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Freemasonry Watch

Masons' ceremony delayed; Complaint accuses Freemasons of being in a cult

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Visalia Times-Delta

Masons' ceremony delayed

Complaint accuses Freemasons of being in a cult

By Natalie Garcia
Staff writer

For years, the Visalia Mineral King Freemasons have dedicated cornerstones to local schools without objection or controversy until now.

Last week, the Masons were scheduled to dedicate a cornerstone on Friday morning to Cottonwood Creek Elementary in Visalia. But the night before the group was informed that the Visalia Unified School District was postponing the ceremony.

The reason for ceremony's postponement was an e-mail sent by a concerned citizen to the district, Superintendent Stan Carrizosa said. The e-mail's sender, who the district would not identify, said among other things, that the Masons were a cult.

The e-mail, which included references to the Web site http://www.freemasonrywatch.org/ as the source of that claim, also said: "My primary concern is that this ritual Friday will give Satan grounds to oppress or harass the administration, teachers and the students even if ever so subtly."

The e-mail went on to ask the district to have "mercy on the administration and children of Cottonwood Creek and cancel the ritual or at least postpone it until you are clear in your mind, after due diligence and study, that the ritual is just a dedication or indeed is an avenue of evil to exploit."

Carrizosa said up until last week, the ceremony had never raised concerns.

"It seemed sensitive enough to pay attention to," Carrizosa said.

Carrizosa said that one difference that might have made this ceremony more contentious than the others is that it was scheduled to take place during school hours, instead of in the early evening, as they have in past years.

Carrizosa and district area administrator Myron Sheklian met with Senior Grand Warren of the lodge Richard Hopper the night they decided to postpone the dedication.

Hopper said that the Masons are not a cult, but a fraternal organization with a prestigious history of service and a list of past members including George Washington, Thomas Edison and Benjamin Franklin, among others.

Jim Qualls, a member of the VUSD Board of Trustees, has been a member of the Masonic Lodge for 14 years.

"It's unfortunate out there that folks have a misunderstanding," Qualls, who is also Christian, said. "It's not a religious organization and it's not a substitute for religion."

Qualls added that he felt Carrizosa did the right thing by postponing the ceremony until the district could address the concern.

He also stressed the good work that the Masons do for schools.

"The Masonic Lodge is one of the biggest fundraisers for the public schools," Qualls said. "It's a wonderful group of people and I would never belong to a group or organization that went against my principals and morals."

Hopper also said the author of the e-mail to Carrizosa was misinformed and he is willing to address any concerns about the Masons.

"The individual has only looked at one side and not necessarily the accurate side," Hopper said.

The Masonic orders began as guilds of stonemasons in the Middle Ages and evolved into honorary societies known as Freemasonry that adopted the rites of ancient religions.

In the U.S., political activity of Freemasons in the 19th century led to the rise of the Anti-Masonic movement. It condemned Freemasonry as a secret, undemocratic society. Opposition to Freemasonry grew in the Roman Catholic Church, and the Masons and Anti-Masons began to divide along Protestant and Catholic lines.

Despite a past containing ties to religious controversy, Hopper said that the past has no baring over the Masons' operations or beliefs now and that men of all faiths are welcomes to join.

Discussions of religion and politics are forbidden in the lodge, he said.

"It has a tendency to create disharmony," Hopper said.

Carrizosa said that he never saw any religious aspects in the past cornerstone dedications, but still decided to push the ceremony back just to be careful.

"We are always in the position that public schools are a common ground," Carrizosa said. "We just don't want to put our school students and school staff in the center of a controversy."

Lonnie Martell, a Visalia Mason and past Senior Grand Warren of the lodge, felt the district turned its back on an organization that has supported Visalia schools for years.

"I feel betrayed for what we have done for the schools in the past," Martell said. "They got one letter and that was it."

Last year, for example, the Masons gave eight $500 scholarships to new high school graduates, and next year plans to add two more scholarships.

After considering the concern, Carrizosa said the district plans to reschedule the dedication to take place in the evening, sometime this month so students and parents who choose not to participate won't have to.

Hopper said he was satisfied with the outcome and was never worried the attention would harm the Masons.

"Our reputation won't be tarnished," he said. "Our relationship with community is too strong this community was built by men who were strong in the Masonic Lodge."

The reporter can be reached at ngarcia@visalia.gannett.com.

Post a Comment View All Comments


Julie I love what you said and you are right I hope that none of these people have to every take there children to the shrine hospital even though they will not be turned away they will feel ashamed. I will personally be at the dedication I was supposed to be at the last one. But if you are like me you are involved in the masons and help out with the wonderful things that they do. If we haven't met we probably will. Thanks for what you said. We all need to come together and show these rotten people that mason's are not a Cult.

Posted: Wed Oct 04, 2006 7:44 pm


I'm sorry that so many people are misinformed on the matter. The Masons are not a church, nor do they believe any one way, so for the person who said that it is a matter of "seperation of Church and State" you are wrong. Religion is not allowed to be discussed in the Lodge, so this should not be an issue.

I, for one, am sad that this had to be delayed, but I hope that because it will be performed in the evening, more people, parents and general public alike, will come and see what it is all about.

If any of you would like to know more about the Mason's, and any of their affliated organizations, please, go to the bookstore, and pick up a copy of "Freemasonry for Dummies" and enjoy.

To those people who will forever think we are a cult, I truely hope your child never has a reason to visit a Shriner's Hospital, because to be a Shriner, you must FIRST be a Mason, and because you think we are a cult, I'm sure you believe that all the children there are being fed our "evil doing ways."

What is that famous saying we are always told? Knowledge is Power? Well then, those of you, who would like to bash us, without knowledge (anyone can have a website and post things......) continue living your life in ignorance. To those who would really like to know what we are about, pick up that book, and if you want, visit a lodge, they are more then willing to answer your questions.

Posted: Wed Oct 04, 2006 10:32 am


My family has been in the masonic orginazation for more years then I can count. It is an outrage to me to see people act this way towards wonderful men and women that do alot for the Community. If it wasn't for the masons there would be no Shrine Hospital to help all those beautiful children in need. By saying masons are a cult you are saying that the world is not round. Ask around you will find masons in every part of life, in every work of life. See what they do for the comunity and for the people around you. You just might be suprised. I know a few mason's that collect broken bikes and fix them back up so children at christmas time have at least one gift under their christmas trees. It hurts me to see these men been offened in this matter. I think it is an outrage.

Posted: Wed Oct 04, 2006 4:23 am


To previous message writer, au contraire; you could use a few sessions of high school yourself. It's not a matter of "tolerance." Schools are operated by government. That means they are secular, i.e. not a place for religious symbolism. Go back in history and review some Supreme Court rulings. If you wish to post godly messages -- or "blessings" as you call them -- of any denomination of your choice on your front lawn, you are free to do so. If you believe the law is unfair in this regard, get together with your brethern and see what you can do to change it. I personally like the law the way it is.

Posted: Fri Sep 29, 2006 9:42 pm


I think you do not get it. The constitution states that the goverment can not endorse one religion over another. They are not endorsing anything. If a group of buddist monks wanted to come next week and bless the school then that would be okay, doesn't mean you have to endorse one belief over another. It just shows that America is a free nation and people are free to worship how they wish as long as they are not hurting anyone. A blessing is generally a good thing, and it is just wishing the best. Who wouldn't want that regardless of your beliefs?? The state isn't sending the Masons or paying them. Why are people so afraid and intolerant ?

Posted: Fri Sep 29, 2006 8:30 pm

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