This was an educational talk on Grand Lodge law for the September 2019 stated meeting of Fort Worth Lodge № 148.
This month’s Grand Lodge Law presentation is focused less on interpretation, and more on the summary & explaination of seventeen laws that affect petitions, petitioners, and petitioning. There is some overlap with jurisdictional law, investigation committees, etc, but those will be discussed at a different time.
Gabe’s Notes on Petition Law
Article 308 1
You can change your dues and degree fees as you need to, but you can’t collect more from or rebate a petitioner once he’s turned in his fees if they were the correct amount at the time of his petition.
Article 393 2
A man has to be “free-born,” mentally sound, morally good, and eighteen years old. It’s worth noting here that he has to be eighteen when the petition is received, not when he makes the petition. In theory, your lodge could legally be petitioned by a seventeen-year-old, you just can’t read his petition in lodge until he’s eighteen.
He also must disclose any physical limitations or disabilities that preveent him from earning his own living, or limit his ability to give or receive anything Masonically, as required by ritual.
Any person that has been found Guilty of (or pleaded No Content to) any criminal charges related to pedophilia is completely disqualified from even submitting a petition. You can’t even read his petition in lodge.
Once those basic ground rules are met, the candidate’s mental, moral, and physical qualifications are up to the lodge.
Article 393a 3
You can extend a “neutrally-worded invitation” to a guy you think would make a good Mason. You have to let him make his own decision once you answer his questions and explain how to petition.
Article 394 4
Petitioners must have lived within Texas and the jurisdiction of the lodge for six months, and “be known” to at least three members of the lodge (who are in good standing), neither of whom can be the two recommenders.
There’s also a number of take-aways regarding how the location of your domicile is GENERALLY defined:
- Your domicile is where you have the right to vote, sit on juries, etc.
- If you’re married, your domicile is where your wife resides (unless you’re permanently separated).
- If you temporarily move away, with the intent to return, you are still considered domiciled wherever you moved from and intend to return to.
- With exception of military personell, transient people cannot lawfully petition.
- Someone who hasn’t been domiciled in the jurisdiction of this state and a lodge for at least six months is “Masonically speaking, a man without a country,” and can’t petition.
- EAs/FCs must be domiciled within the state, but not necessarily in the jurisdiction of a lodge.
Article 395 5
Military personell and people living in countries with no Grand Lodge are excempt from domicile requirements.
Article 399 6
If a petitioner that he has previously petitioned a lodge, the process must immediately stop until your lodge gets a full copy of all records related to that petitioner from the other lodge, and can verify that he can legally take the degrees.
Article 400 7
If your lodge has reason to believe or even just suspect he has been rejected before, the same applies as in Article 399.
Article 403 8
- Petitions must be in writing.
- Petitions can only be received at stated meetings.
- Petitions must include all information requested on Form No. 26.
- Recommenders must sign in person – a scanned copy is not sufficient.
- If one (or both) of the two recommenders is suspended, expelled, or dies before the petition is received, the candidate will need a replacement recommender.
- Petitioners need to provide a certified or photocopied copy of their birth certificate with their petition. If they don’t have one, then the Grand Master may issue a certificate of approval.
- Any legal name changes must be disclosed and explained, with relevant documents attached to the birth certificate.
Article 404 9
The candidate must answer six specific questions addressing his willingness to follow fraternal regulations, his motivations, his religious beliefs, and whether or not he has petitioned before.
Article 405 10
Petitions are considered “received” when they are read in open lodge. If a petition is legally sound, then it must be referred to an investigation committee and follow the normal process of investigation and balloting, unless the petitioner provides a written statement requesting withdrawal. If a petitioner withdraws, he must still disclose this as an attempt to petition a lodge on any future petitions.
Article 405a 11
You can’t publish the names of a petitioner in a lodge newsletter or any “news media.”
Article 406 12
Unlawful presentations of petitions must be returned to the petitioner. A lodge not having jurisdiction over a petitioner may let the petitioner withdraw, or apply for a waiver of jurisdiction.
Article 410 13
If a petitioner dies or becomes mentally incompetent before the report of the investigative committee is made, this should be reported to the lodge, the committee discharged, and all fees returned to whoever is authorized to receive money on behalf of the petitioner, with no further action taken.
Article 411 14
If a petitioner is found to be totally disqualified in the investigation, this should be reported to the lodge, and the fee returned, with no further action taken.
Article 452 15
An eligible petitioner may petition any constituent lodge of the Grand Lodge of Texas.
Article 508-16 16
It is a masonic offense to lie about or not disclose having been previously blackballed.
Article 508-17 17
It is a masonic offense to lie about or not disclose having previously petitioned.
- Art. 308. Lodge May Fix Fees Above Minimum. A Lodge may by its by-laws fix, or by amendment thereto from time to time raise or lower the fees for the degrees or any of them in any amount equal to or above the minimum prescribed in the foregoing Art. 307; provided that the fees in effect at the time a petition for the degrees or advancement is filed with the secretary shall be charged to the petitioner.
