Kanawha judge denies Masonic Lodge effort to dismiss suit
An administrative law judge's lawsuit against the West Virginia branch of the Free Masons will continue after a judge denied the Masons' motion to dismiss the suit last week.
September 17, 2008
By Andrew Clevenger
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An administrative law judge's lawsuit against the West Virginia branch of the Free Masons will continue after a judge denied the Masons' motion to dismiss the suit last week.
In June, Frank Joseph Haas sued the Masons, alleging that they improperly expelled him in retaliation for his efforts to make the group more inclusive and progressive.
Kanawha Circuit Judge Irene C. Berger's order notes that the court should only dismiss the case if, assuming Haas' allegations to be true, there is no set of facts that would enable him to win.
Haas headed the statewide Grand Lodge from October 2005 to October 2006. During his tenure, he tried to make the policies of the state Masons less discriminatory and racist and more in line with the U.S. Constitution and the state's public policy, according to the lawsuit.
The suit contends that his immediate successor, Charles F. Coleman II, immediately reversed the progressive reforms enacted by Haas and approved by a majority of the members of the Grand Lodge. Coleman's successor, Charlie L. Montgomery, humiliated Haas by expelling him without warning at a meeting at his home lodge in Wellsburg, the suit alleges.
At a hearing in August, defense attorney John Tinney argued that the case should be dismissed because Haas had not exhausted his appeals within Masonic law.
Bob Allen, Haas' lawyer, countered that any appeal within the Masonic legal framework would be "a sham."
On Tuesday, Tinney said that Berger's ruling means that the case will now proceed to the discovery phase.
Haas' attorneys deposed Montgomery Tuesday, and would likely depose Coleman today, Tinney said. Haas' deposition is scheduled for Oct. 8, he said.
Haas' suit seeks his reinstatement as a Mason and asks that any Masonic record of his expulsion be expunged. It also seeks unspecified punitive and compensatory damages.
Reach Andrew Clevenger at [email protected] or 348-1723.