Perhaps the problem also stems from the fact that you tried to form a committee for Prince Hall recognition. But the Grand Master told you that Prince Hall did not desire to have anything to do with the Grand Lodge of Arkansas AF & AM. Recognition is ten years away if at all, you remember the Grand Master saying.

Later you are notified that the Lodge on 3/24/10 has finally received the letter of charges against you and the date for a Masonic trial. You are now back from Peru. This document should have been sent to you personally and you should have been the first person to read it. Along with the document of charges in the mail comes the official Grand Lodge notification of the ban on any and all Masonic electronic transmissions. You check with other Secretaries in other Arkansas Lodges. They have just received the same official notice of the new ruling and this is the first time they have heard of it. So it seems that you will be prosecuted for violating a ruling before it was officially put into place.

You are told the date for your Masonic trial is a date you will be on maneuvers with the Arkansas National Guard. You feel that the Grand Lodge knows that you are a member of the National Guard, knows that it is holding weekend maneuvers which require compulsory attendance and has thus scheduled your Masonic trial on the Saturday of these maneuvers deliberately. But the document is still not in your hands. Your information is second hand.

Finally the document of charges comes into your possession:

As a parting gesture you post this parting message on Sebastian’s website.

UPDATED: 27 March 2010.

SebastianLodge.Com is down for the foreseeable future.

Thank you for visiting.

We have had well over 20,000 visitors in our one year in operation. We hope that we can return and provide one of the most-visited Masonic website on the net.

Our charter was revoked for being un-Masonic as to our website. I, Derek Gordon, apologize for mentioning the order to not purchase license plates. As the order said, all members must be notified. This seemed to be a great way to get it there as many members visited.

I, being secretary, webmaster, legal domain owner, and creator of this website, never meant to upset Grand Lodge. Rather, I sought to protect our lodge because so many saw the letter as racist. I realize it was not meant to taken that way, but its poor penmanship didn’t get the proper message across. Other Arkansas lodges have the same kind of post, yet they still have their charter. Some Arkansas lodges and members have posted the entire letter from the Grand Secretary online and those two have yet to see punishment.

*REGARDING other information supplied and provided on the Sebastian Lodge website, it was all found on other Arkansas lodge websites. Some of those were created as far back as 2001; this site was created in May of 2009. I never typed a single word regarding the lectures and Masonic history. The page source-code made light of that. I posted the Masonic informatoin because it had been written by and posted on other Arkansas lodge websites for years; I thought it must be acceptable by precedent. As a Mason of 2.5 years, I was foolish to believe that if other lodges are allowed to do something (created by Masons who have been in much longer than I have), it would be acceptable for our lodge to display as well.

To my former brethren of Sebastian Lodge, I apologize to you for this instance. I felt that we were safe after finding the post on so many other sites. There’s much more to the story, but out of respect for Masonry and for the title of Grand Master and the Grand Lodge I will humbly refrain.

I further urge all Masons to support Sebastian Lodge in reobtaining its charter. By this I outline that I was doing what was seen as acceptable by precedent. The lodge itself was not involved in this directly. I am ashamed at the outcome.

Currently, I’m awaiting a Masonic trial for expulsion that I cannot make it to. It is scheduled for the weekend of April 17th, 2010 when the Military has summoned me to work. The Grand Lodge will not return my phone calls and one can only imagine the desired outcome.

Should you wish to contact me, it is possible by emailing webmaster706 @ I’d suggest removing the spaces around the @.

“Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.” – George Washington

Derek Gordon
Former Secretary, 706


All this was told to me by Brother Derek Gordon whose Lodge Sebastian Lodge #706 is no more and who awaits expulsion at a very young age from the Craft he loves. This is his story in his words.

But our observations are really questions. We are perplexed. What was the rush? Why could this whole affair have not waited until Gordon returned from his trip? Why would the Grand Master not wait for a personal meeting before proceeding unilaterally? Why prosecute a Brother for posting material that was already published 300 years ago and as recently as last month on other Arkansas Lodge’s websites? Why schedule Gordon’s Masonic trial on a weekend when you (GL) were told he was on maneuvers and why have you yet to make arrangements to reschedule? WHY HAS THE GRAND LODGE OF ARKANSAS’ WEBSITE BEEN SHUT DOWN?

To those who would like to support Brother Derek Gordon we urge you not only to get in touch with him but also to voice your opinion with the Grand Master of Arkansas.

— Bro. Fred Milliken

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Are Freemasons from another planet?

The 13th Annual UFO Symposium was held this weekend at the Aztec, New Mexico Masonic Lodge, today's Durango Herald reported.

What a great setting for a UFO conference. The mingling of Masonry and aliens should convince our critics we really are involved in global conspiracies, magick and interstellar hijinks.

Featured guest speakers at the two-day conference included Stan Friedman, Kenn Thomas, and Lyn Buchanan.

Friedman is a long-time UFO investigator, author, and former nuclear physicist who has written books on the Roswell, NM alien crash in 1947.

Kenn Thomas is the long-time publisher of Steamshovel magazine. The mag's tagline is "All Conspiracy. No Theory."

Buchanan is a former military operative who came to fame in the 1980s for his involvement in the government's Stargate project. The character Lyn Cassady, played by George Clooney in the 2009 film The Men Who Stare at Goats, is based on Buchanan. Goats, of course, are widely associated with Freemasonry.

I'm sure it was an interesting weekend.

Image: Men examining Roswell crash debris, 1947

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Grand Lodge of Arkansas pulls charter of lodge for publicizing edict banning purchase of Masonic license plates

On Feb. 27, The Burning Taper reported on the Grand Lodge of Arkansas's edict forbidding "mainstream" Masons from purchasing Masonic license tags from the state of Arkansas because the original project was developed by, and a part of the proceeds went to, the Arkansas Prince Hall grand lodge.

In that story, we mentioned a notice on the website of an Arkansas mainstream lodge, Sebastian Lodge No. 706.

The website has been removed, and the lodge has had its charter revoked for its post.

The following is now posted at
SebastianLodge.Com is down for the foreseeable future.

Thank you for visiting.

We have had well over 20,000 visitors in our one year in operation. We hope that we can return and provide one of the most-visited Masonic website on the net.

Our charter was revoked for being un-Masonic as to our website. I, Derek Gordon, apologize for mentioning the order to not purchase license plates. As the order said, all members must be notified. This seemed to be a great way to get it there as many members visited. I, being secretary, webmaster, legal domain owner, and creator of this website, never meant to upset Grand Lodge. Rather, I sought to protect our lodge because so many saw the letter as racist. I realize it was not meant to taken that way, but its poor penmanship didn't get the proper message across. Other Arkansas lodges have the same kind of post, yet they still have their charter. Some Arkansas lodges and members have posted the entire letter from the Grand Secretary online and those two have yet to see punishment.

To my former brethren of Sebastian Lodge, I apologize to you for this instance. I felt that we were safe after finding the post on so many other sites. There's much more to the story, but out of respect for Masonry and for the title of Grand Master and the Grand Lodge I will humbly refrain.

I further urge all Masons to support Sebastian Lodge in reobtaining its charter. By this I outline that I was doing what was seen as acceptable by precedent. The lodge itself was not involved in this directly. I am ashamed at the outcome.

Currently, I'm awaiting a Masonic trial for expulsion that I cannot make it to. It is scheduled for the weekend of April 17th, 2010 when the Military has summoned me to work. The Grand Lodge will not return my phone calls and one can only imagine the desired outcome.

Should you wish to contact me, it is possible by emailing webmaster706 @ I'd suggest removing the spaces around the @.

"Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder." — George Washington

Derek Gordon
Former Secretary, 706

Deplorable! Arkansas Masons should be ashamed of their grand lodge and its officers.

An announcement similar to Sebastian's original statement still appears on the website of Boone Lodge No. 314:
NOTICE: Grand Lodge of Arkansas has declared that no Arkansas Freemason is to purchase a Masonic Arkansas license plate. These are for Prince Hall Masons, which Arkansas considers to be clandestine lodges.

This notice fulfills the requirement of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas for each subordinated Lodge to inform their members.

The publishing of this notice does not necessarily reflect the views of Boone Lodge or its members.
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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Christian cultists convicted of starving baby to death

Long-time readers of The Burning Taper know that I find stories about the bizarre things people do in the "name of Jesus" fascinating. These stories to me are like train wrecks I just can't ignore.

Personally, I think the entire Christian religion could be pared down to two Bible passages: 1 John 4:8 and Luke 10:25-34. The first passage says, "God is love." The second passage is the story of the Good Samaritan, where the punch line is, "Love thy neighbor as thyself."

All else is just further explanation of these two passages. Unfortunately, the rest of the Bible seems to confuse some people greatly, giving us whacked-out nutball Christians like Jimmy Swaggart, Tim Haggard, and those crusty bastards at the Westboro Baptist Church.

And now these idiots.

"Queen Antoinette," "Princess Trevia," and "Prince Marcus," starved to death one-year old Javon Thompson because he supposedly refused to say "Amen" after a mealtime prayer. Five other members of the Maryland household, including the baby's mother Ria Ramkissoon, also failed to feed Javon, under orders from their "queen."

Queen Antoinette said that Javon had a "spirit of rebellion" in him.

The child's mummified body was found in a suitcase over a year after he died. The "queen" said that one day Javon would be resurrected.

The trio submitted only one piece of evidence at their murder and child abuse trial: a handwritten application for non-profit status for her organization, "1 Mind Ministries." In the application Queen Antoinette, whose real name is Toni Sloan, describes herself "as a chosen daughter of the most high God and a queen of Jesus Christ."

I could rant on this all day, but why bother? Read the story for yourself. Read 'em all. There are details in each story not in the other one.And then tell me what it is about Christianity that brings out the crazy in so many people?

Image: Left, Ria Ramkissoon and her son Javon Thompson; top right, Queen Antoinette aka Toni Sloane; bottom right, Trevia Williams, who is Sloan's daughter.

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