The intent of this article is not to slam the Shrine, nor to defame the brothers who put so much effort into the Shrine and its various activities and charities. However, it IS the intention of this article to examine whether Blue Lodge Masonry should continue its association with the Shrine.
The first question that should be asked is: Is the Shrine Freemasonry. To answer that, we need to examine the Shrine’s relationship with Blue Lodge Freemasonry. It seems to be a one-way street, with Freemasonry serving as the recruiting ground for the Shrine, while receiving no benefit, other than the very tenuous claim to the $720 million dollars per year the Shrine donates to charities.
I write one way street deliberately, because it has been my observation that the Shrine only lays claim to Freemasonic roots when it serves their purposes, and not often at that. As an example, we have all seen the ubiquitous Shrine ads, showing a man in a fez carrying a child. When has anyone ever seen that ad with a square and compass, or the notation that Shriners are all Masons?
Even on the Shrine web pages, finding any reference to Freemasonry is a tough search. So, the Shrine is made of Freemasons who are seemingly ashamed to admit they are Freemasons. How can that be?
The Shrine seems to see the Blue Lodges as their own private recruiting grounds, but they are unwilling to do anything to support the lodges. Oh, they repeatedly state that Shriners should participate in their lodge, but the SHRINE itself, seems to do everything they can to distance themselves from Freemasonry.
In fact, a few years ago, the Shrine, seeing declining membership, removed the requirement that a man be a York or Scottish Rite Mason before he could join the Shrine. The proved to be a very bad thing for the York and Scottish Rites, but hey, the membership in Shrine increased without the additional hurdle of men needing to join the other rites.
The membership of the Shrine is dependent upon the membership of the Blue Lodge, yet the Shrine fails to do the ONE thing that would make a difference… publicly acknowledge that the Shrine IS Freemasonry. Instead, they back one day conferrals of the three degrees, what is purportedly called all the way in a day.
When I showed up for my third degree, there was a brother Shriner standing there with a petition for me to fill out to become a Shriner two days later. Why would anyone want to join the Shrine, or any other appendant body within days, or even months of becoming a master mason?
Then there is the issue of money. The Shrine is awash in money, literally. IRS records show that just over 5% of the money the Shrine takes in yearly is actually spent on their hospitals and other charities. The rest stays with the Shrine to support their various internal activities. As a charity, the Shrine seems to be no better than the Red Cross… and all the Shrine labor is donated so their costs should be much lower.
The Shrine even took a vote, four years ago now, on whether it should separate itself from Blue Lodge Freemasonry! The vote failed, but not by much, which raises the question, why is Freemasonry still associated with this club? I mean, the Shrine is really no different from the Elks Lodge (which is little more than a bar with a Charity grafted on) or the Moose Lodge or, frankly, any one of a hundred other charities.
The Scottish and York Rites offer extended examination of Blue Lodge lessons, so it’s easy to see why they are affiliated, same with Order of the Eastern Star. The Shrine is just a playground and a charity, and has so little to do with Freemasonry it is amazing they were accepted for affiliation.
So, we have an affiliated body that is composed entirely of masons yet does not teach anything related to Masonic tenets; a body that is dedicated to celebration, partying and fund raising, but not to anything freemasonry teaches, except charity; a body that seems to be ashamed of its own association with Freemasonry. The question then is why the Freemasonry associated with the Shrine at all?
The money raised through various Masonic efforts and donated to the Shrine could be better put to use by the various Grand Lodges for the benefit of Masonry in general, as the United Grand Lodge if
Its not that the hospitals the Shrine supports aren’t worthwhile endeavors, but it may be that the time has come to allow the Shrine to continue their worthwhile efforts on their own, and to let Freemasonry continue its efforts… separately.
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.