“Resolution No. 5 – 2017 – by unanimous consent – adopted Thursday the 24th August 2017 The Executive Committee of The Sovereign Grand Lodge moved the following, which was referred to Committee on State of the Order. Be it Resolved, that a Non-discrimination Policy be inserted into the Appendix of the Code of General Laws of The Sovereign Grand Lodge to read as follows: Non-Discrimination Policy The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) will not discriminate against any individual on the basis of disability, age [other than that of minimum to join the Order (lodge, club or group)], ethnicity, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion or other social identity. The I.O.O.F. will make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures when such modifications are necessary to afford its services and facilities to individuals with disabilities, unless the modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of its services.
Game over. Enough. There is no longer room for discussion.
If a lodge, or grand lodge is caught discriminating against any of the individuals or groups listed above, it (or you) will likely end up speaking with an attorney–or two. Hell, maybe even a judge. And those legal fees! Ouch!
It is no longer 1850. It is not 1920. It’s not even 1970. It’s 2018, and according to the laws of the United States, discrimination against people is illegal, and it’s ridiculous that some people have to be reminded of this. According to the Code Of Laws of the Independent Order Of Odd Fellows, if discrimination occurs, an Odd Fellow and or a lodge will be punished by the Order. There’s an even better chance somebody who’s an Odd Fellow will be punished by the victim’s attorneys for violating civil rights statutes.
Now, some may say “In OUR jurisdiction, we’ll do what we want!! No Gays, no African Americans, and no Hispanics, because this is (insert your state’s name)!” Think you can keep bigotry a secret? Be advised of this: someone always talks. It’ll be found out eventually, and when this happens there’s a new word somebody will learn: LAWSUIT.
People should also know that if someone uses this Order to perpetuate their bigotry, they are severely outnumbered by more Odd Fellows who will work for universal brother and sisterhood (see below for a reference to SGL and autism). Why? Because it’s a violation of one of the most sacred tenets of Odd Fellowship: in our lodges there is no distinction between individuals. I’d also point out that if a member knows discrimination is occurring and does nothing to stop it, conventional wisdom states they are as guilty as the perpetrator.
And those legal fees! Ouch!
Here’s a quote on bigotry from The Odd Fellows Keepsake, a late 19th century IOOF magazine. It is a warning about what bigotry can do, and a call to remove it from our Order, in the very small pockets where it exists: “When a bigot moves it is amidst ruin of his own creation. His prayers are curses, his touch pollution, his communion death, his vengeance eternal. His decalogue is written in the destruction of his victims, and if he stoops for a moment from his inglorious flight, it is only that he may gather strength for a more sanguinary desolation. The fury of such persons goeth forth withering (all) alike in its repose and progress. From such ‘unreasonable and wicked men’ Paul the apostle prayed devoutly to be delivered; no wonder; for they are at best moral hyenas.”
Bigotry destroys all it ensnares– both victims and perpetrators– and will destroy lodges or grand lodges. Recently Sovereign Grand Lodge felt the impact of bigotry in the Order when an autistic young man was nearly denied a chance to visit the United Nations in a program run by the IOOF. A swarm of Odd Fellows rose up against this destructive decision. The results were a huge uproar in the Order between members, attorneys becoming involved, and the IOOF getting beaten up in the media. Further, the United Nations now forbids the Order to ever use the words “United Nations” again in its program. However, a bee swarm of Odd Fellows were able to sway bigotry, and the young man was allowed to visit the UN. These are the Odd Fellows who will fight bigotry in the Order.
Bigotry is always destructive. Those who practice it must come to see this.
If you have bigotry taking place in your lodge or grand lodge, say something to someone.
We are looking for people of good character. Can they help the distressed, the foster child, the sick? Will they treat others in the lodge as equals? Can they add positive things to the lodge experience? Those are the things membership should be based upon.
Forget it not!
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Scott Moye is an award-winning history educator and collector of Arkansas folklore. He grew up on a cotton farm and is currently a museum worker. Hobbies include: old house restoration, writing, amateur radio, Irish traditional music, archery, craft beer, old spooky movies, and street performance. He is a member of Marshall Lodge #1, in Marshall, Arkansas, and a founder of Heart In Hand Blog.