They have been portrayed as a sinister secret society, wielding power behind the scenes across politics, business and, in particular, the police.
But now the Freemasons claim they are the ones suffering discrimination and lack of influence.
Far from being able to manipulate decision-making in Parliament, local government or law and order, the masons say they are the ones at a disadvantage. And their leader yesterday denied they were a “secret” group, insisting their handshake was strictly for lodge rituals, not a secret signal.
The United Grand Lodge of England has rejected claims by the Police Federation that its members are guilty of thwarting reform within the forces’ ranks and stymying the progress of women and ethnic minorities.
In an unusual step, Dr David Staples, the chief executive of the United Grand Lodge, has written an open letter attacking claims by Steve White, the former leader of the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers.
Mr White had said: “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.”
But Dr Staples, an NHS manager who says his membership of the masons has never been a secret, says the reality is very different.
In his letter, he says: “We are quietly proud that, throughout history, when people have suffered discrimination both in public and social life, Freemasonry has welcomed them into our lodges as equals. It is a shame that Freemasons are now quite openly discriminated against and that too many of our members, therefore, feel the need to keep their membership to themselves.””
Note: The following picture, as displayed in the original article (and apparently endorsed by the U.G.L.E.), displays perfectly the grip of a Master Mason, which we here at More Light In Masonry refuse to replicate! Therefore, it has been fittingly adjusted for purposes outside of a Tyled Lodge of Master Masons.
“The United Lodge says repeated calls for masons to declare their membership are themselves discriminatory, as no other members of legal organisations are required to do so.
The lodge also points out that many barristers are worried about their membership of the masons becoming public knowledge, fearing they would be accused of corruption, for which, it says, there is no evidence.
Dr Staples said the masons had no hidden political agenda in favour of any one sector of society and did not discriminate against anyone. He said yesterday: “We do not influence the police. We are a non-political, non-religious organisation. The Home Affairs Select Committee said there is a lot of unjustified paranoia about Freemasonry.”
Dr Staples rejected claims that the masons form a secret society, pointing out that the United Grand Lodge’s headquarters is a large building in Covent Garden that is open to the public. The building even has a gift shop selling masonic memorabilia, including cufflinks, jewellery and books.
He added: “We don’t have secret handshakes. We have handshakes that are part of our rituals. But we don’t use them outside of our lodges.”
“DISCLAIMER~ WE ALL KNOW THAT IN TODAY’S AGE, NOTHING IS REALLY SECRET; AND ALSO SINCE TIME IMMEMORIAL, SOMEONE HAS BEEN TELLING ALL THAT THEY KNOW. STILL, SHOULD WE REALLY HAVE TO ENDURE BEING GIVEN AWAY BY THE MOST RECOGNIZED GRAND LODGE IN THE WORLD??? SHAME ON YOU DR. STAPLES!”