Today, August 13 at 10am, a history-making Masonic Trial was held in Boise, Idaho with charges against Freemason, Krispen Hartung. Brother Hartung was charged with "unmasonic conduct", and in particular for establishing and being a member of a "irregular" lodge of Freemasonry (Praxis Lodge, a Modern Lodge of Freemasonry, under the Grand Orient of the United States, and in amity with the Grand Orient of France) that does not require its members to believe in God or gods, does not use the Bible in lodge rituals and meetings, and allows discussion of politics and religion in the lodge setting.
During the trial, Brother Hartung pleaded "Not Guilty" to the charges and read a formal response and explanation to his plea. That response can be downloaded or viewed here.
Brother Hartung's argument was multifaceted, but the most powerful points made were in his closing paragraphs:
"In closing, I will admit that I have built and am currently a member of a Modern lodge of Freemasonry, but I cannot sincerely and with any rational basis admit to this trial committee that this lodge is "irregular", let alone an indication of any unmasonic behavior, based on the charges and explanations presented to me. I reject your misguided definition and concept of irregularity. I reject it for the same reasons that I reject the uncivilized and dogmatic beliefs that black people cannot run for office, that women can't vote, or that human beings do not have the right to free speech and expression. I reject it because it is inherently flawed and out of date, and the ever-changing history of Freemasonry does not justify the notion of regularity as a principle of Universal Freemasonry and brotherhood. I furthermore reject your notion of irregularity because I regard it as morally suspect, and the charges made against me, rather than providing a moral argument for my alleged unmasonic conduct, rely solely on definitions, semantics, and out of date principles.
Any fraternity that judges the worth of a member or potential candidate based on his private theological beliefs and not his character, or forces him to compromise his freedom of conscience, is not a fraternity that I want to be associated with in any way or form. I regard such behavior as myopic, uncivilized, and absurd. This is based solely on territorial politics and on drawing superficial and arbitrary boundaries of class membership, not the principles of universal brotherhood."
I therefore request that you do whatever you deem appropriate. If that means that you have to put me on trial for so-called unmasonic conduct, then so be it; but I will state for the record that this is not an act of justice, an act of morality, or one of a fraternity that embraces brotherhood, but an act of ignorance and stubbornness, and a refusal to evolve to a higher standard of humanity and Freemasonry."
The trial committee discussed the charges and Brother Hartung's response for over an hour. They voted and the verdict was that Brother Hartung was guilty of the above mentioned charges, and will be expulsed from Boise Lodge #2 and the Grand Lodge of Idaho. Note, this is actually what Brother Hartung wanted last November, but they did not acknowledge his request, but instead decided to charge him.
The outcome of the trial was as expected. Based on the rules, regulations, and definitions of the Grand Lodge of Idaho, Brother Hartung is indeed a member of an irregular lodge of Freemasonry, which is a sufficient basis to warrant unmasonic conduct. However, Brother Hartung's response to the charges raised several philosophical issues around the moral implications of Anglo-American or "mainstream" Freemasonry's requirement for members to believe in God, among other religiously rooted requirements and principles that render them a non-secular Fraternity.