Although Freemasonry does not permit discussions of politics
in its meetings, discussions about supporting public schools are
expressly permitted by the California Masonic Code. Section
200.030 declares that, “Statewide public schools welfare,
including school bonds and school taxes, is a proper subject for
discussion in Lodges.” There are some limitations that follow,
but for the most part, discussion of the welfare of public schools
is an exception to our general rule prohibiting political topics.
There is a reason for this, and surprisingly, it may not be known
to many Masons. Here is the story.
A search for further light
Freemasonry involves a personal commitment to seeking knowledge, which Freemasons call “light,” and growing this knowledge
is often referred to as a search for “further light in Masonry.”
From this commitment developed Freemasonry’s deep promise
to strive for an enlightened citizenry, and the concept of universal
education became one of our great contributions to the world.
Perhaps in other countries it would have been sufficient for
Freemasonry to just theoretically support an enlightened citizenry, but in America, our belief of the importance of education
developed into tangible support for a free public school system.
But, Freemasons’ vision went far beyond that of fostering an
educated public. This vision included the concept of a public
space, uninhibited by governmental or religious control, where
the enlightened citizenry could be free to discuss and debate.
This concept has had its greatest flowering in America, and is
alive in every community in our country.
The roots of “free”
The importance of a public school system independent from church and state
can be found in the ritual of the Order of
DeMolay. At a DeMolay officer installation, the installing officer asks that the Holy
Bible be opened on the altar, and proclaims
it a symbol of religious freedom – not the
repository of any particular religious faith,
but a symbol of the freedom to pursue the
religious beliefs that each individual may
hold sacred to himself. He reminds those
present of the importance of living in a free
society committed to a government of the
people, by the people, and for the people.
Lastly, he places a set of school books on the
altar, and says:
“From the station in the East, emblematic
of the morning years of life, we place
the school books on the Altar as a symbol of the intellectual liberty, without
which there could be neither civil nor
religious freedom. They are particularly
emblematic of the great public school
system of our country, the foundation
of that universal enlightenment which
is the crowning glory of our institutions.
Devoted championship of our public
schools is a cardinal teaching of the
Order of DeMolay.”
Note that the installing officer does not say
that we are only committed to an educated
citizenry. We are, but we are also committed
OUR COUNTRY’S MOST
TREASURED FREEDOMS ARE
CLOSELY TIED TO THE CRAFT
By John L. Cooper III, Past Grand Master
FREEMASONRY AND THE
CREATION OF PUBLIC SPACE