Freemasons place advert in national newspapers to protest 'discrimination, pure and simple'

‘We owe it to our membership to take this stance, they shouldn’t have to feel undeservedly stigmatised’

Louis Dore
Thursday 08 February 2018 17:15
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Freemason refuses to show the BBC their 'secret' handshake: 'Part of being a person with integrity is that you keep your promises'

The Freemasons organisation has taken out full-page advertisements in national newspapers calling for an end to “discrimination” against its members.

The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) posted the advert in The Times and The Daily Telegraph, in the form of a letter from its CEO Dr David Staples. The letter is also posted on the front page of its website.

The letter, which responds to news stories about complaints from the former chair of the Police Federation about Masonic interference in policing policy, as well active lodges in Westminster, claims “the ongoing gross misrepresentation of its 200,000 plus members is discrimination. Pure and simple.”

The full-page Freemason advert on page 18 of The Times, 8 February 2018 

The CEO of the lodge, which is restricted to men, although separate women-only lodges exist, wrote: “We owe it to our membership to take this stance, they shouldn’t have to feel undeservedly stigmatised. No other organisation would stand for this and nor shall we.

“I have written to the Equality and Human Rights Commission to make this case.

“I appreciate that you may have questions about who we are and what we do, so over the next six months our members will be running a series of open evenings and Q&A events up and down the country. These will be promoted in the local media and on our website.”

The then chair of the Police Federation complained in December 2017 that Freemasons commonly blocked changes to the police force. In an article in The Guardian, Steve White said: “I found that there were people who were fundamentally against any kind of change and any kind of progress, and they always happened to be Freemasons.”

Steve White stepped down as chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales on 1 January (Getty)

“What people do in their private lives is a matter for them. When it becomes an issue is when it affects their work. There have been occasions when colleagues of mine have suspected that Freemasons have been an obstacle to reform.

“We need to make sure that people are making decisions for the right reasons and there is a need for future continuing cultural reform in the Fed, which should be reflective of the make-up of policing.”

The Guardian also reported that one previous Metropolitan police commissioner, the late Sir Kenneth Newman, opposed the presence of masons in the police force.

Dr Staples argued in January on Radio 4’s Today programme that the organisation was fundamentally misunderstood by the media and that he had never experienced “a masonic handshake outside a lodge”. He says that details about Freemasons are not secret and details of their rituals are published freely on their website.

On BBC Breakfast on Thursday he reiterated that the handshake was not secret, before declining to demonstrate it for viewers, saying he had “promised” not to.

Freemason refuses to show the BBC their 'secret' handshake: 'Part of being a person with integrity is that you keep your promises'

He has also written a letter of complaint to The Guardian, requesting a retraction of and apology for their article; the letter claims the two lodges are “not secret, they don’t operate at Westminster and they don’t have MPs or journalists in their respective memberships”.

It also states that the claim that the New Welcome lodge has 30 or 40 members, around four of whom are MPs, is false. Dr Staples writes: “New Welcome Lodge only has 22 members. There are no current MPs who are members of New Welcome Lodge.”

The letter has its critics, among them MPs.

Freemasons swear an oath upon initiation and have been historically secretive. In recent years the organisation, which claims to exist for philanthropic purposes, has attempted to incrementally increase transparency.

The Book of Constitutions, the “rule book of the United Grand Lodge of England that regulates all Lodges and Freemasons”, which all members uphold, states:

  • “10. You promise to pay homage to the Grand Master for the time being, and to his Officers when duly installed, and strictly to conform to every Edict of the Grand Lodge.
  • “14. You admit that no person can regularly be made a Free-Mason or admitted a Member of any Lodge without previous notice and due inquiry into his character, and that no Brother can be advanced to a higher Degree except in strict conformity with the Laws of the Grand Lodge.
  • “15. You promise that no Visitor shall be received into your Lodge without due examination, and producing proper Vouchers of his having been initiated in a regular Lodge.”

In a statement to The Independent, Dr Staples said: ”This is a first for us, but necessary under the circumstances. For too long we have been unjustly singled out. We are an organisation whose whole tenet is about helping individuals become better people, with values of honesty, integrity and service to others. Membership of Freemasonry is not only positive for them as individuals, but also for society at large.

“Sadly, too many Freemasons have to exercise caution in response to prejudice and discrimination they fear they will face. We want the day when every Freemason can proudly declare themselves a member of our great and historical organisation without fear of retribution, suspicion or damage.

“We’re open and happy to talk about anything and today we are announcing a series of sessions up and down the country too and to answer any questions people may have. I am also welcoming any queries from individuals myself.”

Robert Lomas, a Freemason, quantum physicist and author, wrote for The Independent: “Joining a lodge offers access to an environment which enables you to learn about yourself, your fellow lodge members and society as a whole. We come together in an open lodge to study Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. According to these three principles, we offer you friendship, support and social events in the fellowship of a well-run lodge and its associated social programme.

“You have the chance to do good for the community by contributing either time or money to various charities. And we offer you the chance to learn how to recognise your own truth by studying the philosophy of Masonic thinking and taking part in the rituals.

“There are many misconceptions about us. But we definitely do not hate women. There are separate Orders of Women Freemasons whose lodges share halls and social functions with the men. As the weird and wonderful ritual of the Third Degree involves bearing both breasts I can understand why some of our Lady Brethren may choose to meet separately, but there is an Order of Co-Masonry which accepts both male and female members in its lodges.”

You can read the full Voices article here.

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