The Independent Order of Odd Fellows now face yet another one of its social issues; that being the manner of how we treat a segment of members and exclude them for unjustified reasons. As controversial as some members may view this writing, it must be said. Where else do the members share their concerns when they feel an injustice has been done?

There was a time when potential members who were “not of pure white blood” were not allowed to join the Order. There was a time when those owning bars, taverns, or selling alcoholic beverages could not become members. There was a time women could not join an Odd Fellows lodge. If Sovereign Grand Lodge does not reconsider a decision made at its 2017 session in Kansas City, Missouri, then next year, in 2019, the Order shall be on its way to discriminating against those who are on fixed incomes, without jobs, or otherwise poor. The decision to raise the dues by $5.00 next year, and then again another $5.00 the following year, was one of the worst decisions made by the Sovereign Grand Body.

It was a sure way of telling members in many hard-working lodges, even those lodges that add new members each year and do wonderful deeds in their communities, that they are being punished. They are being penalized due to the lack of hard work of the overwhelming majority of inactive lodges. Most lodges fail to show growth in membership.

It was a sure way to hide the underlying effect this unjustified dues increase shall have upon our indigent and poorer members. Without consideration or a voice made in their behalf at last summer’s session, the silent prejudice against our members who cannot afford the increase is social division and the creation of “class” indifference.

For those who see this statement as an overreaction, you must ask yourselves, “What was the reason for the increase in dues?” The explanation for this increase was not an explanation whatsoever; it was merely a way to punish the entire Order for not growing in membership. In the past, SGL raised dues to meet costs. In other words, if only one jurisdiction does not show an increase membership, despite others showing increases, we must all pay the increase. What is the likelihood of every jurisdiction showing an increase?

In several discussions with members these past few months, I have been told that anyone should be able to afford a simple increase of $5.00. Really? This is, of course, a relative statement. For example, a couple on a fixed income, who may belong to both Rebekahs and Odd Fellows, that five dollars turns into a $20.00 increase for the year. Add a second year of the increase in dues, and this turns into a total $40.00 increase! Believe or not, some of our members live on a tight budget!

A dues increase, if justified, should occur. But, an unjustified or punitive dues-increase could be viewed as discriminatory against those who cannot afford an increase. For those who are saying, “It’s only $5.00” I say to you, this is as insensitive, as it is offensive, as I know members who cannot afford the increase. Do you really believe those members having a tough time of paying their dues, are only facing increases by the Odd Fellows? For many, local taxes have increased, utilities have increased, interest on loans have increased, insurance has increased, food prices have increased, and much more. What has gone down in price? – Very little, if anything. Now, the Order raises its dues for nothing more than a “PUNISHMENT” – period.

This should be appalling to the membership. In fairness, there were many who voted against this increase last August; and frankly, many probably did not know what they were voted for or against. Even my own jurisdiction had two representatives against the increase, while a third voted in favor, which tells us that this group was lost.

During 2017 SGL sessions, the Finance Committee was asked to approach the microphone and tell the Sovereign Grand Body how the money would be used. The speaker for the Finance Committee stated that the SGL was “in the black.” He did not have an answer as to how any additional revenue would be used because there was not a need for the money, nor was there a new budgeted item requiring funds.

Then, in one discussion I had with a member – who was most likely personally financially secure – that member stated, “If a member loves and values the Order, he or she will have no problem paying the dues increase.” There are many things we value and cherish in our everyday lives. There are people who we wish we could to assist but we often simply cannot afford it. Our members who love the Order show it by their participation rather than their donations to mysterious causes.

By helping those in need and giving comfort to those we see struggling is how we meet our Order’s values. Punitive dues increases has NO value! The argument that members will pay their dues if the love the Order, has no merit, as the dues increase had no purpose or justification. One can only see it as an attack on a certain kind of member within our ranks – our less affluent members, our homeless members, and our indigent members.

This opinion has probably been lost on some of you, but for those who can think out-of-the-box and view life beyond this Order, the following passage from the Third Degree is something to ponder, because we do have “poor” members in our Order:

“In the lodge room, the high and the low, the rich and the poor, the learned and the unlearned, meet as brothers and sisters, and untidily engage in the promotion of benevolence and truth.”

Finally, we are not critical of the members who proposed this increase or voted to burden our less fortunate members, but rather critical of the lack of justification to increase the dues. Why stop at $5.00 a year for two years? What if local jurisdictions need money? Do they raise their dues, too? This is more of an awareness message, than a message of criticism. There is a simple solution. Reconsider the dues increase in 2018.

In Friendship, Love, & Truth,

Peter V. Sellars PGM/PGP California

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