Czechoslovak Society of America
This fraternal benefit society is virtually the oldest ethnic fraternal group in existence in the United States. It was founded in 1854 in St. Louis as the Bohemian Slavonian Union to provide financial assistance and fraternal fellowship for Czech Americans. Today the society, under the present name, is a prosperous fraternal life insurance entity, operating on the legal reserve system rather than on the old assessment method that once was employed by almost every fraternal benefit group.
The CSA is more ritual-minded than are many other fraternal benefit societies. The organization not only requires an initiation ceremony but also still operates ritual or degree teams. The latter put on "meaningful and inspiring exhibitions" at lodge meetings and public functions. The ritual also accents the society’s motto: "Equality - Harmony - Fraternity.
As is true in most fraternal groups that have a ritual, the CSA furnishes each lodge room with an altar, upon which lie the constitution and bylaws of the order. A member who wishes to enter a lodge meeting in session must give "three light knocks upon the door. These are symbolic of the motto of our Society ‘Equality - Harmony - Fraternity.’" Following the three knocks, the sentry asks for the annual password, and then checks with the vice-president before the tardy member is admitted.
The official emblem of the CSA is a white five-pointed star superimposed on a blue circular background. Next to the blue background is a red circular band, which bears the words A Fraternal Benefit Society, Founded 1854. In the center of the star are the letters CSA in blue.
Membership is open to those from eighteen to sixty-five years of age. Each new member must be initiated by either the short or the full initiatory ritual. The 1979 constitution no longer states that members have to be of Czech ancestry. In 1967 the CSA had about 52,000 members, and in 1979 it had about 50,000. In 1977 the society absorbed the Unity of Czech Ladies and Men. Previously the Society of Taborites had been absorbed in 1933.
The CSA helps support the Bohemian Home for the Aged, a school for retarded children, the Chicago Lung Association, the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, the American Red Cross, the Heart Research Foundation, the Cancer Research Foundation, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, firemen’s and policemen’s benevolent associations, and a number of other humanitarian projects. Local lodges sponsor fraternal and social programs for members.
Today the order is active as CSA Fraternal Life Insurances.