The chief executive of the governing body of Freemasonry in England and Wales has hit out at “discrimination” against its members in media coverage exposing lodges “operating secretly” at Westminster.
In a full-page advert today that ran in the Guardian, Times and Daily Telegraph, David Staples of the United Grand Lodge of England addressed readers in a letter headed: “Enough is enough.”
He said: “The UGLE believes that the ongoing gross misrepresentation of its 200,000 plus members is discrimination. Pure and simple.
“We owe it to our membership to take this stance, they shouldn’t have to feel undeservedly stigmatised. No other organisation would stand for this and nor shall we.”
Staples said he had written to the Equality and Human Rights Commission to make his case.
His comments come after the Guardian’s splash on Monday revealing that two Freemasons’ lodges set up for members of parliament and political journalists were “continuing to operate secretly at Westminster”.
In a comment piece published online later the same day, Guardian writer Dawn Foster said the Freemasons “should have no place in public life” and that recent reports about them were “alarming”.
The UGLE Twitter account posted a link to its advert, which it said had been taken out to “address recent disgraceful and misleading articles in The Guardian”.
The Guardian’s initial report, by journalist Ian Cobain, revealed the existence of the Gallery Lodge, set up for lobby journalists, and New Welcome Lodge, for MPs, peers and parliamentary staff.
It also reported on a second lodge for political journalists, the Alfred Robbins Lodge, said to meet four times a year at the Freemasons Hall in Covent Garden, London.
The two journalists’ lodges were said to have 45 and 11 members respectively, although the identities of members are not known.
Earlier this week, Staples filed a complaint with the Guardian about the article, saying it “contained significant inaccuracies” and was “substantially misleading”.
He said: “The existence of the two lodges in question is not secret, they don’t operate at Westminster and they don’t have MPs or journalists in their respective memberships.”
He said Cobain “did not provide us with any opportunity to correct the errors in his article”, adding: “Instead, inaccurate information has been published to create a misleading impression of Freemasonry.”
A Guardian spokesperson told Press Gazette: “The Guardian’s independent readers’ editor is currently reviewing comments received about the article in question and will respond as appropriate in due course.”
David Staples’ letter in full, printed in the Guardian, Times and Daily Telegraph on Thursday:
At the United Grand Lodge of England, we value honesty, integrity and service to the community above all else. Last year we raised over £33 million for good causes.
As an organisation we welcome individuals from all walks of life, of any faith, age, class or political persuasion. Throughout our 300 year history, when people have suffered discrimination Freemasonry has embraced them into our lodges as equals.
The United Grand Lodge of England believes that the ongoing gross misrepresentation of its 200,000 plus members is discrimination. Pure and simple.
We owe it to our membership to take this stance, they shouldn’t have to feel undeservedly stigmatised. No other organisation would stand for this and nor shall we.
I have written to the Equality and Human Rights Commission to make this case.
I appreciate that you may have questions about who we are and what we do, so over the next six months our members will be running a series of open evenings and Q&A events up and down the country. These will be promoted in the local media and on our website.
I am also happy to answer any queries directly. Please feel free to write to me here at Freemasons’ Hall, 60 Great Queen Street, London WC2B 5AZ and I will come back to you.
Dr David Staples
United Grand Lodge of England
Picture: Wikimedia Commons