- Art. 393. Qualifications. A candidate for the degrees of Masonry must be free-born, sound in mind, of good moral character, a full eighteen years of age on or before the day his petition is received by the Lodge, and disclose any known physical limitations or disabilities which will render him incapable of earning his own living or receiving and imparting, Masonically, all that is required by the ritual of the several degrees. However, an individual who has been found guilty of, or has pleaded no contest to charges of pedophilia (such as Indecency with a Child by sexual contact or any other means, Aggravated Sexual Assault with a child by any means, Sexual Assault with a Child by any means) shall be disqualified to submit a petition for the degrees of Masonry. After the foregoing requirements have been strictly met, the question of the candidate’s mental, moral, and such physical qualifications is one to be decided within the sound discretion of the members of the Lodge petitioned. (Revised 2019)
- Art. 393a. Solicitation. This Grand Lodge supports and practices the ancient custom and usage among Masons that a man is required to present himself for the Degrees of Masonry of his own free will and accord. At the same time, it acknowledges to all Masons of its obedience, that it is permissible and proper to extend a neutrally-worded invitation to petition for the Degrees of Masonry to a man whom you have strong reason to believe is of good moral character and reputation, who is otherwise qualified to petition under the Laws of the Grand Lodge of Texas. After answering the non-Mason’s questions about the Fraternity (those proper to be discussed) and explaining the procedure for petitioning, the potential candidate should be left to make his own decision and to proceed of his own free will. (Adopted 1992)
- Art. 394. (431). Domicile Requirements. Every candidate for the degrees of Masonry must have been domiciled within this Grand Jurisdiction for six months; and within the jurisdiction of a Lodge for six months before the date of his petition, and be known to at least three members in good standing of a Lodge or Lodges chartered by this Grand Lodge or a Grand Lodge duly recognized by this Grand Lodge, none of whom may be either of the two required recommenders. (Revised 1995) Note: In determining the place of a man’s domicile for Masonic territorial jurisdictional purposes, the following general rules apply:
- Domicile means the place of a person’s permanent residence; where he has the right to vote, to sit on juries and to exercise other rights and privileges of citizenship.
- A married man’s domicile is usually where his wife resides, but where there is a permanent separation, the husband’s domicile is governed by the rules applicable to an unmarried man.
- When a man (married or single) moves away from his domicile for the purpose of attending school, educating his children, engaging in business or other purpose, but does not intend to abandon his domicile, but intends at some time in the future to return to it and retains his rights of citizenship there, he does not thereby lose such domicile, regardless of the length of his absence therefrom. In like manner, if such person’s business takes him from place to place for short or long periods of time, his domicile is not thereby changed.
- When a person moves away from his domicile for any purpose, with the intention of not returning thereto, he thereby ceases to be domiciled in that place. He may acquire a domicile in his new place of abode by residence there with the intention of making it his domicile, and exercising or acquiring the right to exercise his rights and privileges of citizenship.
- When a person has never lived in one place long enough to acquire a domicile, but is a transient person, moving from place to place, he cannot lawfully apply to any Lodge in this State for the degrees in Masonry, since no Lodge has territorial jurisdiction over him. The only exception to this rule is that provided in Art. 395.
- A person domiciled in this State who has never received any degree in Masonry and who has not been domiciled in this State at least six months and in the jurisdiction of a Lodge for the last preceding six months, is ineligible, during any such period, to apply to any Lodge anywhere for the degrees. He is, “Masonically speaking, a Man without a country.”
- Rule 6 and the provisions of this article regarding the length of time one must be domiciled in this State and in the jurisdiction of some Lodge do not apply to an EA or FC seeking advancement. He must, however, be domiciled in this State, unless some Lodge in this State holds personal jurisdiction over him.
- Art. 395. (432). In Armed Services: Countries Without Grand Lodge. The foregoing requirements regarding domicile do not apply to residents of countries having no Grand Lodge: nor to a person having no domicile, who, at the time his petition is received is on active duty as a soldier, sailor, marine or air- man, either commissioned or non-commissioned in the Armed Forces of the United States, and furnishes evidence that he has no domicile, and documentary evidence of such service; all such evidence to be retained by the Lodge with his application.
- Art. 399. (436). Former Petition. If the candidate should answer that he has heretofore petitioned another Lodge, all action of the Lodge toward conferring a degree shall be suspended until it shall be shown that the candidate is legally entitled to receive the degree. The Lodge receiving the petition shall request full information from the Lodge theretofore petitioned, and the Lodge theretofore petitioned shall furnish under seal of the Lodge all information shown by the records of said Lodge to the Lodge inquiring.
