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Paper presented by M. W. CLAUDE L. ALLEN, Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts, at the Conference of Grand Masters held in Washington, D. C., February 20-21, 1936

  • (a) To what extent indulged in by subordinate Lodges, and how camouflaged in an effort to avoid violation of law.
  • (b) Methods to be employed in dealing with members of allied or dependent bodies conducting lotteries.

Mr. Chairman and Brethren:

The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts is honored by the selection of its Grand Master to present a paper to this Conference. Perhaps we may assume that our subject is one that has demanded the attention of most of us.

There can be no doubt that the gambling spirit is rampant in our midst, and that unfortunately not all of our Brethren are immune to its wiles. It is a deplorable thought that any Masonic organization or any organization composed wholly of Masons should, for the purpose of raising money, be willing to jeopardize the fair name of our beloved Order by resorting to lotteries or games of chance which in most cases are in violation of state or federal laws and in all cases are in violation of the dignity and reputation of Masonry. Unfortunately, our Brethren, in some cases swayed from their better judgment by the alluring promises of the promoters of these games as to the easy money that can be realized from them, are tempted to the point where their proper perspective of the cardinal principles of our Order and the importance of safeguarding its fair name may be endangered. Participation in these enterprises, if they tend to bring Masonry into disrepute, may constitute a Masonic offense even although they arc not in actual violation of the statute law.

That many of our organizations, either Masonic or composed wholly of Masons, are in need of funds to carry on their activities there can be no doubt, but I sincerely trust that the time has not arrived and that it may never arrive when Masonic bodies or bodies composed of Masons must resort to violations of either the statute or Masonic law to enable them to obtain the necessary funds to carry on.

What other organizations may do is of no concern to us as Masons. We have our own landmarks and standards of morality and conduct. Let us not be swayed by what others may do to depart from those high standards and principles.

This subject as presented in the Agenda appears in two parts, A and B. A calls for an answer as to what extent gambling devices and lotteries are indulged in by subordinate Lodges and how camouflaged in an effort to avoid violation of law. I may say that in my own Jurisdiction we have had no problems of this kind in the subordinate Lodges. Not a single case has come to my attention of any attempt in the Lodges to resort to these gambling devices or lotteries, and from such examination as I have been able to make of the Proceedings of other Grand Jurisdictions, the same would seem to be true with some few exceptions.

I am therefore of the opinion that the time allotted to me can best be employed in a discussion of subheading "B"; namely, "Methods to be employed in dealing with members of allied or dependent bodies conducting lotteries."

Before taking up this question, let us first consider the nature of the offense itself and whether code authority is necessary to deal with it.

In 1932 the Department of Justice at Washington sent a communication to the heads of all fraternal organizations in the country stating in substance that it had come to the attention of that Department that lottery schemes were being promoted among fraternal organizations by persons making a business thereof as a means of raising revenue, etc., and that it was becoming a common practice to distribute books of numbered tickets purporting to entitle purchasers to attend some entertainment, the holder of the winning ticket number to receive a substantial prize; in some instances separate tickets being sold to admit the purchaser to an entertainment and a lottery ticket being presented to him with the admission. This statement was followed by a quotation of the United States Criminal Code applying to lotteries, and the closing paragraph of the communication contained a warning against subterfuges and attempts to evade these statutes.

The schemes resorted to in an attempt to get around the statutes prohibiting lotteries and games of chance have in a few instances been attempted on a nation-wide basis, a good illustration of which is set forth in the Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of California for 1932, page 71, but more frequently are confined to a local body.

In the case referred to in the California Proceedings, tickets were sold to a pre-convention Shrine Ball, and with each ticket was presented a numbered certificate entitled "Award of Merit Certificate" which entitled the holder to an opportunity of sharing in the distribution of $115,000 in cash prizes. The "Award of Merit" was obviously a subterfuge, as the Proceedings recite that these numbered certificates were all placed in a pile and the winners drawn from the pile by lot.

Last year there was conducted in Illinois by an organization composed wholly of Masons a "Fund Raising Campaign," so-called, professedly for the purpose of aiding delinquent members in the payment of their dues by the sale of tickets to a ball and to provide money for expenses of a proposed pilgrimage. Approximately 600,000 tickets were sold to this ball to be held in halls which could not accommodate more than 20,000 persons. Accompanying each book of tickets was a punch board in book form, containing the names of eighty girls. Underneath each name there were numbers running from one to eighty. The purchaser of the ticket paid for same thirty-five cents or less, depending on the number on the ticket punched. The holder of the ticket disclosing the name of the winning girl received a prize, to be selected from a list offered. Each ball ticket also represented a chance on a Ford automobile drawn by lot. This program, it will be seen, contained three distinct lottery features. First, as to the price to be paid for the ticket; second, the chance of drawing the name of the winning girl; and third, the chance of drawing the automobile. With some variation in the value and nature of the merchandise to be distributed as prizes in connection with these lotteries this case covers most of the features commonly encountered.

