Enough is Enough
With the misconceptions surrounding the nature of Freemasonry commonplace, one particular news story in 2018 proved the catalyst for a nationwide campaign that would confront these beliefs head on, as Dean Simmons discovers
The doors to Freemasons’ Hall in London may be open to the public, but this hasn’t stopped rumours, myths and conspiracy theories from grabbing the headlines over the decades. However, it was a news story in The Guardian at the beginning of 2018, which was subsequently covered by other national newspapers, accusing the Freemasons of blocking policing reforms, that proved to be a turning point for the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE).
Dr David Staples, Chief Executive Officer of UGLE, rejected the claims as laughable in a letter to the newspapers. With the accusations following a well-trodden path of inaccurate and misleading information about Freemasonry, he called for an end to the discrimination against its members, citing the 2001 and 2007 European Court of Human Rights rulings that Freemasonry was not a secret or unlawful organisation.
Reflecting on the decision to respond, David says, ‘It’s something that has been building up over the past 20 years, as we haven’t argued our case or countered the increasingly ridiculous claims of our critics. I think the trouble, as we’ve seen in the past, is that if we don’t answer those critics, the vacuum is then filled by further ludicrous accusations.’
More was to come. In February 2018, The Guardian alleged that two masonic lodges were operating secretly at Westminster. ‘This was on the front page of an award-winning national newspaper and it was complete nonsense,’ David says. ‘Every aspect of that story was deliberately designed to give a false impression of Freemasonry and its influence.’ David again wrote to the newspaper, drawing attention to several inaccuracies, including the fact that the lodges did not operate in Westminster and that their existence is not secret – all of which could have been verified by a quick search on Wikipedia. While the letter led to corrections being made, there was clearly an appetite for these types of stories, and therefore a pressing need for Freemasonry to debunk the myths.
ON THE OFFENSIVE
‘In light of a new approach towards how we manage the media and how we represent ourselves and our members, we needed to go on the offensive – it was a good one to put the gloves on for,’ says David.
Contesting accusations is one thing, putting a stop to them in the first place is another. It was to this end that UGLE responded with a letter from David, titled ‘Enough is Enough’, which ran as a full-page advert in both The Times and Daily Telegraph newspapers. The letter called for an end to the ongoing gross misrepresentation of its 200,000-plus members.
‘We need to open up and talk about what we do; we needn’t be afraid of being both proud of who we are and our membership,’ David says. ‘We are the only organisation that faces repeated calls to publish our membership lists. We are the only organisation linked to a whole host of rumours and conspiracy theories, despite there being no substantial evidence to any of it. It’s important to not allow these myths to perpetuate in the public eye, and take on the critics with the facts.’
In the spirit of transparency, David embarked on a series of interviews with the press. Whether it was laying to rest myths, highlighting community work and charity fundraising or outlining what it means to be a Freemason, no stone was left unturned. ‘I did 24 interviews in one day,’ he recalls. ‘But if you’re portraying yourselves as an open organisation, you need to make yourself available in order to demonstrate that openness.’
With Freemasonry thrust into the spotlight, David believes the ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign provides a strong communication platform going forward. ‘We need to be out there, as we have been for the last few months, taking journalists around our masonic centres, introducing journalists to Freemasons and letting them make their own minds up, according to what they see and what they find.
‘The Open Days being held in our Provinces are also important, as they allow us to engage not just with potential members, but also with our critics,’ continues David. ‘We shouldn’t shy away from that – we won’t convince everybody and we certainly won’t change everybody’s mind, but we want to give a true impression of who we are and what we do, and allow people to make up their own minds. Ultimately, we need to be in the public space for the things we should be known for.’
Opening up, inviting in
Freemasons’ Hall in London may have initially taken centre stage, but Provinces up and down the country have now embraced the campaign. Open evenings and interactive Q&A events have been taking place in masonic halls, inviting members of the public to find out more about Freemasonry and ask any questions.
Demonstrating the effectiveness of the campaign, there has been a rise in membership enquiries as people seek to find out more. Philip Bullock, Wiltshire Provincial Grand Master, says, ‘It’s had an effect in raising our profile, which has had a positive effect on the number of enquiries made to our Provincial office and website. Our Sarsen Club for younger members is also proving extremely popular and is growing in terms of membership and activities.’
