Masons accept into our fraternity only just and upright men who have a belief in a Supreme Being. Not only do we do an investigation and elect our candidates by unanimous ballot, we each take an obligation acknowledging that we are subject to Masonic discipline should we violate our vows.
Prior to becoming Grand Master, I served for several years as Chief Trial Commissioner for the Grand Lodge of Minnesota. The powers, duties and procedures of the Trial Commission are clearly set forth in the Minnesota Masonic Code, available to all to read.
There are several ways in which a Brother may be disciplined. The most streamlined method is when a Brother is convicted of a felony offense. Certified copies are delivered to the Chief Trial Commissioner, who then sends notice to the Brother offering an opportunity to respond to the facts. These situations almost always result in the expulsion of the offending Brother.
A more complicated and involved process is when a Mason is accused of unmasonic conduct, not amounting to a felony criminal offense. The Code provides for a trial in front of three past masters, who render a verdict (that is, whether or not unmasonic conduct was committed) and also set the penalty – reprimand, suspension or expulsion.
The accused has the right to appeal the decision of the Trial Commission, which first goes before the Committee on Grievances and Appeals, which makes a recommendation to the Grand Lodge. I do not recall ever having a trial at the Grand Lodge annual communication, but that is where the appeal would lie.
As Grand Master, I have the power to arrest the jewel of an officer (effectively, removing the brother from office) and to suspend a brother until the next annual communication. I have not had to do either of these duties, and sincerely hope I never will.
Over the years, I have found that cases of Masonic discipline are very rare. You could look at the reports I made to the Annual Communication for the past several years to confirm this. By and large, we come close to our goal of being a society of just and upright men.