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Some governments have treated Freemasonry as a potential source of opposition due to its secret nature and international connections. It has been alleged by Masonic scholars that the language used by the totalitarian regimes is similar to that used by some modern critics of Freemasonry.

Papal States

In 1736 the Florentine Inquisition investigated a Masonic Lodge in Florencemarker, Italymarker, and the Lodge was condemned in June 1737. The lodge had originally been founded by English Masons, but accepted Italian members.

In 1738, Pope Clement XII issued Eminenti Apostolatus Specula, the first Papal prohibition on Freemasonry.

A more contemporary call for suppression is found in the encyclical Humanum Genus, which likens Masonry to a dangerous sect and demands that all bishops be vigilant on its abuses.

United States

After the 1826 disappearance of William Morgan, who was kidnapped by Freemasons after publishing an expose and then apparently killed, the Morgan affair resulted in increased suspicion of Freemasonry and the formation of the Anti-Masonic Party. William A. Palmer of Vermont and Joseph Ritner of Pennsylvania were both elected governor of their respective states on anti-Masonic platforms.

Though few states passed laws directed at Freemasonry by name, laws regulating and restricting it were passed and many cases dealing with Freemasonry were seen in the courts. Antimasonic legislation was passed in Vermont in 1833, including a provision by which the giving and willing taking of an unnecessary oath was made a crime. (Pub. Stat., sec. 5917). The state of Massachusetts enacted a law against Clandestine Bodies and the state of New York enacted a Benevolent Orders Law to regulate such organizations.

The former sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, objecting to the oath of secrecy, in particular to keeping undefined secrets, and to the penalties for breaking the oath, declared, "Masonry ought forever to be abolished. It is wrong - essentially wrong - a seed of evil which can never produce any good."

Hungary

In 1919, Béla Kun proclaimed the dictatorship of the proletariat in Hungary. This marked the start of raids by army officers on Masonic lodges along with theft, and sometimes destruction, of Masonic libraries, records, archives, paraphernalia, and works of art. Several Masonic buildings were seized and used for anti-Masonic exhibitions. Masonry was outlawed by a decree in 1920.

In post war Hungary, lodges were described as "meeting places of the enemies of the people's democratic republic, of capitalistic elements, and of the adherents of Western imperialism."

Eastern Europe

Freemasonry was suppressed throughout Eastern Europe and the Soviet Unionmarker during the Communist era.

The Islamic world

After the condemnation of Freemasonry by Clement XII in 1738, Sultan Mahmut I followed suit outlawing the organization and since that time Freemasonry was equated with atheism in the Ottoman Empire and the broader Islamic world. The opposition in the Islamic world has been reinforced by the anticlerical and atheistic slant of the Grand Orient of France.

Perhaps the most influential entity interpreting Sharia, or Islamic law, the Islamic Jurisdictional College on July 15, 1978 issued an opinion regarding Freemasonry asserting that it is a "dangerous" and "clandestine" organization.

Freemasonry is illegal in most of the Islamic world. It is prohibited in all Arab countries except Lebanon and Morocco.

Italy

Benito Mussolini decreed in 1924 that every member of his Fascist Party who was a Mason must abandon either one or the other organization, and in 1925, he dissolved Freemasonry in Italy, claiming that it was a political organisation. It is worth noting that General Cappello, one of the most prominent Fascists, and who had also been Deputy Grand Master of the Grande Oriente, Italy's leading Grand Lodge, gave up his membership in the Fascist Party rather than in Masonry. He was later arrested on false charges and sentenced to 30 years in jail.

However as the membership list of the elite Propaganda Due Masonic Lodge (P2)revealed in 1981 many Italian Fascists and Black Shirt Members later became Freemasons. The Grand Master of P2, Lucio Gelli, was an intelligence officer with the Herman Göring Division and a fervent Mussolini supporter.

After the P2 scandal, a special law was issued that prohibited secret lodges. The Grande Oriente d'Italia, after taking disciplinary action against members with P2 connections, distanced itself from Gelli's lodge. Other laws introduced a prohibition on membership in allegedly secret organizations for some categories of state officers (especially military officers).

Spain

Franco.
It is claimed that the dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera ordered the abolition of Freemasonry in Spain. In September 1928, one of the two Grand Lodges in Spain was closed and approximately two-hundred masons, most notably the Grand Master of the Grand Orient, were imprisoned for allegedly plotting against the government. It is certainly true that Masonic lodges provided a convenient forum for those critical of the dictator, regardless of their political persuasion.

