UGLE’s statement on photography, mobile telephones and social media in Freemasonry Monday, 15 September 2014
“Over the last twelve and a half years the Board has found it necessary to draw attention on three occasions to the misuse of cameras, mobile telephones and other electronic devices (e.g. tablets) during or in connection with masonic meetings. In 2009 the Grand Lodge approved a consolidated statement on the matter (which was modified slightly the following year). The Board regrets that it appears necessary to revert once more to the subject. The last few years have seen significant technological advances, with the result that the use of such devices is less obtrusive – and therefore less easily detected – than was previously the case.
The Board, however, remains firmly of the view that any objection to the use of such devices is based on the impropriety of taking an electronic record of proceedings in open lodge at least as much as on any distraction that the process may afford to the individual and others in his vicinity.
At the same time social media, such as Twitter, have evolved, enabling the almost instantaneous transmission of information to a wide range of recipients. The Board considers that relaying information by such means from within a meeting while that meeting is in progress falls within the scope of Rule 177 of the Book of Constitutions.
Grand Lodge then approved the following new consolidated statement:
(a) All mobile telephones must be switched off during meetings of the Grand Lodge, Metropolitan, Provincial or District Grand Lodges or private lodges. If an urgent call is expected, arrangements should be made for it to be received by the Tyler.
(b) Whilst there is no objection to the taking of group photographs in a lodge room in connection with a special meeting after the lodge has been closed, the taking of photographs during meetings (including any procession immediately before or after a meeting of a private lodge) is prohibited. The prohibition extends to any purported reconstruction after a lodge has been closed of any part of the proceedings while the lodge was open, but does not, subject to compliance with (c) below, preclude the taking of a photograph of a procession into or out of a Metropolitan, Provincial or District Grand Lodge by the express permission and under the control of the Metropolitan, Provincial or District Grand Master.
(c) Within Freemasons’ Hall such specially posed group photographs may, subject to the permission of the Grand Secretary, be taken in a lodge room, but photographs in or of other parts of the building, and in particular in or of the Grand Temple, must not be taken unless special permission has been given by or on behalf of the Board of General Purposes.
(d) The transmission of any photograph or information (whether in the form of text, images or otherwise) by electronic means from within a lodge room relating to a meeting in progress there, whether transmission is to a single individual or to any group of individuals, is also prohibited.
(e) Brethren are reminded that Rule 177 of the Book of Constitutions imposes a prohibition on the publication of the proceedings of any lodge (which includes the Grand Lodge and any Metropolitan, Provincial or District Grand Lodge) and that the taking of any photograph during a meeting is likely to lead to a breach of that Rule. The submission of any such photograph for inclusion in Freemasonry Today will be met with a curt rejection, and it is expected that those responsible for the publication and content of Provincial or District magazines or newsletters will adopt the same policy.
(f) Disciplinary action is likely to be taken against the Brethren concerned in cases of failure to comply with the above policy in respect of photography or use of social media.
(g) Whilst the taking of photographs during the after proceedings of a lodge (and, less importantly, during a reception between a meeting and dinner) is unlikely to offend against any Rule of the Book of Constitutions, it can nevertheless be intrusive and distracting. Accordingly Brethren are reminded that good manners dictate that the agreement of the individuals concerned should be obtained before they are photographed informally in such a context, and that such photographs be taken during the after proceedings only with the permission of the Master or whoever presides at the dinner.”