Freemasonry and Public Service – Something to Declare?

It’s only fair that I say this before we start. I’ve never trusted the freemasons or any other so-called secret society which works on the basis of “it’s not what you know, but who you know”. I dunno about you, but personally I don’t want to spend the rest of my life pondering whether the opportunities that came my way had some sort of basis in merit, or more to do with backroom deals, old boys’ networks and funny handshakes. The feeling that ‘you owe’ has sinister, almost mafiosi connotations and it is, well, not a nice feeling to walk round with.

Who an individual chooses to associate with in their own time is entirely their business, and the right of private clubs or organisations to discriminate in terms of who can and cannot join is one that should be protected, regardless of how poisonous or unpleasant that selection process might look to an outsider. Moreover, banning such organisations and driving them underground does not just compromise sacred freedoms of expression and association, they’re ultimately counter-productive, feeding myths and legends about an alleged ‘truth’ being ‘surpressed’ and what have you.

However, there is a separate question regarding whether membership of such a society or group is compatible with work in the public sphere, where equality of access, treatment and a sense of ‘no fear, no favour’ is paramout. This is a particular problem with freemasonry, since the Masonic oath makes it very clear that its members’ first loyalty is not to the law of the land, or whichever God they might follow (although there is a good case for arguing that Freemasonry is a religion in its own right), but other Masons and the lodge itself.

Having read the book ‘Bent Coppers’ by Andrew MacLagan, it astounded me how much the judiciary and police force has been compromised by the Masonic connection for more than a century. Sir Robert Mark, the last Chief of the Met who was not a Mason (in the 1970’s for fuck’s sake) did a decent job of cleaning the force up with ‘Operation Countryman’, where officers from outside the Met were brought in with the specific aim of weeding out the bad apples.

His departure was quickly followed by corruption, fit-ups and cops on the take in SERCS, the Flying Squad and West Mercia. Everywhere you looked, there were Masons, and almost every time the radar of suspicion was turned on, a fellow Mason was there to ‘investigate’ and conclude that all was above board. Not wishing to take MacLagan’s word for it, I did some extensive and exhaustive research of my own, ultimately concluding that the Masonic oath to ‘look after our own’ and a commitment to equality of treatment at the very least has the potential to be a conflict of interest.

Life by it’s very nature is a bitch and profoundly unfair. There will always be people who go further or not as far as their talent and application merited, due to their, er, connections or lack of. However, teachers, doctors, judges, police officers, councillors and members of parliament have more influence than most of us and the ability to either be of real service to society, or wreck lives. We should have the confidence that our dealings with them are on the basis of impartiality, no fear or favour and equitable treatment.

Everybody deserves the opportunity to demonstrate that their private beliefs or membership of an organisation can be left at home when they enter the workplace – be it communist, one with aims based on some sort of prejudice, or an old boys’ network like the Freemasons. However, where the potential for a conflict of interest exists, openly declaring membership of such organisations amongst public officials and servants ought to be a legal requirement, with the relevant information publicly accessible.

Then people can decide for themselves whether or not favours are being done. After all, it is almost always the case that a favourable outcome for one person represents a manifestly unjust one for someone else. Thanks for reading and take care.

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5 thoughts on “Freemasonry and Public Service – Something to Declare?

  1. Well…. My first loyalty is not to ‘the law of the land’ – often the law is an ass. And many people would assert that their first loyalty is to their god or fellow religionists – surely religion is therefore as bad as freemasonry. You can’t dictate that people must be loyal to anything. When I was in the Scouts, I was made to swear an oath to do my duty ‘to God and the Queen’ – what a load of bollocks. But I said it because I didn’t know any better and, later, for pragmatic reasons.

    Do I trust the Masons? No. Do I think it is possible to get people to declare membership of a secret organisation? No – how on earth would that work? It is an important issue, but you may as well try to get people to admit to taking drugs or watching pornography when they apply for a job.

    I don’t know the answer. Maybe we should infiltrate them and destroy them from the inside – but can we resist the temptation to become the very people we are there to destroy? Therefore my main lament is that I will probably never even come close to being asked to become a member.

  2. Thanks for commenting.

    There is an important point here that I would extend beyond Freemasonry to organisations like the Communist Party and BNP. Does the organisation of which an individual is a member have an ethos than runs directly counter to that of equitable treatment, no fear and no favour? I’d say that extremist political groups qualify here, as do the Freemasons. Watching porn or smoking the odd joint certainly doesn’t,

    Most religions do not advocate persecution of or discrimination of non-members, that distinction should be made.

    How does it work? Well failure to disclose membership in a timely fashion would be a disciplinary offence if someone chose to take that risk. If that causes an issue for someone then they should make a choice about what is most important to them.

  3. Joe is surely right that any requirement to disclose would be impossible to enforce. The Labour Government in 1998 tried to get a compulsory register for police & judges, but found it impossible and settled for a voluntary register. Most Masons ignored it.

    There is an obvious conflict between saying that people are entitled to belong to any lawful organisation they want, but then say that they have got to declare it if they want to be a copper. You either have a right to privacy and free association or you don’t.

    There is nothing unique about the Masons pledge to look after each other. It is common among many small and inward looking outfits. Do you want a register of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons & Moonies as well? If you think communists & the BNP warrant special attention where do you draw the line? There are hundreds of Trotskyist and anarchist revolutionary groups. There are equal numbers on the right from the Golden Dawn to the EDL. And then what are you going to do about the mass of Islamist nutjob groups? You would need an organisation bigger than the police force to police this system Daz. By the way don’t forget the Oddfellows. Those fellows pledge to help each other too.

    I think you are approaching this issue from the wrong end. Instead of trying to tell people who work in the public service which organisations they can or cannot belong to, I think it would be more productive to challenge the whole concept of public service. Monopolies of all kinds are bad and where they exist it is very difficult to deal with the corruption and incompetence that inevitably develops within them. Any individual, group or company should be able to bid to undertake policing or judicial functions provided they have the qualifications, experience and integrity to perform the duties required.

    When a provider fails to maintain the necessary standards you simply revoke their contract and replace them.

  4. Much food for thought here Mal – didn’t think we’d agree on this.

    It’s a very good argument for out-sourcing of policing and the courts, that much is clear. You might be right that the loss of public confidence and then the contract itself is a massive disincentive to old boys’ networks and corrupt behaviour, probably the best one by a distance.

    I’ve singled out the Masons here because they seem to have a lot of ‘unofficial power’ and there is a track record in public institutions of their network enabling corruption and fraud. This is fact and can be confirmed by a perfunctory bit of research.

  5. The Masons don’t have anywhere near as much power in the police as the Police Federation. The Federation always, and unquestioningly, look after their own irrespective of what they may have done. The funny thing about the Federation is that it is established by law and every uniformed officer up to the rank of Superintendent is a member of it. That is real corruption.

    A lot of people join the Masons because they think it will help them into positions which they could not achieve by their own efforts and abilities. It may work for some, but mostly I think the Masons are an irrelevant bunch of men doing daft things in private and with little ability to influence much outside of their clique.

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