​​​     Freemasonry, or Masonry, is the oldest and largest fraternal organization in the world, a universal society of friends who seek to become better men through their families. It is a 600-year old fraternity with a 3,000-year tradition. The prototype of most fraternal societies and service organizations. In a society whose moral values are being severely tested, Masonry brings men together for fellowship and the promotion of integrity and good citizenship. Masonry requires a belief in God and urges its members to be faithful to their own religious beliefs, but it is not a religion. It encourages its members and their families to be good citizens and to choose their own best means of political organization. Its charitable activities and good works are for the benefit of all humankind, but it is not a benefit society or welfare institution.


​     Membership in a Masonic lodge is open to men 21 years of age or older, without regard to race, color or religion. Those accepted for membership must be of good character and reputation, and believe in a Supreme Being and the immortality of the soul. A candidate for membership is first recommended by a member of the Lodge he wishes to join. His application or "petition' is read at a meeting and referred to a committee, usually composed of three members, who interview the applicant, normally in his home, so that the applicants wife and family may become familiar with the organization and its activities. After the committee reports back to the lodge, the applicant is voted on by a secret ballot of the lodge members and, if accepted, begins the process of becoming a lodge member.


​​    There are three basic degrees of Masonry. Entered Apprentice (First Degree), Fellowcraft "Second Degree) and Master Mason (Third Degree) which are conferred at three separate meetings over a period of several weeks or months. The solemn process is an enlightening and interesting experience for the candidate with no embarrassing moments. Between meetings he is given further instruction concerning the meaning of the ritualistic ceremony in which he has participated. He will also be asked to memorize a few key passages of the ritual. The Masonic ritual dramatizes its philosophy of the importance of a moral life. It uses the tools of ancient stonemasons as symbols to teach these ideals. A Mason promises to build his life and character with the same care and precision that stonemasons used to construct the great cathedrals centuries ago.


​​​     Because Freemasonry is many centuries old, scholars do not agree about precisely when and where it began. The most commonly accepted theory is that the origins of Freemasonry reach back to medieval times when the great cathedrals of Europe were built. The stonemasons who created these awe-inspiring Gothic structures formed craft guilds to protect the secrets of their trade, to help one another, and to pass on their knowledge to worthy apprentices, In 17th century England, these guilds began accepting honorary members, men of learning and position. These new members were not working -stonemasons or even associated with the building trades. As 'accepted Masons,' they eventually grew into a separate organization called Free and Accepted Masons, or Freemasonry.


​​​​     Men of every walk of life belong to Masonic lodges. They may be highly visible as Shrine Masons ('Shriners") in costume, or as lodge members wearing Masonic aprons in civic processions or Masonic funerals, or at special Masonic ceremonies such as the laying of cornerstones. For example, George Washington officiated at the Masonic cornerstone-laying of the U.S. Capitol in 1793. The recognized Masonic fraternity in the United States includes 3 million members in 14,000 Lodges. There are about 4 million Masons and more that 100 Grand Lodges worldwide. New York has 136,000 members in over 800 Lodges, which belong to the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York. George Washington and 13 other Presidents of the United States, as well as 18 Vice Presidents and 35 justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, have been Masons. Washington took his first Presidential oath of office on a Bible borrowed from a Masonic Lodge in New York City, and the oath was administered by Chancellor Robert R. Livingston, another Mason and, at the time, Grand Master. Here is a sampling of famous Masons in various walks of life, Then and now: 'Buzz' Aldrin; Gene Autry; Beethoven; Irving Berlin; Simon Bolivar; Omar Bradfey; Henry Ford; Benjamin Franklin; Garibaldi; John Glenn; John Hancock; John Paul Jones; Rudyard Kipting; Lafayette; Mozart; Douglas MacArthur; Norman Vincent Peale, John J. Pershing; Paul Revere; Norman Rockwell; Roy Rogers; Will Rogers; David Sarnoff;- Red Skelton.; Thomas J. Watson; and John Wayne.


​​​​      Freemasonry welcomes men from every religious denomination or creed, requiring only that they affirm their belief in a Supreme Being, and that they are of high moral character and are good citizens. Masonic lodges are non-denominational and nonpolitical. Partisan and sectarian discussions are not permitted in Lodges. Masonry is not a substitute for church or religion. The Fraternity urges its members to practice their own particular religious beliefs in their daily lives. How


​​​​​       A  basic teaching of Freemasonry is charity. The tradition of its members helping one another and humankind in general is practiced extensively. In the United States alone, Freemasons provide over $1 million a day, year after year, for charitable causes. These dollars go to support scholarships, medical research, hospitals for crippled children, facilities for those who have speech disorders or mental illness. Masonic groups also help people with serious eye problems and with respiratory difficulties. They provide retirement homes for members, their wives and widows.