Updated 31/10/21 @ 06:00am
It’s often seen as a shadowy world of secret handshakes, favours for friends and strange initiation ceremonies – but should we be concerned that the chairman of Folkestone & Hythe District Council, Cllr Philip Martin (Con) is also a members of the Freemasons?
While there is no obligation for councillors to declare if they are a Freemason or not, many councillors across the UK have declared membership on their register of interests under fields such as outside bodies, charitable groups or “bodies whose principle purpose is to influence public opinion”.
No councillors [or council officers come to that] from Folkestone & Hythe District Council have declared membership of the Freemasons and it doesn’t appear there is a suitable field in the register of interests.
Other elected Councillors in the UK have been told they must declare their Masonic membership, so why not ours?
Since 2011, councillors and the introduction of the Localism Act there has been no obligation on elected councillors to declare whether they are freemasons, traditionally famed for its secret rituals.
We believe all district and county councillors and council officers, should have to confirm if they are freemasons, and declare any membership of a freemason lodge on their register of interests and disclose if they come into contact with a lodge member while conducting council business as a personal interest.
This would help to make sure conflicts of interest do not arise and that council business is conducted in an open and transparent way.
The Radnor Lodge which is based on Grace Hill near the Library says on its website, that Masons are:
A network of mutual friendship and aid: Masons pledge to help, aid and assist each other in every walk of life.
Who are the Masons?
The Freemasons are traditionally famed for their secretiveness, but in recent years they have attempted to become more open.
A documentary on Sky in 2017, called ‘Inside The Freemasons’, took viewers behind the scenes of the society, which is known for its ancient rituals.
At a local level the Masons are organised into Lodges with a Provincial Grand Lodge overseeing them.
The Masons also raise thousands of pounds a year for charities.
Freemasonry is not a religion but members do need to believe in God.
The perceived secrecy of Freemasons has led to conspiracy theories about them for hundreds of years.
Freemasonry is not a secret society. Members are perfectly free to acknowledge their membership and should do so in answer to any reasonable enquiry. There is no secret about the aims and principles of the Order
said a member of a local lodge to a member of the Shepway Vox Team recently.
Disclosure of membership would appear to be consistent with advice in the information booklet available on the United Grand Lodge of England website [now removed from website] A section dating from 1999 and headed “Masonic secrets” says:
“Every Mason is free to reveal his own Masonic membership, except when it might appear that business, professional or personal advantage is thereby being sought for himself or another. The board believes that brethren should be encouraged to acknowledge their membership with pride.”
On the other hand – and it is difficult to judge without considering concrete examples – some of the publicly available material seems to support those who raise concerns about conflict of loyalty. For example, under “Behaviour in presence of strangers, not Masons”the information booklet states:
“You shall be cautious in your words and carriage, that the most penetrating stranger shall not be able to discover or find out what is not proper to be intimated; and sometimes you shall divert a discourse, and manage it prudently for the honour of the worshipful fraternity.”
In 2018 the leader of the Freemason’s United Grand Lodge of England, Chief executive Dr David Staples said the organisation is “undeservedly stigmatised” as a secret society and believes “enough is enough“.
He wrote to the equality and human rights commission with concerns that the UK’s 200,000+ Freemason members are the victims of gross misrepresentation and discrimination.
We’ll leave you to consider if declaring membership of a Masonic lodge is necessary by any elected Cllr, or council officer come to that
The Shepway Vox Team
Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful