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National Grange President: Letís not lose sight of values

By Edward Luttrell - New Grange May/June 2011

  JUNE 6, 2011 --

In 1891, J. H. Brigham in his annual address made the following statement. 

“We should not lose sight of the cardinal principles of our Order, viz., the absolute political and religious freedom of the individual. No official, not even our National body, can place restrictions upon this freedom. Officials may give expression to individual views. A majority of the members of the National Grange may endorse certain propositions involving question of political economy affecting the material interests of citizens, such as tariff or finance, but in no case is a member of our Order bound by such action or expression of opinion unless his own judgment shall approve.

“The membership of the Grange can be committed to no party, to no individual, to no religious creed, to no political theory or policy, by any act of any official, or by any resolution adopted by Subordinate, State, or National Grange. Any other position upon these propositions means disintegration and death.

“This need not hinder discussion nor expression of opinion by members acting individually or collectively. All measures which are of especial interest to farmers should be viewed from all points. Give the people the benefit of any phase of opinion and then they can draw intelligent conclusions.

“Absolute freedom of opinion, upon all public questions, is a right not restricted but rather guaranteed and protected by the fundamental law of our Order.”

Brigham’s statement is as true today as it was when he spoke those words to the delegates of the National Grange in Springfield, Ohio in November of 1891.

There is not a member who agrees with every policy which has been adopted by the National Grange or with every statement made by any of the leaders of our organization. Just as in 1891, we expect each member to engage in debate on the issues of the day and through discussion find the majority view for our organization while allowing each member to follow their own path.

However, when the Grange advocates on behalf of any of the various policies that it has adopted we are restricted in only representing the specific Grange that has adopted such policy. We can mention that other levels have policy in agreement, but as members we must remember which level of the Grange we are representing.

I was asked about what happens when our local Grange policy differs from the State or National Grange policy. If the issue is a local issue, then your local Grange may indeed, in fact should, advocate for their position to local government. Remember that individual members may advocate for or against any issue they wish as citizens but, should never identify themselves as a Granger when advocating against Grange policy. However for a Grange or Grange members to take their positions to State or National officials or to the media in order to create conflict within our Grange policy or to attempt to change Grange policy through public pressure goes against all principles of Grange membership.

We have a process that each member and every Grange may use to initiate change policy at each level of the Grange. Since every member is given opportunity to use their voice and vote, when the majority set a policy, no member should attempt to create public controversy about Grange policy as they still have the right to initiate policy change within our organization. Our process is grassroots democracy in action!

Considering the name calling and uncivil behavior occurring in Congress and State Legislatures throughout our great nation, I’m glad the Grange has remained true to its fundamental principles and serves as a place where all good people can continue to gather and exchange their views. We have open discussion and debate and only adopt policy positions when 50 percent plus one of the voting members set that policy.

Where we can find a majority of our members who agree on a policy we can advocate on that issue as an organization without forcing members of a differing view to join in the efforts. The only members who must advocate the Grange position are our leaders, usually the Master and Legislative Director or chair.

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