An article reprinted with permission from Hertfordshire on Sunday.FREEMASONS in local government must declare their membership - but it's none of the public's business.
Hertfordshire on Sunday approached Hertfordshire County Council this week after obtaining a list of some 40 members of the Kingswood Masonic Lodge (number 2278). Lodge Meetings are held in the Ashbourne Room at County Hall, Hertford on the third Saturdays in April and June and the second Saturdays in May, September and October.
A council spokesman said: "We do not give out details of groups or individuals who book our rooms."
Freemasonry is a male-only society, with secret handshakes and phrases through which masons may identify others. Women cannot join. The council did not answer when we asked whether such discrimination contradicted its equal opportunities policy.
Oaths taken upon membership mean that Masons are pledged to protect and favour other masons over the interests of non-masons. After progressing to the third degree a Mason swears to his fellows that he will form "a column of mutual defence and support", and to "dispose my heart to succour his weakness and relieve his necessities".
The vast majority of Masons are honourable men who find that the Craft adds a spiritual dimension and moral guidance to their lives. Belief in a Supreme Being is required to become a Mason. While there is no suggestion of wrongdoing in the Kingswood lodge or the council, the Masonic oaths of Brotherly Love mean that the potential for complicity in any Masonic misdemeanours is very real.
In 1987, Derbyshire County Council decided that all job applicants would be required to declare membership of Freemasonry, and that applicants who refused to leave the Brotherhood risked not being given sensitive jobs.
Hertfordshire County Council's spokesman said: "Our procurement procedures are rigorous and audited. There have been no allegations of corruption on any grounds that we are aware of and if anyone has any details we will refer the matter to the police".
With regard to the list of names put to the council by Hertfordshire on Sunday, the spokesman said: "The council employs more than 20,000 people and does not comment on individual employees. However it is a condition of service that, when taking up employment with the council, staff must record with their chief officer membership of Freemasonry. The officer will keep a register for current and new employees. The register and file are confidential and will not be available for public scrutiny".
Kingswood Lodge membership list.
Hertfordshire County Council.
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First published in Hertfordshire on Sunday on 14th. December 2003.