As I mentioned in A Brief History of Anti-Masonry, "far too many Masons, particularly we American Masons, have forgotten or don't necessarily know about anti-Masonry and the suppression of Masons." Sure we have the occasional vandalism, some conspiracy theorist on a website making absurd claims, and once in a while there is a real threat, but we American Masons have never had to face constant harassment or inquiry in the media or by government officials like the British Masons have; the closest thing we ever faced was a backlash in the 19th century after the Morgan Affair. Back in 2016, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, refused to force officers of the Metropolitan Police Department to declare if they were in the Freemasons or not. In response, anti-Masons were up in arms and a torrent of hatred and fear-mongering spread across the Internet and news media. This article is looking at the contemporary political anti-Masonry that started in the 1990s in England and which still exists today, just from the perspective of an American Mason. Part 1 will cover some of the notable individuals involved with anti-Masonry in England and Part 2 will look at specific events.
In 1952, an Anglican clergyman named Walton Hannah wrote "Darkness Visible: A Christian Appraisal of Freemasonry". In it, Hannah attempts to demonstrate that Freemasonry is incompatible with Christianity. This book would go on to be used by fanatics as a means to allow their harassment of Christian Masons. In 1983, Stephen Knight wrote an unfounded and scathing book called "The Brotherhood" which is claimed to be an "exposé of the secret world of the Freemasons." Then in 1989 came long Martin Short's book "Inside the Brotherhood" which can be seen as a sequel to Stephen Knight's book and which is laughably called an investigation into Freemasonry. The book supposedly exposed Freemasonry's nefarious deeds done with criminal elements, the police, the military, and charities. In reality, both books are founded upon tiny bits of truth and the rest is filled in with fiction and fabrication. This book merely took anti-Mason propaganda like the lies started with the Taxil Hoax and used them for political purposes. Short also used the death of Stephen Knight to further attack Freemasonry by claiming Freemasons had somehow caused the brain tumor to regrow in Knight's head. Even to this day, when something involving Freemasonry comes up on the news, the media turns to Short. Chris Hodapp sums it up nicely:
"When a report on Freemasonry gets ready to air something kind about the fraternity, the Beeb rings up Short for his "on the other hand" take on it, you know, in the interest of "balance." Interestingly, they don't bring in a Holocaust denier when running Auschwitz stories for the sake of balance and compelling reporting."
Now, it isn't fair to lay the blame on these authors as they are a symptom of anti-Masonry, not the cause although they helped spread the disease of Masonophobia which isn't just the fear of Freemasonry, but where someone actually acts in a manner that discriminates against masons, in particular at an official level. That being said, with the publication of these books, a new movement of anti-Masonic fervor started and led members of the British government to propose laws that would require Freemasons in the judicial and law enforcement systems to declare their membership and be placed on a registry. One of the government officials who led this movement was named Jack Straw who serve as Home Secretary from 1997 to 2001. The Home Secretary is a senior official in the British Cabinet which oversees public services (police, fire, and rescue services), internal affairs, immigration and citizenship, MI5 (Security Service), and prisons and probation (now under the Secretary of Justice). The position of Home Secretary is extremely powerful and in the US that position is split up among several departments. Jack Straw was instrumental in enacting laws and policies that forced cops and members of the judiciary to disclose their Masonic membership. After months of investigation, Jack Straw found zero evidence of any wrongdoing by the fraternity, but still kept this intrusive policy on the books. This continued until 2009 when even Jack Straw admitted the policy was unreasonable to continue, but his decision came a few years after an important judicial case as well as a possible lawsuit from the United Grand Lodge of England. In 2007, the European Court on Human Rights made a judgment on the case "Grande Oriente D`Italia di Palazzo Giustiniani v. Italy (No. 2)." The Court found compulsory registries of Freemasons was a violation of Article 14 and Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights as Freemasons were being discriminated against and unjustifiably penalized. Some speculate that Mr. Straw's decision to reverse his archaic policies also had to do with a looming election that would possibly end the Labour Party's term in office.
"The review of the policy operating since 1998 has shown no evidence of impropriety or malpractice within the judiciary as a result of a judge being a freemason and in my judgment, therefore, it would be disproportionate to continue the collection or retention of this information."
Jack Straw, 2009
Jack Straw is a well-known face of anti-Masonry in England, but next to him I'd place Chris Mullin, member of the House of Commons and the Home Affairs Committee. In September 1998, Jill Knight wrote an article concerning the investigations ran by the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee on the allegations against Freemasonry. Lady Knight saw the investigations as pointless ("a wild goose chase" she called it) and that Chris Mullin had an unhealthy paranoia against Freemasonry and was convinced, prior to an investigation, that Freemasonry was a sinister organization. Her fears were confirmed by the fact that the committee chose Martin Short as its first witness rather than an unbiased witness. In the total of their investigation, they received 26-memoranda and 153 other documents. The Police Superintendents' Association, the Police Federation, individual Police officers, the Law Society, the Bar Council, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Association of Women Barristers, and even Freemasons testified before this committee. Most of whom provided no evidence that Freemasonry was maliciously influencing the justice system in England.
She concluded that the anti-Masonic testimony was based on perception, not fact. One such example came from ten Police officers who claimed undue Masonic influence such as suppression of serious criminal and disciplinary matters, promotion preferment, cheating in promotion examinations, and the falsifying of blood test results of Freemasons charged with drunk driving offenses. However, with all of these allegations, none of them provided any evidence. During my second deployment to Iraq, I faced a similar situation. I was asked by Battalion Sergeant Major about Freemasonry. After my comments, he told me that soldiers have accused a Company Commander of giving preferential treatment to Freemasons. I responded by pointing out that nepotism is not a principle held by Freemasonry. Sometime later I found out that the soldiers making the accusation were simply trying to supplant their Company Commander and his authority by making allegations of Masonic impropriety.
While the investigation provided no evidence to warrant a compulsory registry, a majority of the committee members decided to recommend that members of law enforcement and the judicial system should be required to declare their membership in Freemasonry. So here we have an official investigation finding no wrongdoing on the part of the fraternity, but still being penalized due to nothing more than rumors and nebulous allegations; all of this would be turned into fuel for more allegations.
Chris Mullin went on to make, what seems to be a political faux pas, by disclosing the names of Freemasons in the West Midlands Police Force. Lady Knight notes that this police force was instrumental in investigating the Birmingham pub bombings of 1974 which left 22 people killed and around 70 injured. The bombings were still remembered in 1998. Chris Mullin was also the one who campaigned for the release of the convicted bombers stating that he knew the identity of the real bomber, but would not divulge the name. It is ironic that Mr. Mullin wouldn't disclose the name of a criminal, but enforced a policy that required innocent men to disclose their names for the crime of being a Mason.
Having covered some of the more infamous anti-Masons, Part 2 will cover anti-Masonic events such as the Church of England's stance on Freemasonry, further harassment of Masons in the British Police, and the British media constant assault on the fraternity.
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