“I was asked a very odd question the other evening and I’m not sure I gave the right answer. It’s about criminals applying for Masonic membership.” The Master was in the lodge’s kitchen busily tossing a very large salad for the evening’s festivities.
The Old Webmaster had been drawn to the luscious aroma of roast beef cooking the instant he’d entered the building. After having offered his services and been advised that all was under control, he now leaned idly on a nearby counter. “Tell us about it.”, he said.
“I was just coming in to the parking lot for the officers’ rehearsal when I was approached by a fellow who was walking by. He asked about joining. I stopped right there figuring that this might be another potential candidate but he then asked whether having a criminal record would be a problem. Offhand, I just couldn’t remember whether there’s anything in the Grand Lodge rules about that – and I told him so – but I added that I didn’t think our lodge would vote favorably knowing such a thing. I asked if this was something current or in the far distant past. He began to get indignant and said that he could simply not tell us about it. I responded that lying to join an organization of men who shared a brotherhood built on trust wasn’t any way to go about things and that we did do background checks. He went off in a huff but it got me to thinking about the whole issue.”
“You two are certainly deep in conversation – not to mention you being deep in lettuce as well, Worshipful.” It was the cheerful voice of the immediate past District Deputy who’d learned during his term that a dinner at this lodge was not one to miss.
“Well, we were actually talking about criminals becoming Masons.” replied the Master in a far more serious tone. “It’s that ‘guarding the West gate’ thing we hear so much about.”
The new arrival looked at The Old Webmaster whose nod and hand gesture invited his own response. “We have, as you probably both know, a prohibition in this jurisdiction against accepting a felon. Frankly, I think it’s a good one though sometimes I’ve heard disagreement. A couple of years ago, a lodge at the other end of the state even petitioned the Grand Master for a special waiver, arguing that the man had paid his debt to society through his prison sentence.”
“That is an interesting example, Brother.” said The Old Webmaster chiming in. “In fact, the Grand Master called me to ask what kind of arguments I’d seen on the internet about the issue. I told him that everything I’d seen had always missed the mark entirely.”
“Which is???” asked the Master, deciding he’d tossed the lettuce quite enough at this point.
“The victims!” replied The Old Webmaster solemnly. “It’s all well and good for someone totally detached to say that the individual has paid his debt to society but what if you were the victim of the crime? Would you agree? Perhaps, but it’s certainly not something we can assume. Victims suffer considerably, externally but emotionally far more. While one or two or ten years behind bars might satisfy the statutory requirements, it can never remove the scars that the victims have endured.”
“Now that you’ve said that” replied the past District Deputy “I remember the Grand Master saying at a meeting of all the Grand Lodge officers – I was a Grand Junior Steward at the time – that you were the one who’d brought this up. Sure made a lot of sense to me. He also said that if he were a member of a victim’s family who had an ancestor who was a Mason, they would be appalled to see someone who’d given them such grief being elevated to such an honor as that of becoming a Mason.”
The Master looked from one to the other thoughtfully. “But what about something like a ‘white collar crime’. No victim!”
“Tell that to the people who lost their jobs at Enron!” replied the visitor. “I’m not sure they’d consider themselves victimless.” The Old Webmaster nodded his assent slowly.
“But what about a crime committed as a juvenile? No wait: I just answered my own question. They’d be no record because it would be sealed.”
“That’s true” responded The Old Webmaster “but when you ask someone about a criminal past and they lie to you, it should give you a reasonable expectation as to what could transpire in the future. Beyond that, if the Investigating Committee is doing their job, there will likely be some hints of a problem along the way. They may not be entitled to the records but if somebody is lying….”
“After I’d encountered that fellow near the parking lot, I went home and read a couple of posts on the internet asserting that each case should be considered on its merits. That is a compelling argument, after all.” The Master looked from one to another for corroboration.
“Not to be contrary, Worshipful, but let’s look at who has previously considered the merits and who’ll be doing so on our behalf. Previously a jury and/or judge weighed all the evidence and came to the conclusion that the man was guilty of a crime. He was entitled to and received legal representation committed to proving his innocence. He was tried under a standard set of procedures which govern us all. In fact, it’s commonly argued that someone with a good lawyer could get away with anything so in that case, there’d be no crime to report. The fact that there was a conviction should certainly tell us something. Going further, though, who’d be doing the judging if we were to consider such an applicant? Would we have the benefit of hearing the arguments on BOTH sides or would we just hear a biased version from the adjudicated criminal? To me, the whole thing is specious at the outset but that doesn’t seem to stop some people from arguing for its support.”
The three men looked at each other. The Master finally broke the silence. “I need to start going with my first instincts on things more often. Considering criminals is stupid and so would be putting salad dressing on this salad before it’s served. I think we can probably head up to the lodge room now.”
The Old Webmaster had a broad grin on his face as he spoke to the Past District Deputy. “I’m always nervous standing beside our Master when he’s armed with salad tongs – and thinking!” The three men laughed heartily and the two waved to the others in the kitchen as they departed. Considering criminals as candidates was for now a moot issue for their lodge – and well it should be, thought The Old Webmaster.
[tags]The Old Webmaster, freemasonry, masonic, criminals, crime, masonry, lodge[/tags]