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RELIGION
Is Freemasonry a religion or a fraternity?
A legal precedent was set by the Supreme Court of Nebraska in this 1921 decision:
"The true interpretation of the Masonic attitude in that respect is that no religious test at all is applied as a condition of membership. The guiding thought is not religion but religious toleration. The order simply exacts of its members that they shall not be atheists and deny the existence of any God or Supreme Being. Each member is encouraged to pay due reverence to his own God, the Deity prescribed by his own religion.
... The Masonic Fraternity, in other words, refrains from intruding into the field of religion and confines itself to the teaching of morality and duty to one’s fellow men, which make better men and better citizens. The distinction is clear between such ethical teachings and the doctrines of religion."
One cannot espouse a religion without belief and faith in its peculiar doctrines. A fraternity broad enough to take in and cover with its mantle Christian, Moslem and Jew, without requiring him to renounce his religion, is not a religious organization, although its members may join in prayer which, in the case of each, is a petition addressed to his own Deity. Neither can the belief in the immortality of the soul be denominated religious in the sense that it is typical of any religion, of any race, or of any age. It constitutes one of the most beautiful and consoling features of our own religion, but it is equally found in almost every other. It is so unusual and spontaneous that it is not so much belief or dogma as it is an instinct of the human soul. Neither does it imply or require adherence to any system of religious worship.
The fact that belief in the doctrines or deity of no particular religion is required, of itself refutes the theory that the Masonic ritual embodies a religion, or that its teachings are religious."
Scottish Rite Building Company vs. Lancaster County, 106 Nebraska 95, 184 N.W. 574 (1921), pp. 102-106.
This precedence does not appear to have been considered when California considered the question.

Text mirrored at
www.mastermason.com. Cited in Let There Be Light. Alphonse Cerza. Silver Spring, MD : The Masonic Service Association, 1983. Representatives of the Anglican Church have expressed their views in sermons and articles available online at Anglicanism and Freemasonry.

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