"Wasatch Lodge No.1 and St Andrews Lodge No.34 Oration" Gavin K. K. Wardrope, W. Grand Orator

Holding a Ballot to Ransom

Most Worshipful Grand Master, Most Worshipful Past Grand Masters, Right Worshipful Brothers, Worshipful Brothers and Brethren all, good evening.

I stand here tonight not to lecture, but to bring to your attention to something that, I feel, has become a disturbing trend in Utah Freemasonry and one which if not addressed could have serious repercussions for the Lodges.

I wish to talk this evening regarding Section 3-7-16 of the Grand Lodge of Utah Code. I am sure that everyone here is very familiar with the 2 paragraphs of its contents.

If not, I will keep you in suspense for just a few moments.

Over the past few months in my various travels I have been involved with and witnessed an increase in the rejection of Petitioners for the Degrees in Masonry. This I can understand to a certain extent, but recently I witnessed a sitting Master of a Lodge in this jurisdiction being rejected for re-affiliation into his Mother Lodge.

While the incident itself was distressing to the Worshipful Brother involved, I was shocked and when I had time to contemplate it further the next day it made me angry that a Brother mason, or more correctly Brother masons, as he was rejected, dared to say that a sitting Master was unworthy of affiliation into his Mother, or even, a sister Lodge.

I have not mentioned that during the Ballot itself Cell Phones were being used. How are the regulations initially adopted in the 1700s still relevant today?

If this is not an abuse of the Ballot Box I do not know what else it could be.

Section 3-7-16 if you have not determined by now relates to the Ballot and I quote; "The secret ballot is the Masonic method for the expression of the opinion of a Member. The right of every Member of a Lodge to the secret ballot for the degrees or for affiliation is inherent and absolute."

This method has been around for over 150 years and has lasted the test of time but I wish to ask the question is it time to change?

Section 3-7-16 goes on to say; 'Any member who has been actuated by unworthy motives in the exercise of this right shall be liable to Masonic discipline and punishment.'

I suggest to you, Brethren, that this is exactly what is happening but how can it be stopped?

It should never be known how a Member has cast his Ballot, but surely, there must be some way for the actions to be accounted for. Is it right that one Brother can hold a Ballot to ransom?

A Masters prerogative is to appoint an Investigation Committee to inquire about the suitability of a Candidate to join, or affiliate, to a Lodge. Their number is usually 3; however, only 2 need investigate the Candidate. After the reception of the Investigation Committees report the petition should be balloted upon, whether the report is favorable or unfavorable.

However, how much credence should be given to the Investigation Committees recommendation? Surely if 3 Brethren are entrusted with determining if a Candidate is worthy of admittance their advice should not be discarded frivolously. If it is and a Ballot is declared dark what is the Lodge also saying to these Brethren?

If we look in the General Regulations or Modern General Regulations of a Freemason as contained in the Anderson Constitutions as presented in 1721 in Article 6 it reads, 'But no man can enter'd a Brother in any particular Lodge, or admitted to be a Member thereof, without the unanimous Consent of all the Members of that Lodge then present when the Candidate is propos'd, and their Consent is formally ask'd by the Master; and they are to signify their Consent or Dissent in their own Prudent Way, either virtually or in form, but with Unanimity: Nor is this inherent Privilege subject to a Dispensation; because the Members of a particular Lodge are the best Judges of it; and if a fractious Member should be impos'd on them, it might spoil their Harmony, or hinder their Freedom; or even break and disperse the Lodge, which ought to be avoided by all good and true Brethren.'

Brethren, remember at this time the only mode of transport available was a horse and cart, if you could afford one, in villages where Lodges were situated everybody knew everybody, there were no secrets, even when I was a child your family's business was everybody's business.

Voting in the mid-nineteenth century was still done in public by 'show of hands' at the 'hustings' (a temporary, public platform from which candidates for Parliament were nominated). A landlord or employer could therefore see how their tenant or employee was voting and influence or intimidate them. By contrast, a secret ballot allows voters to make confidential choices and thus helps prevent intimidation and bribery.

The demand for a secret ballot was one of the six key points of the People's Charter and the Chartists' Movement of 1838's petition stated that 'suffrage, to be exempt from the corruption of the wealthy and the violence of the powerful, must be secret'. All the Chartists points were not passed into law at that time, however, the voting process was not made secret until much later, when the Ballot Act was passed in 1872.

