CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A former Grand Master of the West Virginia branch of the Masons said in Kanawha Circuit Court on Friday that he gave an administrative law judge a chance to come clean about his involvement with a forbidden website before expelling him.
Charles L. Montgomery, of Williamstown, said he asked Frank J. Haas, who was himself a past Grand Master of the state's Grand Lodge, to be honest about his involvement with a website called Masonic Crusade during a 2007 meeting at Haas' home lodge in Wellsburg. When Haas claimed to know nothing about it, Montgomery pulled a pre-written edict expelling Haas from his pocket, effectively excommunicating Haas from the fraternal organization.
"I tried to give [Haas and another Mason] every opportunity to say something, that they were sorry, that they would discontinue that activity [involvement with the Masonic Crusade]," he said.
When they refused -- Montgomery recalled Haas as saying, in reference to the Masonic Crusade, "The dream lives on, and will not die" -- Montgomery felt he had no choice but to kick them out of the Masons.
Haas later sued the Grand Lodge, Montgomery, and former Grand Master Charles F. Coleman II, alleging they had defamed him and violated Masonic rules regarding due process by denying him an opportunity to defend himself.
Throughout the trial, which began on Monday, Haas and his attorneys, Bob Allen and Pamela Deem, have maintained that Coleman and Montgomery, his immediate successors as state Grand Master, were unhappy that Haas had instituted progressive reforms aimed at making West Virginia Masonry more inclusive in terms of race, religion, age and disabilities.
After Coleman, citing irregularities in the vote that approved Haas' agenda, set the reforms aside almost immediately after taking office, the Masonic Crusade website -- originally a message board -- launched, where posters using pseudonyms expressed their support of Haas' reforms.
Montgomery said Friday that politicking and advocating in favor of changes to Masonic rules is forbidden, which made participating in the website un-Masonic conduct.
Eventually, Montgomery got a copy of an e-mail sent by a "MasonicCrusade" e-mail address to various Masons on Aug. 30, 2007, with "The Future of Freemasonry in West Virginia, Vol. 1" in the subject line. Haas had forwarded the e-mail, writing that he hoped for the sake of the "brave soul" who wrote it that the original e-mail was untraceable.
"I agree with all of it in spirit, and I would help visibly, but it is probably best for the cause of the Crusade that I simply watch and be ready for any eventuality. Godspeed, Masonic Crusade!" Haas wrote.
Montgomery said that he showed Haas a copy of an e-mail chain discussing the Masonic Crusade after Haas had first said he had never heard of the splinter movement.