Lutherans Informed about Lodges (LIL)


“Shrine”—Its full title is Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.  Stevens describes it as “a social and benevolent society with a ritual and history linked to Arabic traditions, in which Oriental mysticism, names, legends, and titles are freely employed.” The jewel of the order is the crescent, usually made of the claws of the Bengal tiger, united at the bases with a gold setting.  The sphinx is engraved on one side and a pyramid, urn, and star on the other.  The crescent is generally suspended from a scimitar and holds a star pendant between the drooping horns.  Claiming to have originated in Arabia, this order is secret and closely affiliated with Freemasonry.  Only 32nd degree Masons and Knights Templars are eligible for membership.

From: WELS Conference Paper on Lodges


Masonic Shriners Oath

The oath of the Shrine concludes as follows: “ willful violation whereof I may incur the fearful penalty of having my eyeballs pierced to the center with a three-edged blade, my feet flayed and I will be forced to walk the hot sands upon the sterile shores of the Red Sea, until the flaming sun shall strike me with livid plague, and may Allah the God of Arab, Muslim and Mohammedan, the God of our fathers support me to the entire fulfillment of the same. Amen, Amen, Amen.”


Temples, Not Hospitals Get Most Shrine Money

For more than 60 years the fez, the black-tassled red hat worn by Shriners, has been a symbol of the group’s tireless efforts to raise money for its network of children’s hospitals.

Shrine literature refers to the hospitals as “the soul of the Shrine” and “the reason for Shrinedom.” Yet Internal Revenue Service records indicate that the Shrine, the nation's richest charity, gives its 22 Shriners hospitals for crippled children less than a third of the millions of dollars it raises from the public each year.

IRS records were available for only 76 of the Shrine's 185 temples in 1984, but the records show that those temples raised $10.4 million that year from such common Shriner activities as circuses, football games and newspaper sales. Shrine hospitals received only $2.7 million of that money.

The rest—about $7.7 million—the temples kept for their own use.

While the IRS could not provide records for the other Shrine temples, projections based on past income and spending—including 1982 and 1983 tax records—indicate the Shrine’s 185 temples raised an estimated $25.3 million from the public in 1984. Shrine hospitals reported receiving only $8.3 million from the temples.

A six-month investigation of Shrine finances by The Orlando Sentinel shows that the 880,000-member fraternity spent the rest—an estimated $17 million—on food, travel, entertainment and fraternal ceremonies.

Estimates from available records also show that Shrine hospitals in 1984 received just 1 percent, or $182,000, of an estimated $17.5 million in profits from about 175 Shrine circuses. Only one of the 76 temples for which IRS records were available reported contributing any circus money to the hospital system. The most recent year for which IRS records for the Shrine fraternity were available was 1984.

Robert Turley, a Lexington, Ky., attorney and Shrine spokesman, said the organization has “no basis on which we could agree with” the conclusion that temples give less than a third of the money they raise from the public to Shrine hospitals.

“I don’t accept the one-third, two-thirds because I haven’t seen the evidence of that,” said Turley, a member of the Shrine hospital charity’s board of trustees.

Though Shrine leaders made records available for their hospitals, they declined repeated requests to make finanical records of the temples public. “The IRS forms filed by the temples are kept at the Shrine’s international headquarters in Tampa, but public has a right to ask us to compile that information.”

Richard Olfene of Auburn, Maine, chairman of the Shrine hospital board of trustees, defended the spending practices, saying that the temples must be financially secure in order to support the hospitals. He said that the publicity created by the array of Shrine activities is critical to maintaining the flow of public donations to the hospitals.

Shriners call their organization “the world’s greatest philanthropy” and “one of the world’s purest charities.” They also take great care to foster the widespread perception that all temple activities, particularly the Shrine circuses, support Shriner hospitals for crippled children.

But the numbers tell a different story.

The Sentinel’s investigation found that Shrine temples use their association with the hospitals to generate money for themselves; that the Shrine does not follow recommended financial reporting criteria set for charitable organizations by the nation’s largest rating agencies; and that Shrine hospitals may be becoming outmoded.

