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Friday, October 30, 2020

Shriners Statue in Connecticut Vandalized


by Christopher Hodapp


The Sphinx Shrine temple in Connecticut is the latest victim of statue vandalism this week.

Twice before in recent months, area malcontents attempted to unbolt and topple the iconic 'Editorial Without Words' sculpture in front of the Shriners' temple in Newington, but their prior efforts apparently failed to generate satisfactory attention. So, sometime before last Saturday, they returned and beheaded the statue. This time, the New Britain Herald picked up the story and interviewed Potentate Richard White, Past Potentate John Taylor, and Past First Lady Lisbeth Mindera Herbert about the incident.

According to the headline, the damage is 'irreparable.'


The statue is a common decoration seen in front of Shrine temples throughout North America. It is a widely recognized representation of Shriners International's ongoing mission of providing orthopedic and burn care to children in their 22 hospitals. 

The sculpture is modeled after a famous 1970 photograph of Shriner Al Hortman taken in Evansville, Indiana at a Shrine picnic. Local photographer Randy Dieter had been on assignment covering Hadi Temple’s annual outing for handicapped children. Hortman stopped to pick up a disabled girl named Bobbi Jo Wright and her crutches when Dieter spotted them almost by accident and snapped the photo. The older girl in the photo is Hortman’s daughter, Laura, who was a patient at the Shriners Hospital in St. Louis. It was after Laura began receiving treatments at the Shriners Hospitals for Children that Al Hortman had joined Hadi Shrine.


Since then, the image has been reproduced countless times, as a logo, in advertising, on jewelry, and as a sculpture, which was first created to stand in front of the Shriners International headquarters in Tampa. It's referred to by the unusual title 'Editorial Without Words' because the image immediately and wordlessly portrays the Shriners and their principal charity.

Shriners Hospitals for Children provide specialized pediatric care in orthopaedics, spinal cord injury, cleft palate and other conditions. Over 1.4 million children have received treatment since 1922. Shriners Hospitals provide all care without financial obligation to patients or their families.

While all Shriners are Freemasons, not all Masons choose to become Shriners. In addition to the Shriners meeting at the Sphinx Temple, it is also home to the Scottish Rite Valley of Hartford.

By the way, the Sphinx Shriners have the distinction of being home to the oldest established Shrine band in the country, originally formed in 1899.


I'm told by several Shriners in other states that this attack on the Connecticut Shriners' statue has not been the only one this year. In the statue-toppling frenzy of the past several months, it seems that petty miscreants have damaged several of these around the country. It's not as though the statue of a Shriner in a fez carrying a handicapped child is any sort of symbol of 'oppression' or worthy of some sort of historical revisionist scorn. But perhaps these have been tied to the latest Internet fantasies of Masonic conspiracies and assorted Qanon chatter about Satanic child traffickers. Or perhaps tied to beheadings of Christian and Western statuary (and people) in Europe by Islamic extremists in the last few weeks. Or maybe just basement-dwelling pseudo-insurrectionaries excited by the execrable Popular Mechanics' 'How To Topple A Statue' article over the summer that contributed to rampant damage nationwide.

Or more likely, just bored, ignorant teenagers with too much time on their hands during the national shut downs. I suppose we'll never know. But in the ongoing mania to tear down people, institutions, beliefs and nobility, it sure would be a pleasant switch if some of these cretinous delinquents tried building something admirable in their place.

Silly me.    

4 comments:

  1. Unfortunately and sadly, the Arab motifs of the Shrine are now identified with Arab terrorism. Every beheading or knifing has a bad effect on the excellent advertisements for good works. Like Aunt Jemimas and Uncle Ben, the advertising icons have become liabilities. The sculptures, crescents, Arab temple names and such become more and more a problem, as does the link with a declining Masonic membership. The fez, sometimes allegedly red after being dipped in the infidel Christian's blood, is not helpful in 2020.


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  2. Even Shrine circuses have become controversial because of the long time cruel use of caged wild animals. And the conventions and parades strike some of a new generation as absurd and juvdenile. Like the Craft itself the leadership has not appreciated the frightening immensity of the sociological challenges. On top of all of this, the ultra expensive updating of buildings to meet the virus onslaught is going to overwhelm many lodges and mosques. In such crises, a really literate imaginative intelligent leadership has been needed, but we are very rapidly going the way of the Owls, Pythians, and Order of the Iron Safe...despite our vastly more significant past. For example, we right now need now to fully embrace hybrid solutions using limited f2f along with virtual. And the Shrine ritual should take on motifs about helping the medically challenged and ditch the camels. A ritual about what the Shrine now means or should mean.

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  3. Brother Rich may be correct, but I tend to view Freemasonry as a Stewardship of sorts regarding certain things, especially ancient symbolism.

    Symbolism is either adopted or (in the case of criminal organizations), it is hijacked.(my opinion)

    Men become Shriners for a possible five reasons:

    1. To have fun.

    2. To socialize.

    3. To be part of a NOBLE charity.

    4. For the percieved prestige.

    5. And for the mystique.

    Initial mentality and experience determines if a man is motivated by one or more of the reasons listed above for becoming a Shriner.

    The Scimitar, the Crescent, the Star, the Sphinx, and Arab motifs, have been a part of the Shrine (both mainstream and Prince Hall) since their very beginnings, and the adopted ancient symbols of the Shrine emblem is definitely Pre-Islamic. Sort of like the Cross predates what is known today, by probably most folks, as Christianity.

    Years ago, a Prince Hall Shriner, and good role model, told me he would laugh if we changed the name of our Shrine meeting places to "Center" in place of the word, "Temple", in order to appease a misguided or uneducated public opinion. We did, and we both had a good laugh.

    But I have noticed Prince Hall Shriners still use the word "Temple", publicly. Good for them.

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  4. Brother Johnson is right about our role as stewards of ancient rituals in the case of blue lodges, but the Shrine is a late Victorian invention of convivial New Yorkers and a survivor of an era that also gave us the Bagmen of Baghdad and Patriarchs Militant. It has no antiquity. I am a Shriner but today it does not confer prestige to the general public.

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