‘Enough is Enough’ has been an opportunity to further highlight the ongoing efforts of many Provinces. ‘For the past four years we’ve taken a very proactive approach in making ourselves more visible,’ says Philip. ‘At the end of last year, we acquired a new display trailer that will be out and about appearing at county fairs, shows and marketplaces. This will allow us to expand our visible presence in the community.’
Further north, in West Lancashire, the Province has been busy giving the media guided tours of its masonic halls. ‘The reaction across the Province has been positive,’ says Tony Harrison, West Lancashire Provincial Grand Master, ‘and most agree that it’s about time we answered back.’
Cheshire Provincial Grand Master Stephen Blank, who also faced the cameras in an interview with the BBC, echoes those sentiments: ‘The reaction from my members has been overwhelmingly positive,’ he says. ‘We’ve always been proactive with our open evenings at masonic halls. We’ll continue to publicise these across the county, alongside our charitable and community activities. I think it’s very important that we continue to react swiftly and positively to any future attacks on Freemasonry.’
The United Grand Lodge of England is grateful to The Guardian for amending the article originally titled “Two Freemasons’ Lodges Operating Secretly at Westminster” on their website ‘to remove a misleading impression conveyed by the original headline’
This follows a letter to The Guardian highlighting several inaccuracies and to clarify that the lodges mentioned do not operate in Westminster, their existence is not secret and that no MPs are members of New Welcome Lodge. As a result of an investigation, The Guardian concluded that the article's headline, standfirst and lede conveyed a misleading impression and corrected the inaccuracies.
The Guardian has also placed a correction notice at the bottom of the online article which states: ‘This article was the subject of a public complaint by the UGLE and an investigation by the Guardian readers’ editor.
‘On 20 February 2018, consistent with the readers’ editor’s conclusions, the article was amended to remove a misleading impression conveyed by the original headline, standfirst and lede to the effect that the existence of the three named lodges was secret or covert, that they met secretly at the Palace of Westminster, and that New Welcome Lodge had MPs among its membership currently.’
The Mirror also removed an article published on their website which contained inaccurate and misleading information about Freemasonry, as a result of an Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) complaint.
A personal letter by Dr David Staples, Chief Executive of UGLE, titled ‘Enough is Enough’, first appeared as a full page advert in national newspapers on 7th February 2018 calling for an end to the discrimination and misrepresentation against Freemasonry in the media, leading to a series of public TV, radio and press interviews.
Following a complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), an investigation confirmed that the article was provided by the Press Association and published on the Mirror website in good faith.
The Press Association’s copy was derived from the recent article in The Guardian headlined “Two Freemasons’ Lodges Operating Secretly at Westminster”, which contained significant inaccuracies. The main points being that the lodges are not secret, they don’t operate at Westminster and contrary to what was written, they don’t have MPs or journalists as members.
This follows a personal letter by Dr David Staples, Chief Executive of UGLE, on 8th February 2018, titled ‘Enough is Enough’, to address misleading articles published in The Guardian – this was also placed as a full page advert in The Times and Daily Telegraph.
A separate complaint has also been submitted to the IPSO regarding The Guardian article.
Enough is Enough
A personal letter by Dr David Staples, Chief Executive of the United Grand Lodge of England. This has also been placed as a full page advert in The Times, Daily Telegraph and Guardian
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
Letters to the Editor - NO. 42 SUMMER 2018
Enough is Enough
I note with dismay the recent attacks on Freemasonry by some newspapers, including The Guardian. These attacks included remarks by the outgoing chair of the Police Federation, in short, accusing Craft members of restricting the progress of women and ethnic minorities within the force.
Yet another example of press sensationalism [claimed] the existence of secret lodges in Westminster. The ramifications of such adverse publicity are obvious, given that it is instigated by non-masons and often falls upon the ears of the ill-informed.
However, I also note, with delight, that the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) has, and is, conducting a spirited, factual and well-reasoned defence of the iniquitous allegations. For decades UGLE has not responded to such criticism, but in this age of political correctness, such a response is not only commendable, but necessary.
The actions of our governing body cannot, and must not, be seen in isolation. Freemasonry has, it can be strongly argued, a serious problem with its image. This is an opportunity to change this image for the better. Many brethren, as myself, care passionately in what we believe and try to practise on a daily basis. We are the ambassadors of the Craft, so let us help Grand Lodge change our public image by expressing pride in our fraternity and spreading its teachings of universal brotherhood.