Following the military coup of 1936, many Freemasons trapped in areas under Nationalist control were arrested and summarily killed, along with members of left wing parties and trade unionists. It was reported that Masons were shot, tortured and murdered by organised death squads in every town in Spain. At this time one of the most rabid opponents of Freemasonry, Father Jean Tusquets, began to work for the Nationalists with the task of exposing masons. One of his close associates was Franco’s personal chaplain, and over the next two years, these two men assembled a huge index of 80,000 suspected masons, even though there were little more than 5,000 masons in Spain. The results were horrific. Among other countless crimes, the lodge building in Cordoba was burnt, the masonic temple in Santa Cruz, Tenerife, was confiscated and transformed into the headquarters of the Falange, and another was shelled by artillery. In Salamanca thirty members of one lodge were shot, including a priest. Similar atrocities occurred across the country: fifteen masons were shot in Logrono, seventeen in Ceuta, thirty-three in Algeciras, and thirty in Valladolid, among them the Civil Governor. Few towns escaped the carnage as Freemasons in Lugo, Zamora, Cadiz and Granada were brutally rounded up and shot, and in Seville, the entire membership of several lodges were butchered. The slightest suspicion of being a mason was often enough to earn a place in a firing squad, and the blood-letting was so fierce that, reportedly, some masons were even hurled into working engines of steam trains. By 16 December 1937, according to the annual masonic assembly held in Madrid, all masons that had not escaped from the areas under nationalist control had been murdered.

After the victory of dictator General Francisco Franco, Freemasonry was officially outlawed in Spain on 2 March 1940. Being a mason was automatically punishable by a minimum jail term of 12 years. Masons of the 18º and above were deemed guilty of ‘Aggravated Circumstances’, and usually faced the death penalty.

According to Francoists, the Republican Regime which Franco overthrew had a strong Masonic presence. In reality Spanish Masons were present in all sectors of politics and the armed forces. At least four of the Generals who supported Franco's rebellion were Masons, although many lodges contained fervent but generally conservative Republicans. After Franco's decree outlawing masonry, Franco's supporters were given two months to resign from any lodge they might be a member of. Many masons chose to go into exile instead, including prominent monarchists who had whole-heartedly supported the Nationalist rebellion in 1936. The common components in Spanish Masonry seems to have been upper or middle class conservative liberalism and strong anti-clericism.

The suppression of Freemasons in Spain continued for 39 years until the dictator's death in 1975. References to a "Judeo-Masonic plot" are a standard component of Francoist speeches and propaganda and reveal the intense and paranoid obsession of the dictator with masonry. Franco produced at least 49 pseudonymous anti-masonic magazine articles and an anti-masonic book during his lifetime. According to Franco:
"The whole secret of the campaigns unleashed against Spain can be explained in two words: masonry and communism... we have to extirpate these two evils from our land."


Japan

In 1938, a Japanese representative to the Welt-Dienst / World-Service congress hosted by Ulrich Fleischhauer stated, on behalf of Japan, that "Judeo-Masonry is forcing the Chinese to turn Chinamarker into a spearhead for an attack on Japanmarker, and thereby forcing Japan to defend herself against this threat. Japan is at war not with China but with Freemasonry, represented by General Chiang Kai-shek, the successor of his master, the Freemason Sun Yat-Sen."

Other countries

Freemasonry was persecuted in all the communist countries, but the organisation has survived in Cuba, allegedly providing safe haven for dissidents.

Nazi Germany and occupied Europe

The Nazis claimed that high degree Masons were willing members of "the Jewish conspiracy" and that Freemasonry was one of the causes of Germany's loss of the First World War. In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler writes that Freemasonry has "succumbed" to the Jews and has become an "excellent instrument" to fight for their aims and to use their "strings" to pull the upper strata of society into their alleged designs. He continues, "The general pacifistic paralysis of the national instinct of self-preservation begun by Freemasonry" is then transmitted to the masses of society by the press. In 1933 Hermann Göring, the Reichstag President and one of the key figures in the process of Gleichschaltung ("synchronization"), states "..in National Socialist Germany, there is no place for Freemasonry."

