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Freemasonry: A religion after all???

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posted on Dec, 31 2007 @ 10:56 AM
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From: pewforum.org...


Freemasonry may rank with Christianity, Judaism and Islam as an official form of "religious exercise," a California court of appeals suggested in a ruling on Oct. 3.

As such, Masons would fall under the protections of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), the landmark law that says government may not infringe on religious buildings without a compelling interest.

"We see no principled way to distinguish the earnest pursuit of these (Masonic) principles ... from more widely acknowledged modes of religious exercise," the statement said.



OK, color me confused. We, being Masons, and Freemasonry as an instituiton, typically argue from the position that Freemasonry is not a religion. Well, that's because it is not.

Why then, do you suppose, is the SR in California trying to get their Temple protected under a religious land use act? This makes no sense. A historical building land use act seems more appropriate to me, if they were going to go for something like that.

Does this strike an odd chord with anyone else? What does this mean for Masonry as a whole?

Does this give credance to those who try to argue with us that Freemasonry is a religion? If we look at how the American Legal system works, the California Court of Appeals has just ruled that Freemasonry is on par with world religions; doesn't that set a precedent for future cases?

I can't imagine why Masons would seek protection of the buildings in a religious connotation. This seems counterproductive to me, as I am a Mason, and I do *not* consider Masonry to be a religion. I would venture a guess that the VAST majority of Brethren would agree on this.

Thoughts?




posted on Dec, 31 2007 @ 11:06 AM
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reply to post by The Axeman
 




OK, color me confused. We, being Masons, and Freemasonry as an instituiton, typically argue from the position that Freemasonry is not a religion. Well, that's because it is not.

Why then, do you suppose, is the SR in California trying to get their Temple protected under a religious land use act? This makes no sense. A historical building land use act seems more appropriate to me, if they were going to go for something like that.


It .. appears that there was an issue with some property owned by the Masons that may have been or was going to be seized, perhaps eminant domain?

The entire argument around "is Masonry a religion" in the case seems to center around land use.

I agree, why not have the building made "historical" .. of course, if the building or land could not attain a title because it does not fit criteria, they would have been out of options.

Also, I don't know if one lodge can bring about a court ruling to turn the entire organization into a recognized religion .. I imagine the Grand Lodge would have an issue with that, as well as the 50 other Grand Lodges.

Very confusing.

Currently the Freemasons are recognized as a Fraternal organization, not religious, and are considered a non-religious not for profit fraternal organization.

To say we are "a religion" would go against our own ideologies.. I am curious as to how the judge came about his conclusion.



posted on Dec, 31 2007 @ 11:11 AM
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reply to post by The Axeman
 



Joy! I knew all those electives on law would be helpful some day. I am not a lawyer, but I DO play one on TV. I can be even more of a pretend lawyer because my master's thesis was about eminent domain - the reason why the SR did this.

I suspect the SR lawyers did this on purpose, because the legal protections afforded to religious buildings are actually much stronger than those afforded to historical buildings. Government institutions are terrified of using eminent domain on any building that is considered religious, because if the building owners protest it the liquidated damages they can be awarded can be astronomical. Legal precedent also shows that judges tend to be very sympathetic to religious causes when it comes to eminent domain. I also suspect they thought that - since this was a appeals circuit ruling - it would not reach the headlines.

The Supreme Court has said that the government's exactions of land from private interests must match a compelling state interest. The more severe the nature of the exaction, the more compelling the state interest must be. Making masonry a religion would require the highest and most compelling state interest to perform a successful eminent domain action.

In any case, this ruling only impacts the California circuit and it ended up backfiring anyway. The Scottish Rite in other circuits could not claim this as binding because the legal rulings of a circuit do not carry over to other jurisdictions.

I'm going to go look up the case and see if I can find anything else of interest in it...

