On Sunday and Monday of this week, The Guardian in England published a total of FIVE inflammatory and discriminatory articles taking swipes or downright smearing Freemasonry with a variety of false or inaccurate articles and editorials. I recapped them HERE.
Fortunately, attitudes about these kinds of press attacks have taken a dramatic change over at Great Queen Street in London. Dr. David Staples, the recently named Chief Operating Officer for the United Grand Lodge of England, has been extremely proactive in answering these types of hit pieces. And whether the news outlet prints them or not, he's posting them on the UGLE's website as well, so they can be searched and accessed in their entirety. His most recent letter to the Guardian can be seen HERE.
It reads in part:
The existence of the two lodges in question is not secret, they don't operate at Westminster and they don't have MPs or journalists in their respective memberships.
- The article claimed that "Two Freemasons' lodges set up for members of parliament and political journalists are continuing to operate secretly at Westminster". This is inaccurate. The Lodges do not operate at Westminster and only meet in Camden at Freemasons' Hall.
- The article stated "Exclusive: Lodges for MPs and journalists are so covert even lobby reporters do not know members". The Lodges in the article do not have any MPs or journalists as members.
- The Lodges are not secret. Their meeting place is open to the public all year and their meeting dates are published in the United Grand Lodge of Englanddirectory of Lodges and Chapters available for the public to buy from most Masonic retailers. Details of the founding of the New Welcome Lodge were published in the press including in the Daily Telegraph. The New Welcome Lodge and Gallery Lodge are referred to in Hansard and have had Wikipedia pages for 12 years. Both Lodges feature in publicly available academic articles (on Researchgate, among other resources) and press. A detailed history of Gallery Lodge, together with its past and present members, was published in 1968. lt is wilfully misleading for the Guardian to state that the Lodges operate secretly or to imply that their existence is "secret" or "covert".
- The article claimed that "The New Welcome Lodge has about 30 to 40 members ... only about four of the current members are MPs". This is fictitious, as anybody connected with the Lodge would know. New Welcome Lodge only has 22 members. There are no current MPs who are members of New Welcome Lodge.
We provided extensive information and quotes to Ian Cobain in answer to his questions about Freemasonry and he used this information in other contemporaneous articles about Freemasonry. He chose not to ask us about New Welcome Lodge and appears to have ignored all of the widely published and available information about it and Gallery Lodge. He did not provide us with any opportunity to correct the errors in his article. Instead, inaccurate information has been published to create a misleading impression of Freemasonry. The reader is deliberately left to infer that journalists and MPs meet in secret at Westminster as Freemasons, which is untrue and which the author must have known or suspected to be untrue. There is no evidence for, or truth in, these inferences in the article about Freemasonry.
By publishing inaccuracies which foster and promote popular prejudices against Freemasonry concerning corruption, power and control, the article damaged the reputation of the United Grand Lodge of England as a membership organisation and encouraged further discrimination against individual Freemasons.
We request that you publish a retraction of the article in an agreed form which confirms that journalists and MPs don't meet in secret at Westminster as Freemasons. We also request that you publish an apology to Freemasons for misleading the public about the nature of Freemasonry.
Yours faithfully,While something tells me The Guardian has zero intention of printing it, retracting their stories, or issuing apologies or corrections, it is long past time that damaging and idiotic articles like these this week be called out for the deliberate hit pieces they are. Bravo to Dr. Staples for taking the bull by the horns at long last and confronting them.
Dr David Staples
For and on behalf of
The United Grand Lodge of England
Obviously knowing full well that any news outlet would do no more than selectively quote any letter or press release, the UGLE followed up their letter to the Guardian and other news outlets with full page advertisements in the Telegraph, the Times and other major papers in England, declaring 'Enough Is Enough.' That got enough attention to then create its own news, and the Guardian, the Telegraph, BBC, and others have all been covering it today. Of course, après nous le déluge: the nutters poured out of the woodwork on any site that permitted comments, and the anonymous anecdotes of "my old man was passed over for a job by the bloody Masons until he faked the handshake" have been running non-stop, along with the usual allegations of Satan worship, snippets of ritual, false connections with the P2 crap, et al. I suspect it's all getting more coverage than the 300th anniversary did over there.