- Art. 400. (438). Suspicion of Former Rejection. A Lodge having reason to believe or to suspect that a candidate has once been rejected, must not proceed with conferring the degrees until the matter has been thoroughly investigated. If it is discovered that a candidate has a prior rejection from any regular Lodge, and if that Lodge still possesses jurisdiction, all action upon the petition must cease. All fees that have been prepaid shall be refunded, and the facts of the matter shall be disclosed at the next stated meeting and noted in the minutes. (Revised 2012)
- Art. 403. (440). Petition for Degrees: Requisites. A candidate for the degrees must file with the Secretary of the Lodge a petition in writing, which must be presented to the Lodge at a stated meeting only. The petition must state the name of the petitioner in full; his age; date and place of birth; his domicile during the preceding twelve months; and shall contain all other matters required by law and Form No. 26. Said petition shall be signed by the petitioner in person and shall be recommended and the application personally signed by not less than two members of the Lodge. In the event of death, expulsion or suspension of either or both signers before the petition is received, it will be necessary to obtain other qualified signers. A certified or photostatic copy of petitioner’s birth certificate must accompany the petition, which shall be retained as a permanent record of the Lodge, or withdrawn by petitioner upon substituting a photostatic copy thereof; provided that, upon being furnished with satisfactory documentary evidence, the Grand Master may issue his certificate of approval in lieu of birth certificate, which certificate shall accompany the petition and be retained as a permanent record of the Lodge. When a petitioner’s name has been changed by law or other proper means from that shown in the birth certificate, and a full explanation thereof deemed satisfactory to the Lodge is attached to the birth certificate, the petition may be voted upon if satisfactory in all other respects.
- Art. 404. (441). Petition for Degrees: Answers to Questions in Art. 398. The petition for the degrees must contain the questions of Article 398 with the answers of the candidate thereto.
- Art. 398. (435). Questions Answered by Candidate. Before a candidate can be initiated he must answer, in writing, each of the following questions:
- Do you promise, upon your honor, to strictly adhere to and be governed by the Constitution and Laws of The Grand Lodge of Texas and the by-laws of this Lodge?
- Do you sincerely declare, upon your honor, that, unbiased by friends and uninfluenced by mercenary motives, you freely and voluntarily offer yourself as a candidate for the Mysteries of Masonry?
- Do you seriously declare, upon your honor, that you are prompted to solicit the privileges of Masonry by a favorable opinion conceived of the institution, a desire for knowledge, and a sincere desire to be of greater service to your fellow men?
- Do you seriously declare, upon your honor, that you will cheerfully conform to all the ancient established usages and customs of Masonry?
- Do you seriously declare, upon your honor, that you firmly believe in the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, and in the divine authenticity of the Holy Scriptures?
- Do you seriously declare, upon your honor, that you have never before petitioned any Lodge of Masons for the degrees or any of them?
- Art. 405. (442) Petition for Degrees: (Withdrawal Permitted Before Ballot.) A petition for the degrees, or any of them is “received” when it is read in open Lodge at a stated meeting upon direction of the Master presiding, usually by the Secretary. If the petition is one that may lawfully be received, it must be referred to an Investigation Committee and follow the procedure hereinafter provided, but may be withdrawn by the petitioner by written request at any time prior to the ballot thereon. Notwithstanding such withdrawal, any subsequent petition for the degrees shallstate that the petitioner has previously petitioned a Lodge for the degrees or any of them. (Revised 2001)
- Art. 405a. Publication of Names Prohibited. The names of Petitioners, Candidates, Entered Apprentice Masons and Fellowcraft Masons shall not be published in a Lodge newsletter or any news media public or private. (Adopted 1990)
- Art. 406. Unlawful Presentation: Waiver of Jurisdiction. A petition unlawfully presented to a Lodge must be returned to the petitioner. If the Lodge is without territorial or personal jurisdiction over the petitioner, the petition may be withdrawn or the Lodge may apply to the proper Lodge for waiver of jurisdiction under the procedure provided in Article 456.
- Art. 410. Petitioner’s Death or Mental Incompetence. When a candidate dies, or becomes mentally incompetent, before the report of the investigating committee is made, his death or mental incompetence shall be reported to the Lodge and noted in the minutes, the committee discharged, and no further proceedings shall be taken thereon; and all fees paid shall be refunded to the person properly authorized to receipt therefor. (Revised 1992)
- Art. 411. Petitioner’s Total Disqualification. If the investigating committee finds the candidate totally disqualified for any reason, the facts should be reported to the Lodge, such report entered in the minutes, the fee returned, and no further action taken.
- Art. 452. (476m). Petitioners: To What Lodge They May Apply. A petitioner who is eligible to apply for the degrees or for advancement in this Grand Jurisdiction may present his petition therefore to any Lodge in this Grand Jurisdiction.
- Art. 508-16. Certain Other Masonic Disciplinary Violations To conceal from, or fail to reveal to, a Lodge to which he has applied for any of the degrees of Masonry, the fact that he has been previously rejected by it or any other Lodge.
- Art. 508-17. Certain Other Masonic Disciplinary Violations To represent in his petition for the degrees that he has never petitioned any other Lodge for the degrees, when such representations is false.