By so doing, we will not only change the Craft’s public image for the better, we will ensure success for the next 300 years.
J S ‘Brig’ Youngs, Frenni Lodge, No. 8427, Ceredigion, West Wales
I want to pay tribute to Dr Staples and the superb communications team at UGLE who have handled this situation professionally and with dignity, expertise and even a little bit of humour. You have done, and continue to do, the Craft a huge service.
Stuart Wilson, Lodge Sir Michael, No. 989, Kilmacolm, Scotland
Freemasonry has given me confidence, transferable skills, a great deal of enjoyment and so many genuine friends. I’m therefore extremely proud to be a Freemason.
Dr Andy Green, Wyggeston Lodge, No. 3448, Leicester, Leicestershire
I’m not a mason, but I wanted to show my support for you and your members and for standing up for yourselves in front of the media witch-hunt. It seems any organisation that is seen as different is fair game for criticism. Well done for sticking to your aims and ambitions and for maintaining the right level of confidentiality.
I just wanted to pass on that I saw the piece on BBC Breakfast regarding Freemasonry. I thought your representative did a terrific job with his answers to the verbal attack by the BBC. My husband has been a mason since 1971 and installed our son as Master of their lodge a few years ago. My family have enjoyed many, many masonic social events over the years.
I find it so incredible that you still face this type of ignorant media attack after so much work has been done and is still being done in trying to make Freemasonry as open as possible.Congratulations on the response to the piece.
Complaint – Article published on Sunday 4 February
This is a complaint pursuant to your Editorial Code about an article published on Sunday 4 February on your website and in print on Monday 5 February. The article was headlined "Two Freemasons' Lodges Operating Secretly at Westminster" and Ian Cobain was credited with the byline. lt contained significant inaccuracies which created a substantially misleading article. 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.
- The article claimed that "Two Freemasons' lodges set up for members of parliament and political journalists are continuing to operate secretly at Westminster". This is inaccurate. The Lodges do not operate at Westminster and only meet in Camden at Freemasons' Hall.
- The article stated "Exclusive: Lodges for MPs and journalists are so covert even lobby reporters do not know members". The Lodges in the article do not have any MPs or journalists as members.
- The Lodges are not secret. Their meeting place is open to the public all year and their meeting dates are published in the United Grand Lodge of England directory of Lodges and Chapters available for the public to buy from most Masonic retailers. Details of the founding of the New Welcome Lodge were published in the press including in the Daily Telegraph. The New Welcome Lodge and Gallery Lodge are referred to in Hansard and have had Wikipedia pages for 12 years. Both Lodges feature in publicly available academic articles (on Researchgate, among other resources) and press. A detailed history of Gallery Lodge, together with its past and present members, was published in 1968. lt is wilfully misleading for the Guardian to state that the Lodges operate secretly or to imply that their existence is "secret" or "covert".
- The article claimed that "The New Welcome Lodge has about 30 to 40 members ... only about four of the current members are MPs". This is fictitious, as anybody connected with the Lodge would know. New Welcome Lodge only has 22 members. There are no current MPs who are members of New Welcome Lodge.
We provided extensive information and quotes to Ian Cobain in answer to his questions about Freemasonry and he used this information in other contemporaneous articles about Freemasonry. He chose not to ask us about New Welcome Lodge and appears to have ignored all of the widely published and available information about it and Gallery Lodge. He did not provide us with any opportunity to correct the errors in his article. Instead, inaccurate information has been published to create a misleading impression of Freemasonry. The reader is deliberately left to infer that journalists and MPs meet in secret at Westminster as Freemasons, which is untrue and which the author must have known or suspected to be untrue. There is no evidence for, or truth in, these inferences in the article about Freemasonry.
By publishing inaccuracies which foster and promote popular prejudices against Freemasonry concerning corruption, power and control, the article damaged the reputation of the United Grand Lodge of England as a membership organisation and encouraged further discrimination against individual Freemasons.
We request that you publish a retraction of the article in an agreed form which confirms that journalists and MPs don't meet in secret at Westminster as Freemasons. We also request that you publish an apology to Freemasons for misleading the public about the nature of Freemasonry.
Dr David Staples
For and on behalf of
The United Grand Lodge of England
Further to the recent news coverage in the national newspapers relating to Freemasonry and Police Federation Reforms, Dr David Staples, Chief Executive Officer of the United Grand Lodge of England, has been interviewed on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme
You can listen to the interview here, which starts at 02:46:21.
