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The most common questions seem to be:
(1) What are the requirements for becoming a Mason?
(2) Can <fill in any ethnic group>s be Masons?
(3) Can homosexuals be Masons?
(4) I have a physical disability.  Can I be a Mason?
(5) Can <fill in the name of any religion> be a Mason?
(6) Do Masons accept Catholics?
(7) What if my religion does not allow the swearing of oaths?
(8) Do I have to be invited?
(9) OK, I'm interested-- how do I proceed?

Now, the answers:

(1) What are the requirements for becoming a Mason?

     In Illinois - Be 18, male, able to read English, have lived in Illinois 6 months, and believe in God. 

     Most other jurisdictions require candidates to be 21.

     As regards women, there are numerous women's organizations associated with Masonry, 
most notably the Order of the Eastern Star, Rainbow Girls and Jobs Daughters. 
 (2) Can <fill in an ethnic group>s be Masons?

     Any human who meets the requirements listed in question (1) of this
     section is eligible, regardless of race or color.

     Some have speculated that while there is no official prohibition
     against, say, blacks or Asians from becoming Masons, there is a de facto
     prohibition because they would never be voted into a lodge.  This is
     false.  There are Masons of all ethnic backgrounds.

     However, it is fair to state that Masons, as humans, are prone to
     the kinds of prejudices that all humans may succumb to.  Since the
     vote to admit a candidate is anonymous and must be unanimous, one man's
     unspoken prejudice is sufficient to deny entry to a man (except, of
     course, in those jurisdictions which require more than one 'no' vote
     to deny entrance, but you get the idea).  Prejudice is inexcusable and
     irreconcilable with Masonry, but then, it is also irreconcilable with
     Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and there are certainly Christians,
     Jews, and Muslims who harbor prejudices.

     So it is possible that a Mason, acting unMasonically, could act to
     keep a member out without due cause.  But this is not common, nor is
     it representative of Masonry in general, nor does it conform to the
     high ideals of Masonry.

(3) Can homosexuals be Masons?

     Yes, and there are homosexual Masons.  Everything said in question (2)
     of this section holds true in this case as well.  There is the
     consideration that some men may view homosexuality as being immoral,
     i.e., that homosexuals are not men of "good character".  This is
     generally not due to any specific prejudice but rather due to religious
     belief (depending on how one interprets St. Paul, for example).  However,
     it is safe to say that Masons generally would not regard homosexuality 
     as a barrier to membership.

(4) I have a physical disability.  Can I be a Mason?

     The answer is almost certainly yes, provided you can attend Lodge (and
     meet the non-physical criteria in question (1) of this section).
     Paraplegics have been made Masons, as have the blind, the deaf, and
     others with a variety of physical handicaps.  Minor modifications may
     need to be done to the rituals (e.g., employing sign language, modifying
     points where the candidate stands if the candidate is in a wheelchair,
     etc.) but most Lodges are willing to accommodate candidates.

     In medieval times, the requirement to have a sound body free of physical
     defect was a serious one, since the work of stonemasonry was physically
     difficult.  Some Grand Lodges did carry this requirement into
     symbolic (i.e., non-operative) Masonry.  However, in recent times
     this has all but been eliminated.  Talk to your local Lodge if you have
     any questions.

(5) Can <fill in the name of the religion> be a Mason?

     The only religious requirement is that candidates trust in the Supreme
     Being.  If you can in you can in good faith profess a belief in the
     Supreme Being, you are eligible to be a Mason.  No atheists will ever
     knowingly be made a Mason.

     There are Christian (Catholic, Protestant, Mormon), Jewish, and
     Muslim Masons.  It would be tedious and pointless to go into a
     religion-by-religion (and then denomination-by-denomination)
     discussion.  The key points to remember are the requirement of belief
     in the supreme being and the fact that Masonry is a fraternity, not a

(6) Do Masons accept Catholics?

     Catholicism is only mentioned specifically because it has generated
     a lot of discussion in the past on the Masonic newsgroups.  There is no
     prohibition in any Grand Lodge jurisdiction against Catholics being made
     Masons.  Indeed there are many Catholic Masons.

     Please bear in mind that discussion of this subject on the Masonic
     newsgroups invariably generates a very high noise-to-signal ratio.

(7) What if my religion does not allow the swearing of oaths?

     Some Grand Lodges allow affirmations to be used instead of the
     traditional Masonic oath.  This is more common in Europe than in
     the United States.  In all cases, it is best to check with the Grand
     Lodge in your jurisdiction (or your local Lodge) for more specific

(8) Do I have to be invited?

     No, YOU must ask.  Don't wait to be asked-- you will die waiting.  
     In fact, Masons are not permitted to "ask" non-Masons to join
     the fraternity, to insure that candidates come of their own free will.

     As with many things Masonic, there are some exceptions to this rule.
     Some Grand Lodges allow solicitation, provided it is low-key and
     with the strict provision that no pressure be applied.  Still, you
     don't NEED to be invited in any jurisdiction.  

     Hence the slogan, 2B1ASK1.

(9) OK, I'm interested-- how do I proceed?

     If you know a Mason, ask him about membership.  He will be glad to
     tell you all about the Craft and the local lodge, and give you a petition
     if you wish to join.

     If you do not know a Mason, drop a letter to the local lodge, and one
     of the officers will call you (or call the lodge, though you may not
     get an answer unless someone is in the Lodge building at the time).

     Typically, the process is as follows:

     (a) the applicant fills out a petition.  The petition asks for two
     sponsors, though if you meet and talk with the officers, they can
     usually find sponsors or act as sponsors themselves.

     (b) the petition is read at the lodge during the next business meeting,
     which for many lodges is during the first week of the month, and at that meeting, a
     committee is formed to investigate the candidate.  The petition also
     asks for two character references.

     (c) the committee meets with the candidate to answer questions, ascertain
     that he meets the criteria for membership, and find out a little about
     him.  This is not a "grilling session", but rather a friendly and casual
     chat to make certain that the candidate has been properly informed about
     Masonry and was not improperly solicited.  The committee also contacts
     the character references listed on the petition (typically asking if they
     know any reason why the candidate should not be accepted, etc.)

     (d) The committee reports back to the lodge within in certain time 
    (within 4 weeks of the petition being read, in Illinois) 
     and the candidate is voted on (no sooner than 4 weeks after petition is read.)  

     (e) If accepted, someone from the lodge (often the Secretary) contacts 
     the candidate and informs him that he has been accepted and schedules 
     a date for the first ("Entered Apprentice") of the three degrees.

     (f) Following the first degree, the candidate studies for and takes the second
     degree (Fellowcraft) and then studies for and takes the third degree (Master Mason.)
     Once he has become a Master Mason, he is a full, regular member with all rights.