CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An administrative law judge testified Monday in Kanawha Circuit Court that he was expelled from the West Virginia branch of the Masons after he tried make the organization more inclusive toward minorities and people with disabilities.
Frank Joseph Haas, of Wellsburg, said that he joined the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of West Virginia in 1986. He always wanted to be a Mason, he said, largely because his father, uncles and cousins were members.
One great-grandfather was a Mason in Scotland, he said.
"I always considered myself to be a part of a Masonic family," he said.
Haas worked his way up to become Grand Master of the Grand Lodge, the state's overseeing Masonic body, in October 2005. During his one-year term, he tried to modernize the policies and practices of the state's Masons, he said.
"I wanted to make freemasonry more open, more inclusive, more compassionate," he said.
Haas said he was compelled to take action after a black member of a group recognized and accepted by the Masons was denied entrance to a Masonic meeting in Moundsville.
A clarification of Mason policy -- that it was wrong to exclude an otherwise welcome visitor based on nationality, race or religion -- was part of his agenda that passed at the end of his tenure as Grand Master, he said.
A rule change allowing people with physical disabilities to join the Masons also produced some bitter resistance, he said.
In November 2006, shortly after he had replaced Haas as Grand Master, Charles F. Coleman II sent a letter to every Masonic lodge in the state, reminding them that each lodge's Master -- roughly analogous to a chapter president -- had the discretion to decide which visitors to allow at his particular lodge.