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Should a Mason hold a Liquor License?


I have thought long and hard on this issue and I must say that I have had a difficult time reconciling my beliefs in my freedom to make a choice in this matter and in my way of conducting my every day business in regards to this issue. With regards to the title of this paper, the next question I have to ask is, "Should a Mason be prevented from holding a liquor license?" These questions are generally argued from two venues of thought, the moral and the legal. I have come to the inescapable conclusion, for me at least, that there can be no such thing as a reconciliation of my legal freedoms and my moral obligation on this difficult subject.

Although I am prone to err in either, I strive to make the right decisions and act on them accordingly when faced with a choice. Let me say up front that yes, I do take a drink occasionally but I do so in moderation. However, there are a few of you who have witnessed me err on at least one and possibly two occasions. I make no claim to be less than human and prone to such faults, but more than that I cannot lay claim to. What follows are my thoughts on this issue.

In considering your previous vote rescinding the prohibition against members of the Fraternity owning or possessing a liquor license, let me say that there are a number of arguments on both sides of this issue, each with valid points.

On one hand, there is the argument that, "We, as Americans, have the right and should be allowed to make this choice for ourselves so long as it is within the legal parameters as defined in the code section of the law. After all, we live in a free country and should not be prohibited from making this choice. There is already too much government interference in our daily lives." On the other hand, the high moral standards assumed by the Order speak strictly against this practice. So how do you balance the two? Rather, how do you reconcile the "high moral standards," with the "legal" standards?

Brethren, throughout history governments of the various nations around the world, after having assumed power, have made laws that generally reflected the moral code of the religious community of whatever faith was in the majority. Most of these same governments adopted that religion as the "state" religion, leaving little or no room for dissent. Church and State could not be separated thus, the "legal standards" were the "high moral standards," so there was no need for reconciliation. Dissenters were forced to go underground. In our society, such is not the case.

The freedoms we enjoy under our present legal system do not always reflect the morality of our faith. The freedom to choose between abortion and birth is but one example. Those who believe in the sanctity of life usually equate the abortion process in religious terms and vehemently oppose it. Those who believe in the freedom of choice, justify it in a different light. Still others argue that it is illegal to kill human life. But that is not the argument here.

In a difficult situation, the choices we make, if we were to be totally honest, often reflect a compromise between what is legal and what is moral. If the morality of the community relaxes and what used to be frowned upon is now socially acceptable and we are forced to make a choice, we will usually take the relaxed route because it easier. Such is nature of man, but it doesn't change the moral teachings of his faith, whatever that faith may be. But Masonry is not a religion nor is it a substitute for one. Thus, the dilemma. If Masonry is not a religion, how can you assume this high moral ground based on morality? Easy! Don't equate this concept with religious morality! There is ample evidence of the mayhem that the consumption of alcohol causes.

Instead, ponder the disastrous results of alcoholic beverage consumption by members of your community. Those who have lost their lives as innocent victims of a drunken driver, those who have destroyed marriages and lost fortunes looking into the bottom of a glass of liquor, the lives squandered by addiction, and a host of other calamities frequented on the lives of your fellow citizens as a result of their inability to control their appetite. Your Masonic brother may be among those affected by this. If he is you may or may not share in the legal responsibility associated with the sale of it to him but you certainly share in the moral responsibility of contributing to it by virtue of the knowledge of the possible dangers it poses. It matters not whether you know him or whether or not you know if he has a problem controlling his appetite for strong drink. You simply know what maladies may erupt from its use. But the operative word here, Brethren, is "may." You have no way of knowing the history of anyone's use or abuse of it, unless you are familiar with him or her. Nor do you have any control over the use or abuse of this product once it leaves your store. If all the legal criteria are met at the time of the sale, your legal responsibility and control ends there. If your control ends there you may possibly argue the point by asking the same question that Cain asked of God when God inquired of his brother Abel's whereabouts, ":….Am I my brother's keeper?" Or, " If he is too weak to control his own appetite, how is that my responsibility?"

Laying Masonic Brotherhood aside, the Fellowship of Man under the Fatherhood of God places you in the position of some stewardship of your fellow man, so in a word….."YES!" Of course you could never be expected to enforce this stewardship before the sale due to the fact that he, like you, is an individual with as much right to make his own decisions as you have. His actions and his decisions are not within your power to control. Should you try to assume such control, you may meet with considerable resistance and in the process, probably make an enemy of him. So you would have to limit this stewardship to the hand of charity should he require it. But, you argue, if it again becomes illegal, with respect to the Georgia Masonic Code, then all of this can be avoided. Really? This reasoning assumes that every Mason will abide by the code. I think not! All it will do is force those brothers who are going to ignore the Code anyway, to try and keep others from knowing about their involvement.

Still others argue, "If I don't sell it to him someone else will, so what's the difference? A man who wants to buy some liquor will find a way." This statement bears a lot of truth as was borne out during the Prohibition era but the difference here, brethren, is that you will not have profited from his misfortune should any befall him as a result of this sale. Thus the "high moral ground" and the "legal" ground in this situation cannot be reconciled. Legally, you can but morally you shouldn't. Again, brethren, these are MY thoughts. You may not agree.

Up until you rescinded this prohibition, you had NO choice in this matter. It was already codified in the Georgia Masonic Code. A law, if you will, that left the individual Mason no option to even consider a choice, moral or legal. If you were involved in the sale of alcoholic beverages in any form prior to this rescission and you were a Mason you had to either lie about it, which a few of you did, or you had to keep it hidden from prying eyes. In either case, you were in violation of the Georgia Masonic Code and subject to expulsion from the Order.

During my deliberation on this subject, I feel as if I came face to face with the same problem that must have faced the Founding Fathers. Specifically, one of freedom. The ability of a man to be able to choose the course his life will take and the responsibility to shoulder the consequences or rewards of his decisions so long as he does not interfere with or abridge the rights of his fellow man. If I act in contravention to this concept, based on my own personal moral code, I will betray each and every one of them, and in the process make of myself the hypocrite that I do not wish to be.

I have an abiding passion for liberty, what little I have left of it, and it rules my thinking when I have to make a choice. Therefore I am compelled to state my position on this subject, abide by it and shoulder any criticisms that may be foisted on me as a result of it. I said all that in order to say this:

While I disagree with the premise that a Mason should hold a liquor license and sell this product, I don't think that he should be prevented from holding or selling alcoholic beverages by anything except his own moral choice. Therefore, I will not try to undermine your vote on this. To do so, would be to try to place on you my own brand of morality in this matter and remove from you the right to your freedom of choice. This is something that I am neither inclined nor qualified to do. The only proper thing I can do is to abide by your decision and make the most of it. You have already voiced your opinion on this subject and have cast your vote. Besides, you are reading one man's opinion. There are number of Masons whose opinions would refute this paper and probably argue more eloquently in the process.

Brethren, this paper was not written to defend the legality of our Constitutional freedom of choice, nor was it written as a condemnation of past choices. It was written to bring attention to moral choices.

Let your conscious be your guide and govern yourselves accordingly.

Bill Edwards PM
Riverdale Lodge #709

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