Of course, no one doing all of this anti-Masonic pontificating and accusing has any idea what they're talking about (Editorialist Dawn Foster in her Guardian piece sneeringly asked “Masons, tell me this: if you truly huddle in secret to no malign end and with no professed benefit unavailable elsewhere, what is the point?”). They don't know because they've never bothered to actually speak to a Freemason or read anything that wasn't an accusatory hit job.
They don't seem to understand how or why anyone on this Earth would want a private sanctuary away from the shrill shrieks and endless caterwaul of the outside world, where members can share their experiences, anecdotes, triumphs, failures, and everything else among their brothers who will pass no judgement upon them and will treat a complete stranger from the other side of the world as a lifelong friend, simply because of what they share in common.
Nor do our detractors ever seem to understand that Masonic "secrecy" is nothing more than a symbol, just like everything else we do in the lodge. A symbol of something sorely lacking in the world anymore: honor.
I have this book...
Click the image to enlarge:
Guardian's Dawn Foster and UGLE's David Staples squared off this morning on 'BBC Breakfast.' If you have UK access to the BBC iPlayer, you can see it HERE. It begins at about 1:37:45. If you are on Facebook, the isolated segment can be seen HERE.
He appeared again this afternoon on BBC's 'Afternoon Live' in a balanced interview.
Robert Lomas (author of The Hiram Key and many other books about the fraternity) weighed in with a lengthy and generally well written response on The Telegraph website (apart from a few questionable historical claims). See 'I’m a Freemason, and the discrimination against us has to stop.'
And in the spirit of the age in which we live, Masons in England have been circulating the hashtag #EnoughIsEnough with the following Tweet:
Today we say #EnoughisEnough. We've taken out full-page adverts in @guardian, @Telegraph & @thetimes to address recent disgraceful & misleading articles in The Guardian. Read the full advert here → https://t.co/EZyT7mcbUR & share your support by retweeting us 🔄 #Freemasons pic.twitter.com/Z3yTnn91Ft— UGLE – Grand Lodge (@UGLE_GrandLodge) February 8, 2018
SkyNews interview debate from Thursday with The Guardian's Dawn H. Foster and Dr. David Staples:
Take special notice of how obsessed both the interviewer and Foster are over attempting to goad Staples into revealing "the handshake." It's a thread that runs through English journalism whenever Freemasonry comes up as a topic. It's a pathetic demonstration of just how foreign the concept is in society anymore of something that used to be the most important thing a man could be known for: his honor. If a man can't be trusted to keep his word about something as insignificant as a grip or a sign or a password, then he's just plain and simple not a trustworthy man. Period.
Honor means that, even if all of those 'secrets' are available online, or in books, or in The Guardian, a Mason will simply say, "I'm sorry, but I can't tell you, because I gave my word." A man's word used to mean something, and in this fraternity it still does—at least, if you're doing it right. Masonic secrecy is a lesson, nothing more.
Note also the other obsession, that of demanding the grand lodge turn over it's membership lists and making them public. The tone deafness is astonishing, because the justification for that demand is so that the press and the public can run anyone out of their job based upon that very membership in Masonry. "Tell us who they are," goes the chant, "because members of what we consider to be a secret society shouldn't be in a position of power!" Obviously Ms. Foster doesn't remember the bloody history of persecution in England against members of her own church for being "secret papists." So there's no reason why she should know that the Freemasons were the first social organization in England that specifically did not discriminate against religious faiths among their members.
As Dr. Staples quite rightly said, "The trouble about Freemasonry is that, if you want a medical opinion, you go and ask a doctor. If you want to know about how to build a building, you go and ask an architect. But if you want to know about Freemasonry, you ask absolutely everybody but a Freemason."
Following The Guardian's publication of their anti-Masonic stories last Sunday, a digested version of the article, "Two Freemasons Lodges Operating Secretly at Westminster" began making the rounds of other news sites via a syndication service called Press Association (similar to the Associated Press here). The story was picked up by an increasing number of papers and websites throughout England, the wider United Kingdom, and even outside of the Commonwealth. I even had it pop up on a small town Ohio newspaper site in mid-week.
