I t seems almost retro to be talking about Freemasons again, but after two alarming reports there is light on their darkness again. First, over the new year there was an allegation from retiring Police Federation chair Steve White that freemasonry was blocking reform within the force, preventing women and black officers progressing professionally. And this weekend saw a report that two lodges set up to recruit at the Palace of Westminster are continuing to operate: one established for members of parliament and staff in the Commons and Lords, and the second for political journalists. No one joins the masons for the handshakes.
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The out-of-court settlement saved the Masons from a potentially embarrassing two-day industrial tribunal, due to begin yesterday, which would have shone an unwanted spotlight on the inner workings of the United Grand Lodge, the headquarters of English and Welsh Freemasonry. Sheila Delaney reached a settlement with lawyers representing the lodge after claiming that she was subjected to a four-year campaign of sexual intimidation. Ms Delaney had alleged that while she worked at the building in Great Queen Street, central London, comments were made about her nipples and breasts and she was subjected to unwanted physical contact by a senior colleague. Since Ms Delaney's complaints, the lodge has employed a human resources consultant to review its employment practices. While not admitting liability, the lodge released a joint statement with McDonagh and Associates, the London solicitors representing Ms Delaney, saying: "The United Grand Lodge of England very much regrets the circumstances which have led to Ms Delaney's complaints and has determined to ensure that such a situation does not reoccur. Before the statement was issued, Ms Delaney, 39, from Hampstead, north- west London, said of the lodge: "It is a male-dominated environment and there is a disrespect for women. At the height of the campaign of alleged harassment, Ms Delaney submitted an article to the magazine, Freemasonry Today, describing the conditions she had to work under.
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Everyone knows freemasons run the world, right? I've heard the stories. It's all virgin sacrifices, goat blood, and orgies.
Doneraile Court, Co Cork, Elizabeth St Leger was reading one evening when she happened to eavesdrop on a masonic rite next door. Some loose bricks had been removed from the wall as building work was being conducted, so the ceremonial sound carried through and drew St Leger to observe. When the interloper was discovered, she was initiated immediately into the lodge whose activities she had witnessed in order to protect their secrets. This made St Leger the first recorded female freemason in an organisation dominated, like most, by the history and influence of men. Freemasonry comes wrapped in a quilt of symbolism, icons and rituals.