[edit on 31-12-2007 by LightinDarkness]



posted on Dec, 31 2007 @ 11:15 AM
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Ah, so if this ruling actually stands it only effects the organization within the jurisdiction of California?



posted on Dec, 31 2007 @ 11:19 AM
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reply to post by Rockpuck
 


Yes, the ruling is only binding to SR Masonry within the jurisdiction. If the Rite was to take this up in other jurisdictions, they could cite this case as something the court should consider - but it is NOT binding legal precedent in other jurisdictions. Each appeals court tends to treat other rulings differently. Some courts are very conservative and immediately fall in line with other circuits, while others take other circuit rulings as things that are "interesting legal points only."

So..other appeals courts COULD take it as precedent, but legally they do not have to. I am reading the case now...there are a few points that the article doesn't make mention of that I think should be mentioned about this that I'll address in a later post.



posted on Dec, 31 2007 @ 11:30 AM
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reply to post by LightinDarkness
 


So the Scottish Rite will be considered a Religious organization in the state of California, but the rest of Masonry will not??



posted on Dec, 31 2007 @ 11:35 AM
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My reading of the case makes it look like it won't be declared a religion at all. The Court simply noted that Scottish Rite was religious in nature. The court's issue in this case was whether the use of the building for commercial functions under RLUIPA was allowed. The Court found such uses were not allowed. The issue of whether the Rite was a religion did not really matter, because the Court found commercial actions were not protected by RLUIPA. In reality, the section about Masonry and religion is just a off-handed muse. These muses have been dangerously used to set precedent before, but it is rare.

The Scottish Rite in this case was asking for an extraordinary action on behalf of the court: an administrative writ of mandamus. The Rite was trying to get a writ of mandamus issued against Los Angeles to force the city to give them back their certificate of occupancy so they could rent it for commercial use.

A writ of mandamus is essentially a court order that forces a government actor to do something that is part of its ministerial (law-given) duties - in other words, it forces them to do a non-discretionary action that is part of their role as the government. These sorts of writs are extremely hard to get, and courts must demonstrate a compelling need for them. I am unsure of why the Scottish Rite's lawyers would even try.

The biggest reason why the Rite lost this case is because it set bad historical precedent. The city started proceedings against it as a nuisance in the 1990's because of the bad traffic and trash that was happening during commercial events. The city denied the Rite's appeals after ruling that it could be used for its Masonic non-profit purposes. Because the Rite did not seek any subsequent legal relief, it made this court action look like a last-ditch attempt to use the building for commercial purposes. Had the Rite attempted a legal appeal in the 1990s, they might have had a chance.

I think the City was extremely generous with the Rite, although I would point out that the Temple is now being run by a LLC corporation, which would seem to indicate is no longer being run by the Scottish Rite - the Rite has leased the building out the LLC corporation. Since the LLC is a for-profit building agency, it really has no reason to try to claim religious protections. The Rite was attempting to claim its religious protections extended to the LLC - bad move, in my opinion.

The impact of the ruling seems to be that - for the California circuit - the Appeals Court and inferior courts will not allow any organization claim protection under RLUIPA to use it as a shield to operate commercial activities. That is the ONLY legally binding action the court ruled on here.

[edit on 31-12-2007 by LightinDarkness]



posted on Dec, 31 2007 @ 11:37 AM
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LiD: Thanks! I do not speak "legalese" and therefore did not quite understand the implications.

So, they were restricted to "Masonic" use, but they rented out the facilities for non-Masonic events, therefore the "Los Angeles city council withdrew the Cathedral's certificate of occupancy."

What does that mean exactly? Does that mean they shut the whole Temple down?

And why would the city council care if the SR rented out space for banquets? Why would there be "city codes that restrict the use of the cathedral to Masonic-related activities?"

It sounds a bit... I dunno... gestapo.

So much for the Masons running the world, eh? If they're geting smacked down by a city council for doing some fundraising (the AASR, keepers of the "high degrees" no less)? One would think the 33° Illustrious Grand Poobah Shapeshifter would have set those townies straight!

Beware the cabal...



posted on Dec, 31 2007 @ 11:48 AM
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reply to post by The Axeman
 


No problem. I am again not a lawyer, just someone who spent far to much time on eminent domain issues and school of law electives for my master's degree. Who knew I'd ever be able to put it to use?


Your summary is correct as far as I can tell. By withdrawing the certificate of occupancy, the City was essentially forbidding the Temple to be used for ANY purpose (even a masonic purpose). The City was essentially shutting down the building.

