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Human rights row beween Freemasons and Conservative leader of Cambridgeshire County Council


Human rights row beween Freemasons and Conservative leader of Cambridgeshire County Council





Image: Steve Count

Forcing councillors and officers to reveal they are Freemasons «clearly contravenes» human rights legislation, the county’s Grand Lodge said.

Cambridgeshire Freemasons said there is no justification for an attempt by the leader of the county council to make the local authority’s senior staff and elected representatives declare membership of the lodge.

They say they are being unfairly singled out when being a Freemason is no different in principle to joining a golf club or becoming a Rotarian.

Peter Sutton, provincial information officer for Cambridgeshire Freemasons, said they were «disappointed» by the move, which it said would violate Article 11 (the right of lawful association) and Article 14 (the right not to be discriminated against) of the ECHR.

He said: «We would hope that Cambridgeshire County Council would not proceed with any action which clearly contravenes two articles of the European Convention on Human Rights.

«In principle there is no difference between Freemasons meeting in a masonic lodge, golfers meeting at a golf club and Rotarians meeting at a Rotary Club. Do the county councillors intend to proceed in the same way against these other groups?

He added they are «significant contributors» to non-masonic charities including the raising of a «very substantial sum» for the Arthur Rank Hospice Charity Building Appeal.

Former Cambridgeshire County Council leader Nick Clarke said he could not understand why Freemasons are being «singled out in this way».

Mr Clarke, who defected to UKIP, added: «Why would CCC waste time on a problem they don’t have, on a subject that most people don’t care about and one that will be divisive amongst councillors at a time when they all need to pull together?»

The motion to include the provision in the council’s code of conduct was put before councillors and has been referred to the constitution and ethics committee, which will examine the legality of the proposal.

Council leader Steve Count said he does not regret raising the motion, saying the public want to know if councillors and senior council officers are Freemasons because of the secrecy attached to the group.

He said the Freemasons were different to other groups «because they decided to keep secret their membership» in a way that other organisations do not.

Cllr Count said: «I didn’t expect it to become such a big issue because all the Freemasons I know do not have a problem with it. I’m surprised objections have been raised when they say they are all for transparency and openness.»

Asked if he regretted raising the issue, he said: «I stand by it, it’s what the public want and I’m hoping it goes through.»


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