CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Kanawha County jury heard more testimony Tuesday about how an internal struggle within the West Virginia branch of the Masons led to the sudden expulsion of two longtime members.
One of the ousted members is Frank J. Haas, a former Grand Master of the Grand Lodge, the state's central, overseeing Masonic body. In 2008, he filed a lawsuit against the Grand Lodge and his two immediate successors as Grand Master, Charles F. Coleman II and Charlie L. Montgomery, alleging that they defamed him and violated Masonic due process by throwing him out without giving him a chance to defend himself from formal charges, which were not filed.
Haas, an administrative law judge from Wellsburg, said that Coleman and Montgomery wrongly believed that he was involved with a website called Masonic Crusade, an online message board where Masons posting under pseudonyms criticized Coleman and Montgomery for their efforts to undo the progressive reforms implemented by Haas during his tenure as Grand Master.
"I didn't know who set up the website, and I didn't know anyone knew [who did]," Haas said.
The changes made at the end of Haas' year-long tenure, which came to be known as the Wheeling Reforms, sought to make the West Virginia Masons more inclusive in terms of race, religion, age and disabilities. Haas has maintained that he was trying to bring Masonic policies more in line with federal and state public policy.
Within days of becoming Grand Master in October 2006, Coleman began repealing the Wheeling Reforms through a series of edicts, alleging irregularities in the voting process, Haas said.
The voting ended in a tie, so he cast the deciding vote as Grand Master, which he was entitled to do, he said. Masonic votes are weighted, with some members accorded full votes while others only receive quarter votes, he said.
As the votes were counted, allegations surfaced that one Mason had cast five full ballots, but Haas could find no evidence of ballot stuffing.
On Tuesday, Richard Bosely, a retired chemical operator, said that he tried to ask Coleman about whether any Mason had been charged or punished for voting for five times, but Coleman brushed him off.
Almost a year later, on Nov. 5, 2007, Bosely again raised the issue with new Grand Master Montgomery during a meeting of the Wellsburg lodge, he said.
"[Montgomery] told me, 'This is not the time nor the place to discuss this,'" Bosely said. "I said, 'Where better [than a Masonic meeting]? That's when he told me to sit down."
Bosely said he was respectful but persistent, and felt that as a member of a lodge, he was entitled to an answer.
Instead, Montgomery became angry, and after the meeting demanded that Bosely surrender his apron that designated him as a deputy grand lecturer, an elevated position within the Masons.
Two weeks later, Montgomery unexpectedly attended another meeting of the Wellsburg lodge with eight other members of the Grand Lodge, having told Bosely that it would be within his best interests to be there, too. At the Nov. 19 meeting, Montgomery ran the meeting, an honor available to the ranking dignitary, but one that is rarely exercised, Haas said.
Montgomery then called Haas and Bosely to stand next to the altar, dressed them down, and read edicts expelling both men from the Masons, Haas said.