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A fraternal order is generally defined as an organization wherein a group of men, women or men and women are bound together for the purposes of advancing their educational, social or other benefits; also the relation of persons associating on the footing of brothers; also, a body or class of persons having common purposes and interests; brothers including sisters and sisters including brothers.
Some of the well-known fraternal orders include the Knights of Columbus, the Freemasons and the Protective Order of Elks. Most fraternal orders today serve mainly as charitable institutions and social centers. State laws, which vary by state, may govern local fraternal orders' rights with respect to issues such as withdrawing from parent organizations and use of organizational property.
The following is an example of a state statute dealing with fraternal orders:
"Whenever, as a result of action of the parent organization, any of its authoritative subdivisions or its law-making body the majority group of any local organization shall determine that there has been a change of social policies, within the meaning of this section, or that any act, declaration, law, policy, social creed or jurisdictional system of the parent organization is contrary to the basic intent, understanding or basic assumption existing between the contributors, donors or grantors of the fraternal property and the local organization or between such contributors, grantors, or donors and any trustee of property held for the benefit of the local organization or held by, or for, the use of the local organization subject to the trust clause and whenever such majority group shall find and determine that such act, declaration or policy of the parent organization is not only contrary to such basic intent, understanding or assumption, but that acquiescence therein would be contrary to the welfare of the local organization or the peace, order, friendliness or goodwill within the membership of the local organization, be inconsistent with the effective and harmonious continuation of fraternal work or involve the organization in public controversy, thereupon the majority group shall have the right, without sacrifice or loss of any title, interest or matured equity or rights in property, funds or benefits, to set up a local organization or unit independent of the authority of the parent organization, and the local organization or unit so set up shall be in corporate form as may be provided for under the laws of this state for the formation of fraternal or nonprofit charity corporations."