One in 20 British judges admits to being a Mason
LONDON - One in 20 judges in Britain has admitted to membership of the secretive freemasons' society, the British government announced late Monday.
Junior justice minister Geoff Hoon said a similar proportion of magistrates had said they were freemasons, in responses received so far to the government's invitation to admit membership of the society voluntarily.
Following recommendations made by parliament's home affairs committee, Home Secretary Jack Straw last year decided that judges and police officers must reveal whether they are masons.
Despite criticism from senior judges, it pushed ahead with inviting voluntary disclosure in response to concerns that the independence of the justice system was being compromised by masonic allegiances.
The statistics showed forms were sent to 5,290 judges. Replies showed 263 said they were masons (260 men and three women) while 4,744 said they were not.
Sixty-eight sent the form back without giving an answer either way, while no replies had been received so far from the rest.
Of 24,964 magistrates who were sent the forms, 1,208 said they were members of the order (1,176 men and 32 women) while 20,300 said they were not.
Five hundred and ninety-nine did not disclose their status while no replies had been received so far from 2,857.
Hoon stressed in a parliamentary written reply: "Responses are still being analysed. The latest figures remain subject to revision in the light of new replies and further analysis."
He added that all new judicial appointees were obliged to state whether or not they were freemasons as a condition of their appointment. Those figures were "in the process of being collated."
These moves to force British freemasons to abandon their traditional secrecy mark the first time a government has taken such a radical measure in the history of freemasonry, according to experts.
There are an estimated one million freemasons in Britain, where membership is drawn largely from white Protestants. It is particularly associated with the police force, the legal profession, local government, medicine and the City of London, Britain's financial district.