by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Staff Writer
The Knights of Malta (K of M) Jet Chapter has officially changed their name to 'Knights of Mantra.' The name change, which occurred at the end of January, was a compromise between Jet Chapter K of M and a religious organization over the use of the title, according to local K of M officials.
Thirty-eight years ago, the Jet Chapter of Seattle began as the Knights of Malta in May of 1972. At that time, the organization's founders were aware that there were other groups in the U.S. and around the world with the same name, but since there were no other clubs or organizations west of the Mississippi and the name was not incorporated on a national level, the group's founders were advised that there was no problem with adopting the name.
"In 1973, we were advised by our lawyer that we should incorporate and register the name with the Washington Secretary of State to prevent anyone else from using the name in Washington state," Jet Chapter K of M officials told SGN in a written statement. "We were incorporated in Washington, and the name was registered in April 1974."
Over the next few years, "Knights of Malta" was registered and clubs were legally incorporated in Oregon, Utah, Alaska, Nevada, Colorado, California, and British Colombia. According to Jet Chapter officials, today only two other Knights of Malta clubs still exist - one in Fresno, California and one in Vancouver, B.C.
Jet Chapter told SGN that for 38 years, their club and the Knights of Malta clubs affiliated with the Seattle chapter operated within communities with no conflict or problem with any other outside organizations with the same namesake, including one religious group which claims it has been around for 600 years. "But the world gets smaller, and sometimes progress catches up with you," Jet Chapter explained. "Along came the internet with its websites, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and Google."
The shrinking world meant that K of M started getting e-mails, phone calls and messages meant for a religious group, and that same group started getting messages meant for Jet Chapter. To keep things calm, Jet Chapter told SGN they would simply forward the messages to the rightful inbox. However, in October 2009, the religious Knights of Malta demanded that Jet Chapter cease and desist using the name under threat of a Federal Court lawsuit.
According to Seattle K of M officials, the Fresno, California chapter has already been sued in California Federal District Court, and the Vancouver chapter is next on the lawsuit list by the religious organization.
Unfortunately for the K of M clubs, the religious group has actually copyrighted some of the Knights of Malta symbols, names, and other accoutrements as late as 2003. Lawyers advised Jet Chapter that they might have a case against the religious organization, but after discovering their challengers had large law firms on retainer in New York and California with lots of money to back them up, they decided not to fight them.
Still, the religious Knights of Malta decided to proceed with a lawsuit in the Washington District Federal Court to get an injunction against Jet Chapter to prevent them from ever using the name in the future.
Faced with high court costs and other legal fees, Jet City told SGN, "At that point we had a decision to make." Jet Chapter says they felt that putting their efforts, money, time, and energy into supporting the causes and organizations they have been supporting for 38 years was the best use of their time and resources. "Causes like the fight for Gay rights and organizations like Lambert House, Lifelong AIDS Alliance, Bailey-Boushay House, Alano Club, and many others," they said.
It was decided that they would alter their name slightly, dropping Malta for "Mantra," and keep the Jet Chapter K of M symbol, "which everybody knows us by," the organization told SGN.
"The men and women who are members of the Jet Chapter Knights of Mantra are proud to go forward with the new name following the customs and ideals we have developed over 38 years," Jet Chapter K of M said. "Our mission statement says it all: 'The Jet Chapter's purpose is to serve as a community support group and fundraising entity. The Jet Chapter focuses on helping and caring for those that may be in need.'"
Jet Chapter K of M says they plan to continue to support the Seattle LGBT community in every way possible and "have fun doing it."
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