A 1982 IRS survey ranked the Shrine, with $1.2 billion in assets, the richest charity in America. Its assets then were larger than those of any university in the country except Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Princeton. The Shrine today is worth an estimated $2 billion. The Sentinel’s review of Shrine finances began as a result of a controversy last year over ticket sales at the 1983 circus sponsored by Orlando’s Bahia Temple. Shrine documents, state records, circus promotional materials and 343 IRS records were reviewed. Interviews were conducted with more than 185 people, including Shriners, state and federal authorities, charity administrators, hospital officials and circus promoters.


The Sentinel found that the Shrine temples, not Shrine hospitals, are often the primary beneficiaries of the group’s fund-raising activities.

The 76 temples for which IRS records were reviewed had an income of $39.8 million. They reported spending $35.3 million on themselves and giving $4.5 million to hospital charity, according to IRS and hospital records.

Income for all 185 Shrine temples in 1984 was an estimated $97 million. Shriners spent on themselves or invested an estimated $86 million of it. Shrine hospitals got $11 million, according to hospital charity records.

The money the Shrine temples gave to the hospitals is only a small part, about 4 percent, of the hospitals’ annual income. Most of the hospital money, about $126 million in 1984, was interest from the hospital charity’s $1.75 billion in investments. That interest alone was more than enough to cover the hospitals’ $103 million operating costs.

The second largest source of hospital income, $93.3 million in gifts and bequests, was donated directly by the public to the Shrine hospital charity, bypassing the temples.

The hospitals received more from temple-sponsored newspaper sales and football games than any other fund-raisers in 1984. Shrine street sales of its newspapers made $3.4 million; football, $1.4 million.

Shriners say virtually all the money they raise through their newspaper sales is passed along to their hospitals. The Sentinel review of the 1984 records found proceeds from paper sales consistently were passed along to the hospitals.

The distinction between the Shrine fraternity and the Shrine charity is not clear to most people outside the Shrine. Even many rank-and-file Shriners are unaware that the two are set up as separate tax-exempt corporations.

The fraternity, the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, has 880,000 members in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Panama. Its network of 188 temples today operates much like any fraternity, existing chiefly to benefit its members.

The charity, known as Shriners Hospitals for Crippled Children, was started by the fraternity in 1922. It operates 19 orthopedic and three burn hospitals. The temples conduct hundreds of fund-raisers every year, including paper sales, football, baseball and basketball games, rodeos, golf and fishing tournaments, concerts, ice shows, fish cookouts, barbecues, bingo games, telethons, peanut sales, dances and lotto games.

And circuses. A Sentinel survey of Shrine circuses held around the country found that many are presented as fund-raisers for Shrine hospitals.

Only one of the 14 men on the Shrine’s national board of directors said he was aware of any misrepresentation. Edward McMullan of Calgary, Alberta, in Canada and chairman of the board’s circus committee, said he has had to warn temple leaders about creating the impression that hospitals get circus money. Turley, a member of the Shrine’s hospital board of trustees, said he is not aware of any deception. However, he said the Shrine will not defend temples that mislead the public. Such deception would violate fraternity bylaws prohibiting temples from using the hospitals’ name in connection with fund-raisers unless proceeds are actually given to the hospitals.

“It’s bad if it’s been violated. It’s bad. It’s very bad,” Turley said.

Since learning of the Sentinel’s findings the executive secretary for the fraternity, Charles Cumpstone, who works at the group’s Tampa headquarters, said the Shrine has undertaken its own inquiry.

“We have found some of the things you found... things that could be misinterpreted, and we have contacted the temples,” Cumpstone said. He would not elaborate.


The Shrine’s reporting practices fall short of recommended standards for charitable purposes.

President Reagan’s Task Force on Private Sector Initiatives in 1982 praised the Shrine, calling it an example of what a private organization can do to help solve public problems. But the Shrine does not meet standards set by two national charity rating agencies: the National Charities Information Bureau and the Philanthropic Advisory Service of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

If the Shrine followed those standards, as do the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and dozens of other big charities, it would make complete financial reports available for both the hospital and the fraternity.

The Shrine is obligated to file reports on both the charity and fraternity with the IRS. But the IRS does not have complete records available. Nor has the agency attempted to compile composite figures on the organization.