Following the news coverage in The Guardian, Times, Sun, Mail Online and Independent Online relating to Freemasonry and Police Federation reforms, Dr David Staples, Chief Executive Officer of the United Grand Lodge of England, has sent this letter (tailored) to each of these national newspapers
I write in response to your articles Freemasons are blocking reform, says police chair and Why the secret handshake between police and Freemasons should worry us in The Guardian on 1st and 2nd January.
The articles show a complete and disappointing misrepresentation of Freemasonry. Furthermore, we understand, having spoken to the outgoing Chairman of the Police Federation, that recent media coverage does not accurately reflect his views.
We are quietly proud that, throughout history, when people have suffered discrimination both in public and social life, Freemasonry has welcomed them into our Lodges as equals. It is a shame that Freemasons are now quite openly discriminated against and that too many of our members, therefore, feel the need to keep their membership to themselves.
The idea that reform within the Police Federation or anywhere else is being actively thwarted by an organised body of Freemasons is laughable and suggests an unbelievable element of will and influence from an organisation which is non-political, non-religious, values integrity and upholds the law.
In 2001 and again in 2007 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Freemasonry was not a secret or unlawful organisation.
There is absolutely no reason why police officers, or anyone from any other walk of life, should not be a Freemason and we highlight our shared organisational values of integrity and service to the community.
Dr David Staples
Chief Executive Officer
United Grand Lodge of England
Musicians such as Phoebe Gorry are bringing comfort to vulnerable adults right across the country. Masonic funding will allow Music in Hospitals to find an even bigger audience, as Matt Timms finds out
Singer Phoebe Gorry shoots a glance at her guitarist before turning to the audience: ‘This one’s my favourite. It’s called Tea for Two.’ Popularised by Doris Day in the 1950 film of the same name, it’s an unusual favourite for a 28-year-old jazz musician to have. Then again, this isn’t your usual performance. In a quiet corner of Surrey, Gorry is reeling off classics for elderly residents at the Royal Cambridge Home.
The concert is one of many that are taking place in care homes (including RMBI homes), hospitals and hospices across the country. They’re the work of Music in Hospitals, a charity that has brought live music to vulnerable adults and children for more than half a century. With the help of a £60,048 grant from the Masonic Charitable Foundation – the latest in a line of donations from the masonic charities over the years – there is now funding for another 216 concerts over a three-year period.
‘Research has shown that live music can help to reduce levels of pain, stress and anxiety, as well as provide moments of joy for those who have lost their independence or feel isolated,’ says Emily Winchester, senior fundraising officer at Music in Hospitals, adding that music has an inherent ability to generate an emotional response in the listener. ‘Musicians like Phoebe provide stimulating and therapeutic enjoyment for hundreds of elderly people in care homes across the country.’
Judging by today’s performance, Gorry is a welcome addition to the home. There are singalongs and plenty of requests – particularly from a cheeky couple in the corner. There is also dancing between staff and residents, and an opportunity to revisit treasured memories while making new ones too.
‘The residents love it,’ says Gaye Wyeth, who is the housekeeper and activities manager at the home. ‘I’ve been here for 26 years and remember a time when there were hardly any activities at all – never mind this.’
Now there’s flower arranging, birthday teas and even a version of the Olympics – with straws and paper plates instead of a javelin and discus. Yet the Music in Hospitals concerts, according to Wyeth, are a house favourite because they’re so varied.
‘Live music can help to reduce levels of pain, stress and anxiety, as well as provide moments of joy’ Emily Winchester
‘We have some artistic residents here who have always appreciated music,’ says the home’s manager, Rory Belfield. ‘One of our residents, Joyce, loves today’s music, but we have plenty of diverse tastes. Some like jazz, some folk, others opera – the whole range.’
The music is enjoyable but it’s also therapeutic. Active participation serves as a form of physiotherapy, through clapping, tapping and moving in time to the music. Positive changes to patients’ mood and self-esteem can also make a real difference to their well-being. In addition, and most noticeably at this home, music sparks memories and emotions, meaning staff can understand more about an individual.
Gorry has been a professional singer for 10 years, since graduating from the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford, and was introduced to Music in Hospitals through a friend.
