But resentment over how Haas' reforms were put aside lingered, and after Haas' agenda was not taken up again at the annual communication in October 2007, Charlie Montgomery, Coleman's successor, continued to face questions about the matter.
The progressives found voice in a movement called the Masonic Crusade, some of whom used an online message board to discuss the issue, posting under pseudonyms such as "A Mason" and "I.M. Hiram."
On Nov. 19, 2007, barely a month into his term, Montgomery traveled to Haas' home lodge in Wellsburg, where he presided over its regular meeting. During that meeting, he confronted Haas over his involvement with the Masonic Crusade, according to testimony during the trial.
Haas said that Montgomery dressed him down and called him a liar in front of his father and his friends before pulling a typed edict out of his pocket and summarily expelling him. He claimed that this violated Masonic rules, which require the filing of formal, written charges, and provide a Mason with the opportunity to call witnesses and defend himself legally.
Montgomery testified that he gave Haas an opportunity to come clean about his involvement with the Masonic Crusade, and would not have expelled him if he had been honest.
After his expulsion in West Virginia, Haas established residency in Steubenville, Ohio, and was accepted into the Ohio Masons. West Virginia's Grand Lodge later severed ties with Ohio.
Another Mason, Greg Wentzel, testified that he set up the Masonic Crusade website, and Haas didn't know that he had, even though the two were friends.
Coleman and Montgomery adamantly rebutted any insinuation or allegation that their actions were motivated by racism. They said they wanted only to uphold Masonic law, which explicitly forbids changing rules without following proper procedures, as well as politicking or advocating for changes.
Any participation in the Masonic Crusade was un-Masonic conduct, and a grand master was well within his rights to take disciplinary action against anyone involved, they said.Haas' lawyer Allen, himself a longtime Mason, said Wednesday that he had not experienced any repercussions as a consequence of representing Haas. But it has been difficult, he conceded.
"I would hope that one day, the ill will and the wounds between the parties will be healed. Mr. Haas certainly hopes that West Virginia will re-establish a relationship with Masonry in Ohio," he said. "But unfortunately, he's not in a position to make those decisions or make that happen."
Although the jury did not find in favor of Haas, Allen hoped that the issues raised during the trial would cause the state's Grand Lodge to re-evaluate its policies.
"I believe in Masonry too, and I'd like to see everybody get along," he said. "I am hopeful that one of these days that West Virginia will take another look at what [Haas] was espousing."
Reach Andrew Clevenger at acleven...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.