The building was originally only allowed to be built because the Scottish Rite promised that it would only be used for non-profit and masonic related events. Since the Temple officials promised this, this restriction was included in the certificate of occupancy. Using the building for commercial use conflicts with zoning codes and the certificate which tries to separate places that generate lots of traffic/noise far away from residential neighborhoods. The neighborhood bordering the temple is particularly wealthy, so they were happy to have the temple there as long as it was only used for non-commercial purposes.

Eventually the Rite had to lease out the building for commercial purposes or lose it, there wasn't enough money. It even shut down for 10 years before reopening and "leasing" the building to a for profit LLC that was then renting out the building.

And yes, I would have to agree this would have to end all the "MASONS CONTROLLING THE WORLD!" theories. Seriously, we can't even beat a city council.



posted on Dec, 31 2007 @ 11:54 AM
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Originally posted by LightinDarkness
Eventually the Rite had to lease out the building for commercial purposes or lose it, there wasn't enough money. It even shut down for 10 years before reopening and "leasing" the building to a for profit LLC that was then renting out the building.


This is an all too common problem nowadays, or at least it seems to to me. I know the Temple in which I was raised is on a bumpy road; the Temple Association was scrambling to raise enough money so as not to be actually hemhorraging it. So far as I know, they have not been successful. There was alot of talk about shutting down the Temple altogether, which would be a SHAME in my opinion. It is a beautiful building and, Masonic bias aside, I really feel it sould be preserved as a historical Landmark at the very least.


And yes, I would have to agree this would have to end all the "MASONS CONTROLLING THE WORLD!" theories. Seriously, we can't even beat a city council.


Seriously!


[edit on 12/31/07 by The Axeman]



posted on Dec, 31 2007 @ 12:06 PM
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More points of thought...

The court considered the legal basis for this judicial review de novo. A court many only issue a review of administrative action de novo - that is, a court may (among other things) scruitnize whether or not a lower court erred as a matter of law. The court was not reviewing this on any other basis - so this stregthens my opinion that it's musing about the nature of the Scottish Rite cannot be precedent. The court's ruling ONLY means that it agrees with the lower court on the matter of law that the Scottish Rite's use of the building is not protected as a religious use.

I would also point out the courts musings on masonry are particularly aimed at the Scottish Rite. At most, it suggests that the Rite is religious in character (which it gets from a Scottish Rite brochure which was submitted to the court). It does not make such statements about the blue lodge or other appendant bodies.

It quotes another case as precedent which stated:


The order's philosophical doctrine includes strong religious elements derived from Judaic and Christian sources, urging faith in God and emphasizing the Bible. Abstaining from sectarian theology and denominationalism, the doctrine insists upon individual freedom of religion.


It also uses another precedent case quote:


To the extent that religious purposes include the field of morals, masonry makes common cause with organized religion.


The court's interpretation of RLUIPA:


If applicable, RLUIPA prohibits a government from implementing a land use regulation in a way that "imposes a substantial burden" on one's "religious exercise" unless the burden satisfies strict scrutiny.


Strict scrutiny is a fancy legal term for what I talked about earlier. It is the highest level of judicial scrutiny the law allows for (the lesser levels being intermediate basis and rational basis review). Religions are subject to strict scrutiny when cases are brought - the government MUST demonstrate it had a overwhelming compelling interest that used a narrowly tailored law which was the least restrictive way to deal with the problem. This is a standard the SR lawyers knew that the City had not met, and in order to hold them to such a standard they had to claim they had religious protection.

This was one of those cases where if you win you win big, and if you lose you lose big. They lost.

The law that the SR was arguing it was protected by a religious law which does in fact extend protection beyond centrally religious organizations. It has been used in other court cases to protect nonprofit hospitals and private schools with a religious theme. The law basically expands the power of the establishment clause, which holds "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion...". The law in question now includes ANY practice that is religious in character even if religion is not central to the practice. The court did not declare the Rite to be a religion really, it just noted that its non-profit practices would be protected by the law because its actions are religious in character (see the above quotes). However, COMMERCIAL ACTIONS are not protected by the law, which is what the court ended up ruling.

