Freemasons Subvert Wales' Democracy

Put some faith in people's honesty

April 20, 2005

David Williamson, Western Mail

A DASH of surrealism has never seemed out of place in Welsh politics, but the National Assembly is home to especially bizarre events today.

Fearful that Wales' fledging democracy could be subverted by Freemasons, the founders of our devolved government obliged Assembly Members to declare their membership in the secretive organisation or face criminal prosecution.

Over the past three years, however, this stipulation has been increasingly regarded as arbitrary, unenforceable, and rather odd.

The rituals, regalia and closed-door nature of Freemasonry may seem quite sinister and subversive in the 21st century but, in the absence of concrete proof it is a malign force in society, it is hard to justify the Assembly's rules.LINK

But rather than drop the requirement to confess to being a Freemason, Assembly Members will today vote of proposals to force members to declare if they belong to private organisations such as the Rotary Club and Cardiff & County Club.  The logic is that a litigious Freemason would now be unable to prove his society was the victim of discrimination.  [Ed.~ Discrimination begins with and endures through Freemasonry]

An Assembly that was truly fastidious about ensuring surgical standards of objectivity might require modern legislators to record every instance they conversed with a lobbyist.  Most simple of all would be to place some faith in the human capacity for honesty.  [Ed. ~ Well why not be honest and declare membership of Masonry if there is nothing to hide?LINK]

THE UK Competitiveness Index makes grim reading for anyone looking for signs that Britain in general and Wales in particular is a beacon of entrepreneurship.

Its author, Dr Robert Huggins of Sheffield University, claims that more than half of the jobs created in Wales since 1997 have been in the public sector.

This is a giant sector upon which Wales depends for its education and healthcare, but real prosperity will not arrive unless businesses are able to get on with the task of making money.

The UK is the 17th most competitive country in the world in which to do business.  If innovation is being dragged down, our nation's future can only darken.


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Clubs added to Assembly Members' disclosure list

THE National Assembly yesterday passed a controversial motion which places members of groups including Rotary International and the Cardiff & County Club in the same category as Freemasons.

Assembly Members must declare their membership in such private clubs and societies or face investigation by the Standards Committee.LINK

The legislation was introduced to prevent the Assembly being prosecuted on human rights grounds for discriminating against Freemasons.

During yesterday's debate Conservative Assembly Member William Graham asked for assurances that members of churches with specific membership requirements would not be forced to reveal their religious affiliation.

Kirsty Williams, who chairs the Standards Committee, said, "I can't give you the assurances you are looking for... The rules are the rules."

She said she expected that the vast majority of religious groups would not fall into that category.

Dan Boucher, the Assembly Liaison Officer for the Evangelical Alliance Cymru, later said, "If it transpires that those Assembly Members who are members of religious organisations will be forced to declare this fact or face legal action then this seems intrusive and wholly at variance with the values of a liberal society."

Ms Williams had earlier argued for the change in the rules on the grounds that the reform would improve general transparency.

She said, "To put this in context for colleagues, the point has been made that while Freemasonry is required to be registered, there is no requirement for a member to register their membership of the Ku Klux Klan."

Labour Assembly Member Huw Lewis opposed the change in the rules and wanted Freemasonry to continue to be singled out, regardless of the risk of legal action.  He said, "This chamber is the voice of the people of Wales and not the voice of the lawyers of Wales."

He said he was concerned about Masonic influences on public life because "there are actual oaths of secrecy and that creates unease.LINK  The reality behind it may not be sinister but the perception matters."

James Bevan, Provincial Secretary of the South Wales Eastern Division of Freemasons, said he was shocked by the attitude of Assembly Members.  He said, "What bothers me is the uninhibited bigotry...  A lot of the younger people seem to be directed rather than think for themselves."

While he welcomed the broadening of the rules he regretted that it was the threat of a lawsuit which had spurred the Assembly to action.

He said, "They are not responding to any sense of fair play.  They are trying to excuse their decision because they say we were about to beat them over their head with a big stick."

Assembly Members voted in favour of the changes by 37 votes to seven, with two abstentions, thereby gaining the necessary two-thirds majority.


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