A judge has banned a family from having the Freemasons’ square and compass emblem etched into the gravestone of a relative.
William Kenneth Wilson, who died in July 2012 and who had devoted more than 40 years to Freemasonry, is buried in the church yard at St Oswald’s Church at Dean in west Cumbria.
His niece, Dorothy Stubbs, had appealed to the Church of England’s Consistory Court, which has to approve matters such as what is put on gravestones, for permission to have the Freemasons’ square and compass emblem put on her uncle’s stone. He had held major offices with the
Freemasons and been a Provincial Grand Master representing the country at home and abroad on a number of occasions.
There are an estimated six million Freemasons world-wide.
The Parochial Church Council for St Oswald’s had no objections to the emblem being included on the gravestone.
But Geoffrey Tattersall, chancellor of the Diocese of Carlisle in his capacity as a Consistory Court judge, has said: “No.”
He said it would be “detrimental” and “inappropriate” to allow it.
He said a report on Freemasonry entitled “Freemasonry and Christianity : Are They Compatible” had been debated by the General Synod of the Church of England in 1987.
He continued: “The report stated that it was clear that some Christians have found the impact of Masonic rituals disturbing and a few perceive them as positively evil.”
Despite the fact there had been “no formal developments” since the 1987 debate, he rejected arguments put forward.
It was pointed out that the emblem was to be found on gravestones throughout the area.
Mrs Stubbs argued that it was extremely difficult to understand why, as a badge or insignia of the Armed Forces is permitted on gravestones, the set square and compass, should not be. She said the symbol was “inoffensive”
However, Chancellor Tattersall said when the General Synod had debated the compatibility of Freemasonary and Christianity, a very sizeable majority had decided that there were a number of very fundamental reasons to question whether they were compatible and it was an approach shared by other Christian denominations.
He said that gravestone epitaphs “may reflect the life, work, interests or concerns of the deceased.”
But he continued: “These must be entirely compatible with the Christian faith.”