The Organization of Freemasonry is arguably one of the most secretive societies in the world. Surrounded by rumors and speculation, Freemasons have come into the spotlight in recent years. Allegations of links to the Illuminati, high-profile assassinations, and even attempted world domination follow this organization closely.
Many of these rumors are based on pure speculation and are likely more fiction than fact. However, the Freemasons are inarguably a real organization. In fact, you’ve likely heard of some of its members. George Washington, Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin, and Andrew Jackson were all members of the Freemasons.
The Freemasons are also the creators of Shriners hospital, a hospital network that offers services at no charge to uninsured families. In fact, the Shriners name comes from Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, a branch of the Freemasons.
Today, the Freemasons are touted as the oldest fraternity in the world. Members operate out of “lodges”, which are local meeting places. These lodges are governed by “grand lodges”, which are regional bodies of the Freemasons. Contrary to popular belief, there is actually a surprising lack of communication and infrastructure connecting regional lodges to others across the world. This is largely due to a lack of a worldwide and even country-wide governing body.
Regardless, there is a central code of laws for membership that is somewhat up for interpretation by local chapters.
There are a few laws for membership that are universal across all local chapters. The first is that the candidate must be of good moral character. This means that they must be interested in helping their community and their peers. They also must believe in a higher being. The candidate may practice Christianity, Catholicism, or many other religions, but not Atheism. Members must also be of an appropriate age, which often starts around 18-25 depending on the chapter.
After these primary, largely unchanging membership laws, additional membership laws are the responsibility of the local chapter. Because these requirements vary, individuals are often left to wonder whether or not they meet the requirements to join this organization. This is especially true for felons.
Felons are well acquainted with being rejected from jobs and privileges because of their legal status. In some cases, this will in fact disqualify them from the Freemasons as well.
Some Freemason lodges will reject an individual simply for being a felon regardless of when the crime occurred or the nature of the crime. This though, is fairly uncommon.
The vast majority of Freemason lodges have laws in place that disallow membership for felons who are currently on probation. This is because each member of the freemasons must be considered a “free man” In fact, current members that commit a felony will be immediately suspended from the organization.
So, what happens with felons who are no longer on probation? This is where things get a bit tricky.
Felons who are no longer on probation will be evaluated based on three criteria: moral character, nature of the crime, and time since the crime. These criteria will be evaluated by members of the local chapter, and membership will be determined accordingly.
Felons, along with all other applicants, will be judged by the Freemasons on moral character. While all applicants are evaluated in this regard, felons are held to a higher standard because of their past transgressions. They are expected to have become of exceptional moral character since their crime was committed.
However, moral character is subjective in nature. What some may view as good moral character could be seen as bad by another. This makes it difficult to perform an objective evaluation of an applicant. Because of this, evaluations are often based on gut-instinct of a candidate.
A common phrase in the Freemason community is “moral turpitude”. This phrase is used to describe morality that is detrimental to the community. Individuals, especially felons, displaying this type of morality will not be offered membership.
Nature of Crime
The nature of the crime committed can also play a role in acceptance of a felon. Largely, if the felony committed was violent in nature, the individual will not be accepted into the Freemasons. Again, however, this law isn’t absolute for all chapters.
Crimes committed that constitute “moral turpitude” will also likely cause a felon to be rejected. Because of the ambiguity of this term, it is often up to the members’ discretion what constitutes as “moral turpitude”.
Felons who committed crimes of a sexual nature will not be let in to any Freemason lodge.
For any crime committed, the lodge will likely inquire as to the details surrounding the incident. Members will attempt to determine whether the individual is likely to offend again and if they are truly reformed.
Time Since Crime
The time that has passed since the crime was committed is also an important factor in felons’ application to the Freemasons. This amount of time, and how this time was spent, will be critical for a felon seeking to gain membership. There is no defined amount of time that must be passed since the crime was committed.
Again, because of the lack of a central governing body, it is difficult to determine lodge protocol without directly contacting the local organization.
Contacting the Lodge for Eligibility
The Freemason organization is often difficult to contact for matters such as this. Because they typically only meet twice a month, their lodges are unstaffed for the majority of the year. This may make it difficult for felons to get the answers that they need regarding membership. Felons will likely need to contact the grand lodge in their state, which is staffed more often.
Felons who wish to become Freemasons are stuck in an awkward place when it comes to determining their eligibility. If they are on probation, they will more than likely be eliminated immediately. After probation, however, it gets a bit trickier. Factors such as their moral character, the nature of the crime, and the nature of the crime will likely come into consideration.
Felons will likely have to exceed expectations set by the Freemasons during the petitioning process. If they can prove true reformation, as well as meet the aforementioned criteria, they will likely be able to join membership in the Freemasons.