Continuing its campaign to finally fight back against spurious claims, the UGLE's communicatons office subsequently filed an official grievance with the Complaints Committee of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO). IPSO is a self-governing editorial body within England comprised of both major and minor news outlets, and anyone may lodge a complaint over inaccuracies found in news stories. All of their members voluntarily subscribe to the IPSO Editorial Code, and if the investigators discover that inaccuracies have indeed been published by one of their papers or sites, or discovers a breach of the Code, the publication is expected to remove the story, print a correction or retraction or clarification, or issue a public or private letter of apology. Further, the IPSO committee can demand the exact placement and type of correction or apology, if it comes to that.
As a result of the filing, England's Mirror.co.uk (also known as The Daily Mirror) removed their online version of the Press Association article on Friday. The Guardian and other sites circulating the story have not yet responded, but the UGLE issued a statement thanking the Mirror for their quick action. It's a strange turn of events when a tabloid like The Mirror has higher standards than The Guardian. or maybe it's not.
This morning, the Belfast Telegraph's editorial regular, Ruth Dudley Edwards, weighed in on the furor ginned up down in London. She had a very, very different take on Freemasons than The Guardian's Dawn Foster. In fact, she was well acquainted with Ms. Foster from a prior confrontation. Needless to say, Edwards was not impressed.
From "Freemasons do a lot of good and no harm... why can't the 'progressives' let them be?"
The obsessively progressive Guardian newspaper has it in for the Freemasons. The most recent assault was precipitated by shock-horror revelations - as discussed by deeply concerned columnist Dawn Foster - "of two lodges within the Palace of Westminster: one incorporating members of parliament and staff in the Commons and Lords, and the second comprising political journalists".
This was, of course, all about power and the "stench of privilege".
I wasn't surprised Ms Foster was both hostile and ill-informed.
I was on Sky TV with her last year to discuss the DUP and she seemed to know nothing positive about the party; her major contribution was to say it was "backward".
In her list of things that she thought wrong with the masons, one was that she was unlikely to be let into the organisation as her Catholicism would be unacceptable to most lodges.
If she had bothered to spend two minutes Googling, she'd know that the Freemasons admit anyone who believes in a supreme being, including Catholics, Jews, Hindus and Muslims.
She did at least admit that there were a small number of female Freemasons while grumbling that there were so few and they were in separate lodges.
But men and women often bond in very different ways.
Whatever they did, it was clear that, to Ms Foster, the masons were clearly up to no good, so she suggested that unless they made their membership lists public they should be banned from public service.
For, as she concluded: "If you truly huddle in secret to no malign end and with no professed benefit unavailable elsewhere, what is the point?"
Growing up in Dublin I was exposed to various mad stories about the world being ruled by a secret conspiracy of Jews and Freemasons led by Prince Philip and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands.
Being intellectually inclined to believe in the cock-up rather the conspiracy theory of history, I was sceptical.
But of course secrecy is intriguing.
When I worked in the Civil Service I had a colleague who one day mentioned that he was off to a masonic meeting. I plied him with questions, and he was most obliging.
With the masons having had 200,000 murdered by the Nazis, and being subject to a great deal of ill-informed prejudice, while most are open about it, some fear that their careers will suffer if they declare themselves.
Which is presumably why it turns out that the sinister Westminster lodges (which have websites and meet in Camden) contain neither MPs nor journalists.
Both male and female masonic organisations have cooperated with behind-the-scenes documentaries, but they hold back on describing every aspect of the ritual.
Why shouldn't they?
Look, like the loyal orders, the masons are egalitarian, mainly attract decent people who like socialising privately with people of the same gender and enjoy the little bit of magic that comes from ceremonies, rituals and what others think are funny clothes. They are encouraged to be good and useful: last year the United Grand Lodge of England contributed £33 million to charity.
I value the right of people to gather freely and am sick and tired of hectoring feminists condemning what they don't understand.
Rituals do nothing for me, so I'd never become a mason.
But I'd rather spend an evening with them any time than with the self-righteous, consciously "progressive" bigots who are destroying feminism.
And then there is this letter in The Telegraph from Christine Chapman, the female Grand Master of the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons. It seems that Ms. Foster just keeps stepping in where she's not wanted.