The Grand Lodge of Texas has denied one Motorcycle club, Widows Sons Masonic Riders Association from being recognized as a Masonic body within the state of Texas. I will explain this story (to the best of my abilities in a minute), but there are others including the Freemasons Riding Club and Ruffians Masonic Motorcycle Group. These groups are ardent in their belief that they are nothing more than Master Masons that like to get together, and ride. Some have charitable goals, others are much less formal. Still the question that is asked is, do these groups cast a disparaging image on Freemasons? Or are they the 21st century recruiting tool the fraternity has been searching for long and hard?
A good Masonic friend of mine referred to these groups as "Doublewide Masonry", and while the term is inflammatory it makes a point. Masonic riding groups aren't really doing too much to spread further light in Masonry and working on the internal temple. Rather using images among our fraternity to exploit the tough guy image of motorcycle riders and doing little more then developing cliches within an already shrinking organization. Before you give me "its the internal not the external", I am sure you wear those vests not thinking of the image you are projecting, like Larry David said to the lady wearing a skimpy outfit "I am sure you are wearing that so people will look at your shoes." Realize that dressing like a biker, people are going to judge you like a biker. It is foolhardy to think you can dress that way, project a certain image, than claim that people are being "judgmental".
Still, the argument of these clubs and attracting men to Masonry has been made, and somewhat convincingly. A member of the 3-5-7 Brotherhood a chapter of the Widows Sons wrote the following:
The Widows Sons Masonic Motorcycle Association is still a very new organization by Masonic standards being less than 15 years old. We have seen incredible growth; approximately 38 states in the US plus most territories in Canada, and countries ranging from England, Scotland, and Germany to S. Korea, Japan, and Australia, and more.
On top of it the Widows Sons claim on their website:
The Widows Sons serve as a Masonic Booster Club by helping to raise Masonic Awareness while we attend public motorcycling events, and by supporting our Blue Lodges in whatever capacity we are able. Widows Sons chapters have helped to increase Masonic membership through our presence and visibility during public motorcycle events and rallies.
While growth is a relative term here, the point still cannot be denied that these organizations, not just the Widows Sons have gained popularity in their recent past and seem to be providing an outlet to those men who wish to merge their world of motorcycles with their Freemasonry. The question that these clubs are attracting members seems somewhat deluded. If men are wanting to join the fraternity, to better their internal temples, than I completely endorse it, if they are joining to join this specific Riding Club, than I discourage it.
Criticisms of the Shrine include that it has little Masonic meaning or truth and deters from the Masonic principles and foundation of the blue lodge. No one can make the argument that these Riding Clubs are somehow better than that, and every time I hear from a member "We are motorcycle enthusiasts, who happen to be Master Masons," I role my eyes. The Shrine philanthropy is undeniable these organizations, not so much. All I get from their "news" is new chapters opening, or new members, nothing about their charitable activities.
Reasons given for this include that the organization never provided information on whether members had to be Master Masons in good standing. Also the patches and general image did not reflect well on Freemasonry to the general public.
The Freemasons Riding Club is legal as far as I know and the Ruffins are trying to get recognized this year.
So how do I feel about these groups? If they are an addition to your Masonic journey, than I don't see any harm in it. If they have become the focus of your Masonic journey, then you need to reevaluate your priorities, both in Masonry and in life.