‘British Freemasonry is simply a club whose members meet for dinner and who raise money for charity as do the Rotary Club’ claims UKIP councillor opposed to county council motion
PUBLISHED: 14:13 07 August 2015 | UPDATED: 14:13 07 August 2015
A UKIP county councillor opposed to declaring membership of the Freemasons says the organisation is “simply a club whose members meet for dinner and who raise money for charity”.
Councillor Paul Bullen, UKIP group leader on the county council, said: “Where will this end? British Freemasonry is simply a club whose members meet for dinner and who raise money for charity as do the Rotary Club and the Lions. Why is Freemasonry being singled out in this manner?
“And, whilst we’re at it, should we not similarly include membership of the Round Table, the Royal Order of Associated Buffaloes, the Freemen’s Society, the Inner Wheel, Business and Professional Women, and, perhaps, the National Trust?”
Cllr Bullen said the motion from council leader Steve Count –discussed last month and now going to the constitution and ethics committee- is discriminatory and breaches Human Rights legislation.
Cllr Count’s motion called for the register of interests to reflect membership of a lodge. He also wants councillors and officers to declare if their wives or partners – including those in a civil partnership- belong to the Freemasons.
Cllr Count said: “The Freemasons themselves encourage openness and transparency. However simply passing on this knowledge on its own has done little to allay the electorate’s fears, whether real or unjustified.
“I have therefore decided a more proactive approach to increase transparency would be a good idea”
Cllr Count said he was not a mason “but I have spoken to many people who are and see no reason to make a secret of the fact.”
The United Grand Lodge of England is the governing body of Freemasonry.
It says it admits people of all political and religious persuasions and claims to take “no account of social status. It is entirely apolitical and will never express a view on any matter of political, public or social policy whatsoever”.
But it claims that despite all this the Freemasons, particularly in relation to public service, continue to be subjected institutionalised discrimination.
The United Grand Lodge of England likens the potential outcome of Cllr Count’s motion to the actions of regimes such as Hitler in Germany, Franco in Spain, Mussolini in Italy and Stalin’s Soviet Union.
It points out: “The suppression of Freemasonry in those countries began with a seemingly innocuous request from the ‘authorities’ for a list of Freemasons in public service – the police, judiciary, civil service, etc.”
“The Gestapo had a special section to ‘deal’ with Freemasons. Many Freemasons were tortured and executed but, unlike other persecuted groups, the Freemasons are seldom mentioned. “
A letter sent to councillors claims the issue of Freemason membership and the “erroneous perception and muddled thinking” has been tackled by European Law.
Sue Henderson of the United Grand Lodge of England, said: “ The same precautions relating to privacy and security relate to publishing lists of members of Freemasonry, Rotary, golf clubs, gyms, – all of which are sensibly covered by the Data Protection Laws.
“It is precisely this situation of discrimination based on erroneous perception or muddled thinking in relation to Freemasonry that has been specifically addressed by European Law”
She said: “Freemasons only object to membership of being singled out as an activity warranting disclosure, as this places an unfounded slur on the organisation in the eyes of all who see such a requirement listed.
“Our members will, of course, like people involved in any other social activity, voluntarily disclose their membership whenever there is a possibility it could reasonably be perceived as a relevant interest.”