Freemasons. Satanic bunkum or quite charitable works

Freemasons have long been an easy target for people whose lives have failed to meet their expectations and who look to conspiracy theories to explain their failures. And until recently freemasons would not refute such claims.

Chris Mullin, MP for Sunderland South, also subscribes to the theory and has invited members of the legal profession to submit evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, of which he is a member.

Mullin has described freemasonry as a secret society of men dedicated to self-advancement. He is wrong. The aims of freemasonry have been published. The rule book, Book of Constitutions, is available to the public and freemasons are at liberty to tell whoever they wish that they are members.

Throughout the process of becoming a freemason members have it heavily impressed upon them that using their membership to advance their own or anyone else's financial, social or other interests is not only contrary to the rules of freemasonry but will result in disciplinary action.

Mullin has said he is confident that most freemasons are honest citizens who would not dream of abusing their membership.

But he also claims that others would, citing Martin Short's Inside the Brotherhood, which he believes is an excellent study.

It is not. Like other so-called studies of its type it is a rehash of ancient myths and anonymous 'testimony' interlaced with details of the few cases where freemasons have got it wrong.

Mullin believes any doubts would be instantly cleared up if lists of members were available for public scrutiny. As others have found out, lists of names without supporting information lead to mismatches.

On 31 October The Independent mismatched Ian Bruce MP with a freemason of the same name who appears in the Grand Lodge Year Book. Contrary to public belief the register of members at Freemasons' Hall contains no personal information about members, simply their names and details of the lodges to which they belong and when they joined them.

Freemasons might ask why freemasonry should be singled out for investigation by the Home Affairs Select Committee but they will have no fears about an open-minded investigation.

When the prospect was first mooted in January, the Grand Secretary wrote to the chairman offering to help the committee in its understanding of freemasonry and to appear before it as a witness.

An examination based on facts will do much to dispel the myths.