The Washington Times
January 19, 2009
President-elect Barack Obama’s swearing-in Tuesday will incorporate several elements out of America’s Masonic past.
One-third of the signers of the Constitution, many of the Bill of Rights signers and America’s first few presidents (except for Thomas Jefferson) were Freemasons, a fraternal organization that became public in early 18th-century England.
Although it became fabulously popular in America, at one time encompassing 10 percent of the population, Pope Clement XII condemned Freemasonry in 1738 as heretical. The latest pronouncement was issued in 1983 by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – now Pope Benedict XVI – who called Masonic practices “irreconcilable” with Catholic doctrine.
Still, as the first president, George Washington had to come up with appropriate rituals for the new country. He borrowed many of them from Masonic rites he knew as “worshipful leader” of a lodge in Alexandria.
His Masonic gavel is on display at the Capitol Visitor Center. Until this inauguration, Washington’s Masonic Bible – on which he swore his obligations as a Freemason – was used for the presidential oath of office. President-elect Barack Obama will use Abraham Lincoln’s Bible.