Music in Hospitals’ chief executive Steve Rowland-Jones says that potential musicians are assessed against their musicianship, breadth of repertoire and communication skills. Since 2013, auditions have been conducted within healthcare environments to gauge how musicians engage with audiences and deal with the vagaries of such settings.
Often, musicians will take on the role of friend or listener as they chat to patients about the memories the music may have sparked. It’s an important part of the experience, and one that is welcomed by patients.
‘It’s intimate,’ says Gorry. ‘I can engage with an audience in a way I can’t do at, say, a wedding when everybody’s a bit drunk and I’m in the background. Over the past year, I’ve become a much better performer. It has changed the way I sing. Now I think about how to communicate a song simply, without overcomplicating it.’
As well as in care homes, Gorry has performed in hospitals and special-needs schools. She says her experience with the charity has given her memories that will last a lifetime. One of the most moving was when a nurse in a children’s ward asked her to sing for an eight-year-old girl.
‘She hadn’t been responsive for a long time and, with her mum and sister by her side, my guitarist and I were able to wake her up and help make eye contact. At that point, her mum started crying. She said it was the most stimulated she’d seen her for a really long time. Moments like that make it all worthwhile.’
With the help of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), Music in Hospitals aims to reach 5,400 elderly people. David Innes, CEO of the MCF, says that the benefits of the service are clear to see and the work itself is closely aligned with the masonic ethos:
‘At the heart of everything we do lies one of the basic principles by which all Freemasons conduct their lives – an ingrained duty to care for those who are less fortunate. From its earliest days in the 1700s, Freemasonry in England and Wales has been concerned with the care of orphans, the sick and the aged, and this grant is a continuation of that principle into the modern day.’
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - NO. 40 WINTER 2017
We were interested to read your article ‘Perfect Arrangement’ in the autumn edition of Freemasonry Today. We are a husband and wife duo (keyboard player and female vocalist) who for the past four years have been entertaining in various venues and at masonic events in the Lake District and Lancashire. We also perform at care and residential homes and find it very rewarding.
We agree with the article that live music can be beneficial. Some of these homes specialise in dementia care and it is amazing how many residents remember the words to the music that we play. Staff and residents often end up dancing and clapping away.
We are now looking at working in homes for adults with learning difficulties.
Mike Langdon, Bela Lodge, No. 7576, Milnthorpe, Cumberland & Westmorland
Watch unique and unprecedented access to the Freemasons
To mark the United Grand Lodge of England's Tercentenary, a Sky television crew were given unique and unprecedented access to discover what it means to be a modern-day Freemason
The five part documentary they made looked to go beyond the myth and legend to discover what it means to be a Freemason today and answer the questions – who are Freemasons and what do they do?
From our regalia to some lavish ceremonies, through to ancient rituals and bonds of brotherhood, many viewers will recently have had the pleasure of watching the documentary ‘Inside the Freemasons’.
There were many behind the scenes highlights to enjoy including coverage of the biggest day of the masonic calendar, the Annual Investiture, and the official consecration of the first masonic football lodge, as well as a feature with UGLE’s newly appointed Chief Executive Officer, Doctor David Staples, FRCP, DepGDC.
Although the documentary was recently shown on Sky 1, if you missed it, fear not, as a special edition on DVD is now available to pre-order: it consists of two DVDs, featuring all five episodes and 30 minutes of exclusive extra content.
The ‘Inside the Freemasons’ DVD will be released by June 15th and is now available to pre-order from Letchworths Shop by clicking here
Appointment of Chief Executive Officer
We are pleased to announce that we have appointed Doctor David Staples, FRCP, DepGDC, to the newly created role of Chief Executive Officer of the United Grand Lodge of England.
David will join in September in this role and it is expected that he will also be appointed Grand Secretary at the 2018 Annual Investiture.
Although we are devoting much energy this year to celebrating our Tercentenary, this appointment clearly demonstrates that we are also focused on the future. We intend that, by bringing all staff and managerial functions together under an empowered CEO, we will ensure that UGLE goes forward as an organisation equipped for the modern age, providing strategic clarity, operational excellence, strong leadership and the highest standards of corporate governance for all our members.
David Staples is 42 years old and is currently Clinical Director of Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Trust, where he is responsible for managing 1,100 staff and an income and expenditure budget of over £100 million. He trained initially as a doctor at the University of Oxford and has held a series of senior clinical roles across the UK before moving into the management of clinical services.
President, Board of General Purposes