Letter: Freemasonry in the public realm

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The Independent Online
Sir: Without commenting on Chris Mullin's Bill, which is a matter for Parliament, I write to correct errors of fact in his article 'A noose about the neck of secrecy' (1 July).

The Manor of St James Lodge was formed not in defiance but in confidence that Freemasonry would not conflict with its members' public responsibilities as police officers or in their current profession or calling.

On 13 September 1984, Sir Kenneth Newman told Lord Cornwallis (then Pro Grand Master) that he might quote him as having said that there was no question of police officers in the Metropolitan force being required to resign because they were Freemasons, and that promotion within the force would continue to be on merit and merit alone, totally unaffected by whether officers were Freemasons or not.

Freemasonry is not a secret society. Its aims and principles are a matter of public record, and copies of its rule book can be bought by the public in Freemasons' Hall. (Freemasonry has a few secrets but they have been so often exposed as to be hardly secret any more - and the Grand Lodge met very much in public in Earls Court on 10 June.)

Freemasonry's aims do not include mutual or self-advancement. Every Freemason knows that his membership must not be used to promote his own or anyone else's interests.

Since 1986, Freemasonry's obligations have omitted 'physical' (but never more than symbolic) penalties.

Like many other societies, Freemasonry reasonably regards some of its affairs as private. Its principles do not in any way override its members' duties as citizens. If a conflict of interests exists or is foreseen in public life, a Freemason, like any other citizen, will declare an interest.

A general disinclination to flaunt membership is not obsessive secrecy but is either to avoid being thought to seek improper advantage by revealing membership, or because membership is private - a background factor in a Freemason's life, important to him but of little interest to the rest of the world.

Yours faithfully,

M. B. S. HIGHAM

Grand Secretary

United Grand Lodge of England

London, WC2

1 July

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