Expelled Mason in W.Va. sues grand master, lodge

Associated Press/June 9, 2008

Charleston, West Virginia - A former Freemason grand master is suing the West Virginia branch of the centuries-old fraternal organization and two members, alleging they defamed him after he pushed through less discriminatory and racist policies.

"These reforms and proposals were intended to rid Masonry in West Virginia of Orwellian, repressive, regressive and unconstitutional practices,'' Frank Joseph Haas alleges in his lawsuit, filed May 30 in Kanawha County Circuit Court.

Named as defendants are the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of West Virginia Inc., Masons Charles F. Coleman II and Charlie L. Montgomery, and several John Does.

Haas says Coleman, who succeeded him as grand master, voided policy changes adopted in 2006, saying the vote to approve them was flawed.

Haas also accuses Montgomery of spearheading his expulsion from the organization in November.

Montgomery did not immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment, and no telephone listing could be found for Coleman.

The Masons is an international secret society that promotes brotherliness, charity and mutual aid.

Haas, an administrative law judge from Brooke County, alleges the defendants insinuated he was a liar, and by doing so harmed his standing in the community and hurt his reputation.

Haas, a Mason since 1986 who became grand master in October 2005, also alleges he was not given an opportunity to defend himself against the charges.

As a result of his expulsion, Haas cannot retire to the West Virginia Masonic Home nor have a Masonic funeral with other Masons serving as pallbearers, the lawsuit alleges.

Haas is seeking reinstatement as a Mason and to have any record of his expulsion expunged. His lawsuit also seeks unspecified damages.

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