So, some 160 years after the formation of the Grand Lodge of England we arrived at what we have now a Secret Ballot.

However, not all Ballots are equal. In England, as well as in Scotland it takes 3 Black balls or cubes to reject a Ballot. The reasons are obvious, that one person cannot deliberately tarnish a Ballot.

In French and German Lodges those who vote against Candidates are made to justify their actions to the Master who then has the authority to determine if their reasons are frivolous and if that is determined to be the case the Master has the right to disregard that vote.

In this jurisdiction it is a duty of every Master mason to cast a Ballot, however, if your sole intention was for selfish or nefarious reasons would it not be far more reasonable to bring it to the attention of the Master prior to the meeting. Peace and harmony Brethren are still the strength and support of all institutions, especially ours.

The author of a Short Talk Bulletin in 1929 described various reasons for the use of a black cube. A man who appears to be of good character might have been heard to be quarreling violently and striking his wife. (But is it possible that a mistake was made, and the man is thus unjustly rejected?) A candidate is known to have repeated information given to him in confidence. (But, again, who can say that they know this for a fact?) Some men are known to be ill-natured, vain and boastful, not potential assets to the lodge. (Once again, do we really want each Mason to be able to reject a man because he believes the candidate is in one of these categories?)

And has the current system been successful in keeping out those who are quarrelsome, gossip-mongers, or vain and boastful? In fact, the same publication describes how a man who is turned down for a mortgage or who feels that a car dealer did not give him a good deal, might retaliate by blackballing the application for lodge membership submitted by the person who he feels did not treat him properly. That would be un-masonic and an abuse, but the current system allows, even encourages, this use of the ballot for personal vendettas. In fact, the same Short Talk Bulletin that defends the system describes an actual case where a man blackballed a candidate four times, but the candidate was accepted after the blackballer moved away. The candidate turned out to be one of the best members of the lodge, yet the ballot procedure could have kept him out of Freemasonry forever. An ill-used black cube and no one can deny that this occurs, "crushes ... him who casts it," and "drops into the heart and blackens it." Therefore, isn't there a better way to ballot?

We must understand that one who casts a black cube against a candidate does more than block his admission to Masonry. Since most jurisdictions say that a rejected candidate is still "the property" of the lodge that rejected him, he cannot petition to join any other lodge and often cannot even reapply to that lodge for a substantial period of time. All because one man casts a black cube, possibly for an incorrect reason, possibly as a complete mistake.

How can we say that Masonry promotes democracy when we continue such a system? "Is this the spirit of the Masons who gave us a government in America of a representative majority rule?"

In closing I cannot stress the importance of my belief in a secret ballot and I offer you a quote from Brother Albert Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry; 'Secrecy of the ballot is essential to its perfection as its independence. If the vote were to be given viva voce, it is impossible that the improper influences of fear or interests should not sometimes be exerted, and timid members be thus induced to vote contrary to the dictates of their own reason and conscience. Hence, to secure this secrecy and protect the purity of choice, it has been wisely established as a usage, not only that the vote shall in these cases be taken by a ballot, but that there shall be no subsequent discussion of the subject. Not only has no member a right to inquire how his fellows have voted, but is wholly out of order for him to explain his own vote. And the reason is evident. If one member has a right to rise in his place and announce that he deposited a white ball, then every other member has the same right; and in a Lodge of twenty members, where an application has been rejected by one black ball, if nineteen members state that they did not deposit it, the inference is clear that the twentieth Brother has done so, and thus the secrecy of the ballot is destroyed. Should a rejection occur and is announced by the Master, the Lodge should at once proceed to other business, and it's the sacred duty of the presiding officer to check any rising discussion on the subject. Nothing must be done to impair the inviolable secrecy of the ballot.

So as I started off by saying how angry I was in the actions against a sitting Master after a few days of sulking and uneasiness, I got over it. How? I recalled the following words, 'And when your trembling soul shall stand naked and alone before the Great White Throne may it be your portion, my Brother to hear from him who sitteth as Judge Supreme, the welcome words, 'Well done, thou good and faithful Servant. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.'' I knew then that whoever did that deed that night would be held accountable, by a much higher authority than us one day.

Most Worshipful Grand Master, I once again thank you for allowing me to say these few words and enjoy the rest of your visitation.

Fraternally, Gavin KK Wardrope PM Grand Orator September 6, 2013