The leader of Cheshire’s 5,000 strong body of Freemasons is backing a national protest about his members being misrepresented and subjected to discrimination.
Provincial Grand Master Stephen Blank points out that Masonic ceremonies are designed to encourage members to behave better although he is ‘not so naïve’ as to suggest that, among 200,000 members nationally, there might not be a small number who misuse their position.
However, he added, there were disciplinary processes that would take action against such people which he and his colleagues enforced.
The Provincial Grand Master was responding in a live interview on BBC TV News with Simon McCoy.
“In my 41 years in the organisation I have never been even let off so much as a parking ticket nor has anyone even offered to do so,” he said.
When it was suggested that tales of blindfolds and rolled-up trouser legs might make some people raise their eyebrows, he answered: “Well it might do.
“But whatever happens in our ceremonies is designed to make an impact so the lessons about morality etc hit home. You do not forget the ceremonies.”
He went on: “We take an obligation not to reveal the ceremonies to non-masons and that’s why we don’t do so. If candidates knew what was going to happen, it would reduce the impact.
“When I talk to potential new candidates I advise them not to read up about it in advance. It’s as if I was recommending you a detective novel to read and I told you the butler did it. It spoils the effect.”
Simon McCoy concluded by saying: “If someone had said to me 20 years ago, I would be interviewing a Freemason who was as open as you, I would have said ‘Don’t be so silly.’”
The interview came in the wake of growing frustration among Freemasons on being unjustly singled out and stigmatised according to the county’s Freemasons.
The centuries old organisation has declared ‘enough is enough’ in full page national advertising and is taking the issue to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Chief executive of the Freemasons’ governing body, the United Grand Lodge of England, Dr David Staples, declared: “This is a first for us but necessary under the circumstances.
“For too long we have been unjustly singled out. As an organisation we welcome individuals from all walks of life, of any race, faith, age, class or political persuasion. Sadly, too many Freemasons have to exercise caution in response to prejudice and discrimination they fear they will face.”
To mark the Freemason’s recent tercentenary, Cheshire Freemasons said they intended to celebrate the 300th anniversary by handing out more than half a million pounds to charities across the county.
Recipients included the Countess of Chester Hospital, the Hospice of the Good Shepherd, Chester Cathedral and Bridge Community Farm in Ellesmere Port.
Freemasons in Ellesmere Port were among those who threw open their doors following a national TV documentary. Their lodge on Chester Road was among those which held an open day ‘aimed at overcoming the myth that Freemasons have something to hide’.
Dr Staples added: “We’re open and happy to talk about anything and we are announcing a series of sessions up and down the country to answer any questions people may have.”