Leading Article: Freedoms and Freemasons

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The Independent Online
PARLIAMENTARY moves to force Freemasons to declare their membership have the unusual effect of raising liberal voices in support of the Craft. To avoid any misunderstanding, we declare that the IoS is not a redoubt of Masonry. But we do believe that civil society is sustained by the associations that form the interface between individual and state. One of the shortcomings of Thatcherism was its neglect of communities. This government has shown far more awareness of the importance of networks and trust. But we must accept that even associations with which we do not readily identify have the right to prosper, so long as they pose no threat to others. This belief is not restricted to libertarians: Rosa Luxemburg, the German socialist, preached that "freedom is also the freedom of those who think differently".

Chris Mullin, chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, allowed hostility to the Freemasons to cloud his judgement in dismissing the objection that Parliament has no more right to demand the exposing of Masons than it has to out members of the Catholic church. But the Masons are in no small part authors of their misfortune. Too often, members in the police force, judiciary and local politics have flouted the Masons' own rules. Craft not graft should be their watchword. Outsiders do not need to know the exact nature of the much-mocked rituals, but when Freemasons are active in public life it behoves them to declare their membership openly. The United Grand Lodge should encourage them to do so. That should go some way towards dispelling suspicions of undue influence over decisions that affect the rest of us.