Charleston Daily Mail
Expelled Masons leader says meeting was worst time of his life
Wednesday December 8, 2010
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A former "Most Worshipful Grand Master" of Masons in West Virginia told a Kanawha jury that the meeting during which he was unexpectedly expelled from the organization was the worst 45 minutes of his life.
Frank Haas, 53, who had been head of the men's brotherhood group from October 2005 to October 2006, said he was ordered to stand at "the altar" along with another mason, Richard Bosely, and be publicly humiliated.
"Charlie Montgomery called Mr. Bosely and me to come to the altar in the center of the room. He began to dress us down, berate us," Haas testified.
Montgomery, who succeeded Haas as Grand Master, stood in a position of highest authority called "The East" and read an "edict" to the two men. They were called liars and kicked out, Haas said.
"It was humiliating," he said. "It was intimidating, oppressive. It was the most stressful 45 minutes of my life to be standing there with all eyes on me and be told I was a liar in the presence of my friends, my lodge members and especially in the presence of my father.
"I was ordered to leave the room, and then I did," he said.
Haas, an attorney and administrative law judge, filed a lawsuit against the Masons after his ouster and after his repeated appeals were never acknowledged or acted upon.
Haas said Montgomery ignored all of the organization's written rules of charging a member of misconduct, putting those charges before the membership, holding a trial and allowing for a vote of dismissal.
Kanawha Circuit Judge Carrie Webster, who is presiding over the trial, would not dismiss the case on the grounds that the court has no jurisdiction in an internal dispute of the private organization.
Haas told jurors his expulsion was because he had attempted to reform West Virginia Masons, bringing them more up-to-date where equality and restrictions were concerned.
The membership approved his reforms in an election, but the outcome of that election was in question and Coleman overturned the changes, he said. In that election, five contested ballots were at issue.
Haas said not only that he was forced to leave the organization, but also that Masons statewide were ordered to effectively shun him.
Haas said in his testimony Tuesday, "I was shocked and frustrated when the reforms were set aside, but I did nothing improper."
He denied that he initiated or had anything to do with an online group called Masonic Crusade. But he said he was aware of it.
"The whole state was buzzing about Masonic Crusade," he said.
Haas also said an annual report of his year in office contained errors, and in some places the actions of his successor were substituted for his own.
"There are directives completely missing," he said, referring to a copy of that report while on the witness stand. "I've never seen it done like this."
In a list of past Grand Masters on the Mason's website, Haas name has been omitted.
A letter went to Masons statewide and nationwide mentioning his expulsion and forbidding communication on Masonic matters with him. That order has been disruptive to his life, Haas said, and has affected relations with friends and even family members.
"People look to me as though I caused the problem," Haas said.
"Did you?" asked his attorney, Bob Allen.
"No," Haas said. "I just want to be a Mason."
Haas said he was forced to seek Masonic membership in Ohio and was welcomed there even though Steubenville lodge members were aware of the West Virginia controversy.
"But the Grand Lodge of West Virginia objected," he said. "And tried to get it stopped. They issued another edict in April 2010 expelling me again."
He said the West Virginia Grand Lodge withdrew "fraternal communication" with the Steubenville group.
Testimony is expected to continue Wednesday.