In a recent post our Bro:. Rui Bandeira elaborates on the sixth Landmark (a fundamental principle) of Regular Freemasonry that prescribes:
Freemasonry requires all its members to respect the opinions and beliefs of each one. She forbids them in his bosom any discussion or controversy, political or religious. She is also a permanent center of fellowship, where we find a tolerant and fruitful harmony among men, who without it would be strangers to each other.
Our Bro:. develops the argument pointing out the role of politics as divisive and facilitating the explosion of passions, creating irresolvable conflicts between men and then among Brethren inside the Lodge:. As well pointed out, Masonry does not take sides, neither position herself in matters of domestic policy considering it a matter of personal choice, of self-determination, which can not and should not involve the institution as such. The reason: if flashes disputes.
The starting point of our Bro:. is correct and in compliance with the best of the doctrine and traditions that guide us and resembles an ancient era when this Landmark was established to end the fratricidal faction struggle within the Grand Lodge of England, between Protestants or Anglicans against Catholics, forcing Catholics which were supporters of King James II, the Catholic, to flee from Britain to France.
This partition would lead to the Glorious Revolution of 1685 that put an end to the ideological schism, closing the Stuarts dynasty and enabling the reunification of England, under the crown of William of Orange and Mary II, both protestants. A clearing point
Often the importance of this Landmark is stressed to show the differences between the pro-English Freemasonry (or neutral) and pro-French Freemasonry (or liberal) but it has little to do, from a historical point of vu, with this cleavage. It is, in any event, something deeply rooted in the Anglo-Saxon Freemasonry, but is unperceived as such divisive intent in the Crafts in Southern Europe, Latin America or elsewhere in the Masonic world. Places were Freemasonry took historically an important role against dictatorships and for self-determination of the colonial peoples from Spain or in the American case from Great-Britain. It should be remembered that the American patriots who directed the American Revolution were treated as traitors in England, namely among Masonc circles.
It would be interesting, for example, to interrogate ourselves how consequentional would the neutrality of the proponents of a strict reading of this Landmark, if some profane defensor of the transformation of the English monarchy into a republic approaches the UGLE and knocked at the West door. It would be refused the admission to the Order as the candidate assume to be a Republican? I presume so.
This legal command responds to a regulatory restrictive historical environment which should be confronted to a more contemporary reading. It is an historical fact that Freemasonry, as an Order, was involved in the political struggles that led to explosion of liberalism during the nineteenth century, in the overthrow of the monarchies by divine right or even in the institution of the very idea of democracy, in the twentieth century. But a cautious approach is needed regarding this fact as a precendent.
Although in terms of the principles she embraces "freedom, equality, brotherhood of men" Freemasonry is very close to the Republican and liberal values, the involvement of Freemasonry in partisan politics has been performed at a huge price.
We should mention, for example, the sequence of Masonic Orients- during the rotativism of the Portuguese monarchy – that rotate in the government and in the opposition lead or by the Democratic or by the Republican parties, during the First Republic, in Portugal. Something similar to this should not repeat in the future.
This apoliticism (or neutral policy) should not, insofar, lead us too far, in the annihilation of the very idea of freedom for the benefit of the order and allegiance to the rule of the tyrant. We know, for example, that despite this neutralism, several national Crafts come to exile after the country became an authoritarian regime and are recognized by Universal Freemasonry.
This is the case of the Grand Lodge of Iran (but others exist) that is in exile and regularly participates in political initiatives of the opposition aimed to overthrow the regime of the ayatolahs. Is this a violation of the Six Landmark of Regular Freemasonr?
One may also mention the split within the Grand Lodge of Chile during Pinochet era, with part of the Craft supporting the socialist President Salvador Allende and other part supporting the Chilean dictator. It seems that this split (and the support) was the price paid so the Grand Lodge would not be driven into ilegality during the military dictatorship.
What we want to say is that there is a certain point that in risk of sacrificing the values and ideals that structure our Order, Freemasonry needs to raise up and take side aligning with those who fight for freedom, democracy, human rights against oppression and tyrany. By taking sides to Freedom, Freemasonry fulfills the most solemn oath of a well-known degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite: to give one’s life for the freedom of the Motherland.
In this case, is the duty of Freemasons to be involved in the struggle for freedom and democracy, as it happened in the prochain past in France, Spain, Germany, Portugal and Latin America.
On the other hand, since Freemasonry is a reference group, it makes sense Brethren who desire to participate in civic initiatives, in helping to solve the problems of their communities, neighborhood, county, or school association should do it. Their yield and the ethical dimension they assert to their lives is very important to turn society into a better place lo live. It is in helping to solve the people's problems, that Freemasonry transports its values to society, emboiding them in it and helping individuals to become better human beings. Naturally, this is a personal option. We should respect the others that prefer a more passive approach, restricting their solidarity to charity. This is also a respectable option.
With the respect those foreign traditions are entitled, we acknowledge that Latin masonic tradition is more committed, more engaged, more friendly and closer to those who look to be the founding ideals of our Sovereign Order.
Should Freemasonry have a political coordinated participation - as it happens in France or in Brazil, in the respective houses of Parliament? It depends on what are the traditions of each country and how lawmakers assess their professions.
Should Masonic institutions participated openly in public demonstrations for civic causes? Several French Masonic organizations periodicaly participate in public demonstrations for "laicism", for the defense of human rights, for freedom of speach and so ever. It depends on the traditions of each country.
However it would be unwise that Freemasonry take sides about such fracturing issues as abortion, gay marriage, or the raising of mosques within our cities.
These are "fracturing" themes in society that are open to each individual to take side, without being pulled into one direction or another by their allegiance to the Craft or to the preferences of a Masonic leader that made it’s own choice, in liberty.
non-partisanship is the correct way to prevent divisions among Brethren and let harmony prevail. We cannot, nevertheless, disregard the challenges in a society that looks for amelioration and as active and conscient citizens we should mobilize the energies of best citizens, subsequently the Freemasons.