It is interesting to note that in England, where, as we all know much more liberal views have been held in reference to lotteries than in this country,the Board of General Purposes of the United Grand Lodge of England considered this question at a meeting held in March of 1935, under the heading "Masonic Lotteries and Sweepstakes," and there it was stated that the gravamen of the offense consisted in the public sale and distribution of lottery tickets, and upon this ground the conducting of lotteries by Masonic bodies was condemned, even though the proceeds were to be devoted entirely to Masonic charities and the prizes were presented by generous Brethren, and the object of the purchase of tickets could be considered as more for the support of the institutions than with the remote chance of obtaining a prize.

In Massachusetts we have had some problems during the past year with what has now been commonly labelled in the press "the Beano racket," which is little different than the old game of "lotto" with which you are probably all familiar, of placing squares on numbered spaces as the numbers are called by chance, prizes going to those whose spaces in a straight line are filled first.

In 1934 our Legislature enacted a statute legalizing the game of beano in connection with which prizes are offered to be won bv chance, provided the proceeds of the tickets of admission are donated solely to charitable purposes, etc. Various organizations in our state have conducted beano games under that statute, and some of our organizations composed of Masons have sought permission from me to do so, which permission has in all cases been refused:— first, upon the ground that they would not be conducted in accordance with the statutes (all the proceeds being applied to charitable purposes) and second, that the criticisms in the press and the prosecutions by public officials of those conducting this game have placed it in disrepute to such an extent that it would reflect upon the good name of Masonry for any Masonic organization or organization composed wholly of Masons to promote it.

Another device resorted to in my own Jurisdiction was the offering, in connection with the purchase of a ticket to an entertainment, of an automobile to the person who should submit the "Best Slogan on the Shriners," this statement being in small type on the back of the ticket and the ticket on its face bearing a number and a statement that each ticket holder participates, whether present or not, in the grand award; to wit, 1935 Ford V-8 car. No instructions were furnished as to whom the slogan should be sent or when; there was no attempt in printed matter to call attention to the slogan provision on the back of the ticket and no blank furnished upon which to send in the slogan. It is fair to believe that every one purchasing one of these tickets assumed that the number of his ticket would go into a hat with the others, and if it happened to be drawn out he would win the car.

These Brethren who believe that they are justified in going ahead with these schemes if they can bring them within the letter of the law entirely miss the whole point. They overlook the fact that they may still be guilty of a Masonic offense even though they comply with the letter of the law if they evade the spirit of the law in such a manner as to bring Masonry into disrepute; or to go a step further, whether they violate either the letter or the spirit of the law is of no consequence in my judgment if their act reflects upon the good name of Masonry. As an editorial in a Chicago paper stated it,— "The buy-a-ticket and take-a-chance rackets long have been in disrepute not alone legally but ethically as a cause of public demoralization."

Perhaps I have dwelt too long upon the nature of the offence. Let us next consider briefly the necessity of code authority to deal with it.

In many of the Grand Jurisdictions there are codes expressly prohibiting participation by members of the Fraternity in lotteries and similar schemes. I am convinced that we need no code provisions on this subject, the common law of Masonry furnishing all the authority necessary to deal with the question.

The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts has never set up a written code defining Masonic offenses except for certain acts or omissions contained in the Grand Constitutions. For matters not contained in the Grand Constitutions we rely upon the unwritten law; that is, the common law of Masonry.

Our Grand Constitutions (Section 100) affirm that "the common law of Masonry is to be learned from the ancient charges of the Craft as developed and interpreted from and after A.D. 1721. It is the foundation of Masonic jurisprudence." Thus, for example, the ancient charges say, "a Mason is obliged by his tenure to obey the moral law." This is a part of the common law of Masonry, and imposes a greater restriction upon the members of our Order than any statute law or specific code requirement. Of course it goes without saying that one of the first principles of Masonry is an observance of the laws of the country in which we reside, but whether there be any violation of the law of the land or of any specific statute or code requirement, the test is, are the acts of the member of a character that tend to reflect upon the good name of the Order and thus bring Masonry into disrepute? If the answer to this question is "Yes," then in my judgment a Masonic offense has been committed that can and should be dealt with by the Grand Master or by Grand Lodge, regardless of whether the offenders are operating as a subordinate Lodge or as members of allied or dependent bodies which derive their membership wholly from Masonry.

Coming to the subheading "B" of the subject — "Methods to be employed in dealing with members of allied or dependent bodies conducting lotteries" — there seems to be some difference of opinion.

The Grand Master of California in dealing with this question last year expressed the opinion that the proper method was to go to the root of the question by forbidding Masons to become members of dependent bodies violating the Masonic codes or the Masonic common law in reference to the conduct of lotteries. This opinion may have been based upon an experience as set forth in the Proceedings of California for 1932 and previously referred to, in which several Shrines, in spite of their assurance to the Grand Master, evidently went ahead with a lottery scheme, a full report of which was made to Grand Lodge by the Grand Master, without recommendation, and, I am advised, without disciplinary action by Grand Lodge.

