From Chris Hodapp’s blog “Freemasons for Dummies” (http://freemasonsfordummies.blogspot.com/2014/03/gl-of-kansas-adopts-background-checks.html):
“Michael Halleran, the new Grand Master of Kansas, reports that Kansas adopted a new resolution calling for mandatory background checks of new members at its annual meeting on March 21st. This is after two years of the program being done by edict. The previous two years showed that the program did not scare off potential members or affect membership in any way. This is a welcome change and one that should be adopted nationwide.”
It is difficult for me to agree more with Bro. Hodapp’s sentiments. If we, as Masons, are truly passionate about maintaining our status as an organization of good men who attempt to make good men better, then I see very little harm in adding an extra layer of character verification to the process. As it stands in Virginia, the onus is on the petitioner to self-report any previous convictions or troubles with the law. Granted, Masonic lodges DO investigate every candidate by committee, but it is still the petitioner’s prerogative to report any wrongdoings. And while the petitioner has to be recommended by two brethren in good standing, it’s still possible that he could conceal/omit any past misdeeds from those brethren.
I understand that making background checks mandatory would incur extra costs. In Virginia, a State Police criminal background check will run between $15 – $20 (depending on the type and scope). That said, this added cost could easily be integrated into the petition fee, and would only end up costing lodges money should the petitioner be rejected and the fee returned (unless the lodge in question marked that portion of the petition fee as non-refundable). Costs would likely be incurred at the Grand Lodge level as well as the data from these background checks would have to be stored and treated confidentially. But I sincerely feel as if those costs would be minimal compared with the added protection afforded by the implementation of background checks.
Masonry is an organization that makes good men better. But not every person who wants to be a Mason is a good man. Black balls and self-reporting only go so far in guarding the West Gate. We owe it to ourselves and the future of our fraternity to “trust, but verify” all new candidates.