CHARLESTON - A Brooke County administrative law judge has filed a suit against the state Masons, claiming he was forced out after trying to make the group more tolerant.
Frank Joseph Haas filed the suit May 30 in Kanawha Circuit Court against the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of West Virginia Inc. The suit also names Grand Master Charlie Montgomery, fellow Mason Charles F. Coleman II and several John Does as defendants.
Haas claims he was given the "Masonic death sentence" after he proposed various progressive reforms, which were met with opposition.
The Masons are a semi-secret fraternal organization with its roots traced centuries back to the United Kingdom. While some practices are known, there are some mysteries that are not revealed.
Haas has been a member of the Masons since 1986, and became grand master of the lodge in October 2005.
During his time as grand master, Haas supported various progressive reforms in Masonry reflecting the will of the majority of the members, the lawsuit said.
"The proposed changes and reforms were not only morally right but were consistent with and designed to bring Masonic laws and attitudes into conformity with the substantial public policy of the State of West Virginia and the United States of America," the suit stated. "Haas' goal was to make Masonry more tolerant, friendly, decent and accepting of everyone regardless of nationality, race, religion or disability."
He shared his ideas during an October 2006 meeting, and the lodge voted to accept the progressive reform. However, in November 2007, Haas claims he was "lured to a meeting under false pretenses," where he was lectured, berated and belittled by Montgomery, the suit says.
Haas claims he has no opportunity to defend himself against the charges, and the edict expelling Haas had been prepared in advance.
Montgomery also had the edict expelling Haas read in every Masonic Lodge in West Virginia, and ordered all Masons not to communicate with Haas about Masonic matters, the suit said.
Haas seeks to be reinstated as a Mason and asks that any record of his expulsion be wiped clean. He also seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
Attorney Robert Allen, a longtime Mason, is representing Allen. The case has been assigned to Judge James Stucky.
Kanawha Circuit Court case number 08-C-1035