There would seem to be little doubt as to the power of a Grand Lodge to determine the qualifications of its members even to the extent of arbitrarily denying to them the privilege of joining certain other organizations, but is it necessary in order to control the situation to resort to such drastic and far-reaching measures?

These organizations, not recognized as Masonic and yet composed wholly of Masons and generally regarded by the public as Masonic orders, serve their useful purposes in the community in their opportunities for fellowship and civic service, as typified in the excellent humane work being done by the Shrine hospitals. Their members as a whole are sincere and earnest Masons, faithful to the ideals and teachings of our Order and respected in their communities. The difficulty comes from the irresponsible or ill-advised acts of a small percentage of their members who are not imbued with the proper perspective of their duties and obligations as Masons. It is this small percentage that must be controlled by the Grand Master or by the Grand Lodge to the end that they may not be permitted through their organizations to violate the fundamentals of Freemasonry.

The Grand Master of Illinois last year, in dealing with the problem, conducted proceedings against the twelve principal offenders to the extent of expulsion from all the rights and privileges of Masonry. Petitions for reinstatement have since been filed, and at least in some cases favorably acted upon. But it would seem that a salutary lesson had been taught to the Craft of that Jurisdiction which should be effective in preventing any recurrence of the offense.

It is my opinion that if the Grand Master is vested with sufficient power,as he is in Massachusetts,to deal with individual members, it should not be necessary nor in my judgment would it be advisable to strike at the allied body itself. Under our Constitutions, the Grand Master has the authority of suspending from the rights and privileges of Masonry any Brother who is guilty of unmasonic conduct. This suspension, with the reasons, must be presented to the Grand Lodge at its next communication, and remains in force unless the Grand Lodge otherwise orders. If a Mason wilfully persisted in promoting a lottery or other similar scheme after warning from the Grand Master, if there were no dispute as to the facts, the Grand Master in our Jurisdiction would not hesitate to suspend any Brother who had participated in the promotion. Tf there was a question of fact to be determined as to who the promoters were, etc., he would probably direct that charges be preferred against them, to be heard by the Trial Commissioners, and would act upon the findings of the Trial Commission. A Brother so suspended by the Grand Master would have little chance of relief at the hands of Grand Lodge.

This power of the Grand Master in our jurisdiction and his willingness to use it when occasion demands is so well known to the Brethren that it has become the common practice of allied or dependent bodies who are desirous of promoting any plan which might be construed as a lottery to first submit it to the Grand Master and endeavor to convince him that it is within the law and not subversive to the best interests of Masonry, and failing in this the plan is abandoned. In only one instance during my term of office has it been necessary to go any further than to point out to the Brethren interested in the project the danger to the fair name of Masonry and the desire of the Grand Master for the cooperation of all the Brethren in maintaining our high Masonic standards. When this has been done, with the one exception referred to, the Brethren have cheerfully abandoned the project, even though considerable work had been done and expense incurred in the matter. In one instance, the program was put into execution, tickets were sold and distributed, all arrangements for entertainment made, etc., before 1 had any knowledge of it. I then summoned the head of the body to my office, pointed out the objections to the plan and suggested that it be abandoned and the tickets withdrawn. After some conferences with his associates, I was advised that they had gone too far with it and would have to go through. One Brother volunteered to accept all blame and take the consequences. I assured him that he had not that power; that I would place the blame upon all who had anything to do with it if the plan went forward; and that I hoped it would not be necessary to deal with it on that basis. The plan was abandoned and the tickets withdrawn.

Thus from our own experience and from that of other jurisdictions, so far as I have been able to ascertain it, the simple answer and solution to the second part of the question before us for consideration; namely, "Methods to be employed in dealing with members of allied or dependent bodies conducting lotteries," is, in jurisdictions where he has not already that power, to vest the Grand Master with the authority for dereliction of duty or other unmasonic conduct to suspend a Brother from all the rights and privileges of Masonry. An understanding upon the part of the Craft that such power exists, and a knowledge that the Grand Master will exercise it to the extent of suspension should it become necessary, will, in my opinion, be all that is required in the great majority of cases to properly control these ill-advised activities. But should this prove ineffectual in any case, it would seem that one salutary example such as that in Illinois would be all that would be necessary in any jurisdiction.

Let us in our respective states approach this problem with our erring Brothers by seeking their cooperation in the maintenance of the high standards and integrity of our Order, pointing out to them in a friendly way the danger to the Fraternity which they may not have realized; in the first instance seeking their support as Masons working for a common purpose, but failing to secure such cooperation and support let us then deal with them with all the courage, firmness, and power at our command, to the end that Masonry may maintain its high standing in the eyes of the world.

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