As court's often do, they skirt the big question (in this case, "is the Scottish Rite a religion?") by deciding that the party bringing the appeal has no right to relief to begin with:


Likewise, SRCALA and LASRC allege the City's revocation of the Cathedral's certificate of occupancy violated their First Amendment right to free exercise of religion, but, in light of our conclusion that whatever rights of religious exercise held by SRCALA did not confer protection on LASRC, the Cathedral's operator, we need not reach the constitutional claim.


In other words, the court never decided on whether or not the Scottish Rite was a religion. It decided that the organization operating the building was a for-profit company with no relation to the rite other than the leasing contract, and as such was not doing anything that could be protected under religion laws.

[edit on 31-12-2007 by LightinDarkness]



posted on Dec, 31 2007 @ 12:50 PM
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Dude!

Thanks, that was a great post. I don't even have any more questions.




There is still the issue of Masonic edifices falling into disrepair and disuse, though, which this illustrates perfectly. Sad when you think about it.

These are the kinds of things that those of us "on the inside" are privvy to that makes all the conspiracy theories seem ridiculous. If Masonry were so powerful, why would we have such problems keeping the Temples open? I mean even in big cities! Actually, those (in cities) are probably the most vulnerable, as they are usually large and expensive to maintain... but still, it just goes to show.

Anyway, thanks for the elucidation.


[edit on 12/31/07 by The Axeman]



posted on Dec, 31 2007 @ 01:01 PM
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reply to post by The Axeman
 


Thanks, happy to be of assistance
As you point out, somehow masonry is capable of ruling the world but not overruling a city council or a Court of Appeals. We should link to this thread every time someone claims we're controlling the world.

It is sad how many masonic temples are falling into disrepair. They are expensive to maintain, and it is impossible with declining membership to keep them up. Even though the membership numbers are now turning around, I hope that the next generation does not make the same mistake when the money once again flows free: keep what you have, but don't expand unless absolutely necessary.

Lodges should have started creating endowments to pay for long-term expenses like building maintenance 30 years ago. Many did not, and that is what got us to present situation.


[edit on 31-12-2007 by LightinDarkness]



posted on Dec, 31 2007 @ 01:32 PM
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Originally posted by LightinDarkness
Lodges should have started creating endowments to pay for long-term expenses like building maintenance 30 years ago. Many did not, and that is what got us to present situation.


Even the ones who did (like my mother lodge) generally have no say; the Temples are usually maintained by a comittee or association between the lodges and appendant bodies.

My lodge has a chunk but not enough to keep the whole Temple afloat. They'll most likely have to buy/build a new building for just our lodge (there are several lodges/appendant bodies that use it).

The Temple Association tried to hire an outside advertising company to rent out space to create revenue but I think it cost them more to hire the company than they generated in rental revenues...


It's a nice (old) building, I really would hate to see something happen to it.

For the most part I think small lodges that own their land/building outright should be OK; the cost of maintaining a small building for Masonic purposes isn't really that much.

I do think the Masons of our generation should learn from these events, and think more about sustainability rather than pomp.

Just an "average Joe" Mason's $0.02.



posted on Jan, 5 2008 @ 05:45 AM
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Hmmm.....temple. A religious connotation. Dunno. All I do know is anbody who I knew was a mason would not tell me a damn thing about the organization. That's sure to cause controversy in court or any place else.



posted on Jan, 5 2008 @ 06:52 AM
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reply to post by kyred
 


Hinges on what you were asking them. If it were general questions about Masonry, there's nothing they couldn't tell you. Might be over-reacting to one of the instructions to newly-initiated Entered Apprentices about maintaining the secrets of Masonry. My wife was very curious as her father was a Mason and she'd always been curious about what went on. When I was initiated, she asked me what happened and (taking the instructions very much to heart) I said I couldn't say. Boy, was she pissed.


I've since realised that (especially in this day and age of ubiquitous information), the secrets represent a man's own test of his character.



posted on Jan, 8 2008 @ 10:02 AM
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i always trhought free masons was a religion like christianity hinduism

judism and star treckism



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