Turley said the Shrine board of directors is satisfied that filing reports with the IRS fulfills the fraternity’s obligation to the public. He said the board does not compile figures for the fraternity’s revenue, expenses or assets and cannot force temples to make their finances public.

“Each temple is autonomous,” agreed John W. Dean, a Philadelphia attorney, funeral director and board member. “The temples set their own policies.”

In contrast, the standards set by the two private rating agencies hold charity administrators responsible for their fund-raising affiliates. Those standards also say that charities should state clearly the purpose for all fund-raising events and should avoid exaggerated or misleading claims.

Most Shrine temples do not state a purpose for their circuses. Moreover, the Shrine’s promotion of many circuses has created a misleading impression about how circus profits are spent.

Shriners say their hospitals spend nothing to raise money, while IRS records show the fraternity’s temples spend millions of dollars each year to raise funds for the hospitals.

The Shrine tells donors in promotional literature and circus programs that 98 cents of every dollar contributed to the hospitals is spent on hospitalized children, with 2 cents spent on administration. That is an accurate claim for the hospitals.

Most other charities, though, include expenses for fund raising in reporting the ratio of money going to charitable work vs. that going to expenses. If the Shrine did that it would have to reflect the activities of the Shrine fraternity, which does all of the fund raising and promotional activities for the hospitals.

If those figures are included, about 30 cents of each dollar collected by the Shrine fraternity and hospitals was spent on patient care in 1984.

Wilson Levis, program director of the Charities Information Bureau, said “very, very, very, very few” charities can claim even 90 cents of every dollar is spent on charity. “Normally, what we see is around 25 and 30 percent” being spent on administration and fund raising, he said.


Shrine hospitals, though widely acclaimed, are serving a diminishing need. Shrine hospitals are renowned for the free medical care they provide to poor children, and since the first Shrine hospital opened in 1922 they report having helped 297,000 needy children.

Most of the Shrine hospitals were built in the 1920’s in response to the spread of polio. But specialized orthopedic care hospitals are becoming outmoded in the view of some medical experts, who believe the Shrine should follow the lead of other hospitals by expanding into general medical care for children of the poor.

Shriners on the charity’s board of trustees said they do not plan that kind of expansion. They say that there is a continuing need for specialized orthopedic hospitals. “We will continue looking into the unmet needs of crippled children,” Turley said.

Shrine board members and hospital trustees acknowledge their orthopedic hospitals are having problems keeping beds occupied even as public support grows. Public contributions to the hospital charity in 1979 totaled $64.7 million, compared to about $100 million today.

“In the early days, Shriners hospitals were a wholly charitable activity of the fraternity itself,” said Walker Kisselburgh, chairman of the fraternity’s board of directors.

Eventually “public support grew to the extent that its dollar amount exceeded that of the temples themselves... Now, the hospitals are no longer wholly dependent upon the temples for financial support.”

However, Kisselburgh, a retired ball-bearing manufacturer and a resident of Torrance, Calif., cautioned against measuring temple support for the charity in dollars only.

Shriners volunteer time to drive patients and their families to airports and hospitals. They help recruit patients and act as hospital volunteers. They bestow holiday food and clothing on needy families. They buy children medical equipment for home use.

Shriners also report giving free tickets to tens of thousands of children who otherwise might not see a circus.

But above all else, Shriners publicize the work of the hospitals. “It’s the 880,000 salesmen we have out there, that's the key to it all,” said hospital trustee Olfene, referring to the fraternity’s efforts to publicize the hospitals.

“What the hell good is it for us to have financially destitute temples out there that are falling on their faces and are spending all their time trying to survive? That’s no good.”

Olfene, chairman of the Shrine hospital board of trustees, said if temples didn’t spend so much money on the fraternity’s social programs, Shriners would lose enthusiasm.

“You’ve got to have a vibrant group out there and they’ve got to keep themselves strong... so they can produce the kind of job that they’ve been able to do for us over these years,” he said.

Olfene put his hands out before him and interlaced his fingers.

“The two organizations—the fraternity and its hospital charity—are interconnected,” he said. “They are like this ... .”

He showed how hard it was to pull his hands apart.

“One can’t survive without the other.”

From the Orlando Sentinel.