Judge backs Freemasons' role

The Times, London/April 6, 2006
By Frances Gibb

The role of Masons in public life won the backing of a High Court judge, who yesterday dismissed claims that the order’s secretive ways made Freemasonry an unhealthy influence on officialdom.

Mr Justice Newman accepted that there was still a perception that Freemasonry could give rise to apparent bias in decisionmaking. But he concluded that Masons holding public positions did not need to remove themselves from decisions involving other Masons.

The judge said that “Freemasonry is not a religion” and that although members of the order agreed to give “succour” to “brother Masons”, they were subject to the “uncompromising and clear” principle that they must pay “due obedience” to the laws of the land.

Mr Justice Newman upheld North Dorset District Council’s decision to give planning consent to an application for a change of use of farming land to a showground in Motcombe in Dorset by the Gillingham and Shaftesbury Agricultural Society. He dismissed arguments that there was an “appearance of bias” because two of the members who voted in favour of the scheme were members of Masonic lodges.

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