Loge „Libanon zu den 3 Zedern“ in Erlangen, Germany.
First meeting after World War II with guests from USA, France and Czechoslovakia, May 1948.
The Enabling Act (Ermächtigungsgesetz in German) was passed by Germany's parliament (the Reichstag) on March 23, 1933. Using the "Act", on January 8, 1934 the German Ministry of the Interior ordered the disbandment of Freemasonry, and confiscation of the property of all Lodges; stating that those who had been members of Lodges when Hitler came to power, in January 1933, were prohibited from holding office in the Nazi party or its paramilitary arms, and were ineligible for appointment in public service. Consistently considered an ideological foe of Nazism in their world perception (Weltauffassung), special sections of the Security Service (SDmarker) and later the Reich Security Main Office (RSHAmarker) were established to deal with the Freemasonry. Freemasonic concentration camp inmates were graded as “Political” prisoners, and wore an inverted (point down) red triangle.

In March 1935 According to Joseph Goebbels, the Soviet Union's recent inclusion in the League of Nations was engineered by 300 "members of the Jewish race and conspirators of Freemasonry." On August 8, 1935, as Führer and Chancellor, Adolf Hitler announced in the Nazi Party newspaper, Voelkischer Beobachter, the final dissolution of all Masonic Lodges in Germany. The article accused a conspiracy of the Fraternity and “World Jewry” of seeking to create a “World Republic”. In 1937 Joseph Goebbels inaugurated an "Anti-Masonic Exposition" to display objects seized by the state. The Ministry of Defence forbid officers from becoming Freemasons, with officers who remained as Masons being sidelined.

During the war, Freemasonry was banned by edict in all countries that were either allied with the Nazis or under Nazi control, including Norwaymarker and Francemarker. Anti-Masonic exhibitions were held in many occupied countries. Field-Marshal Friedrich Paulus was denounced as a "High-grade Freemason" when he surrendered to the Soviet Union in 1943.

The preserved records of the RSHA - Reichssicherheitshauptamt Office of the High Command of Security Service pursuing the racial objectives of the SS through Race and Resettlement Office, show the persecution of the Freemasons. The number of Freemasons from Nazi occupied countries who were killed is not accurately known, but it is estimated that between 80,000 and 200,000 Freemasons were murdered under the Nazi regime.

Iraq

There was a time when there existed a number of lodges in Iraq when the country was under British Mandate just after the First World War. However the position changed in July 1958 following the Revolution, with the abolition of the Monachy and Iraq being declared a republic, under General Quessiem. The licences permitting lodges to meet were rescinded and later laws were introduced banning any further meetings. This position was later reinforced under Saddam Hussein the death penalty was "prescribed" for those who "promote or acclaim Zionist principles, including freemasonry, or who associate [themselves] with Zionist organizations."With the fall of the Hussein government following the US Invasion of Iraq, there has been a number of Lodges that have met associated with the US and UK Military units. In 2005, the Land, Air and Sea Lodge, No. 1 of the Grand Lodge of New York, was reactivated for the benefit of the US Military. Currently this lodge is not working but there are proposals to reactivate it.

United Kingdom

It was the Unlawful Societies Act of 1799 that saw the first statue "for the more effectual suppression of societies established for seditious and treasonable purposes"; once enacted it affected all societies whose members were required to take an oath not authorised by law, shall be deemed "unlawful combinations." It was as a result of the intervention of the Grand Master of the Antients, The 4th Duke of Atholl, and the Acting Grand Master of the Moderns, the earl of Moira that a special exempting clause was inserted into this legislation in favour of societies "held under the Denomination of Lodges of Freemasons" provided that they had been "usually held before the Act" and their names, places and times of meeting and the names of the members were annually registered with the local Clerk to the Justices of the Peace. This continued on until 1967 when this Act was repealed by a section of the Criminal Justice Act which meant that the annual returns of all the Lodges to the authorities ceased.

Since 1997, several members of the British Government have attempted to pass laws requiring Freemasons who join the police or judiciary to declare their membership publicly to the government amid accusations of Freemasons performing acts of mutual advancement and favour-swapping. This movement was initially led by Jack Straw, Home Secretary from 1997 until 2001. In 1999, the Welsh Assembly became the only body in the United Kingdom to place a legal requirement on membership declaration for Freemasons. Currently, existing members of the police and judiciary in England are asked to voluntarily admit to being Freemasons. However, all first time successful judiciary candidates "must declare their freemasonry status" before appointment. Conversely, new members of the police are not required to declare their status.

In 2004, Rhodri Morgan, the First Minister of the Welsh Assembly, said that he blocked Gerard Elias' appointment to counsel general because of links to hunting and freemasonry, although it was claimed by non-Labour politicians that the real reason was in order to have a Labour supporter, Malcolm Bishop, in the role.

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