Joe Ellis resigned from the UGLE and then turned whistleblower (Pic: Joe Ellis)
A FREEMASON has sensationally turned whistleblower to expose a "problem of abuse" within UK lodges.
The former senior Freemason took the rare decision to speak out about the usually secretive organisation after resigning as master and secretary of two lodges respectively, amid claims he faced abuse, including being called an "autistic spastic" and his wife "a slut" by other members.
Joe Ellis, 56, from Bullockstone, Kent, resigned as master of one lodge in his home county, as secretary of another, and had his name erased from the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), which runs freemasonry in the UK, amid bullying and harassment claims.
Mr Ellis, who is autistic, has since gone on to join a freemasonry order that is not recognised by UGLE, which also allows women members.
Freemasonry dates back to Mediaeval times and in the UK members are split across provincial lodges.
Its rules insist that a volume of Biblical scripture is open in a working lodge, that every member professes belief in a deity, and that no women are admitted.
It is thought to be bound in ritual, secrecy, masonic handshakes, and secret deals between the police, judges, and top-end criminals who have historically been members.
The United Grand Lodge of England in Holborn, London (Pic: Google)
Since leaving UGLE, Mr Ellis has set up his own website, branding himself the "Unique Freemason".
In a post on his website www.uniquefreemason.com, Mr Ellis explains the reason behind his resignation.
Sepately, he told ENIS: "My resignations were mainly down to bullying and aggressive behaviour from other members.
"Lots of members are long established with 40 to 50 years of experience."
He said as a member with less experience, who had risen through the ranks and had new ideas, he had faced obstruction, and even threats or intimidation from more-established peers.
He said: "My wife has been called a slut, and they have called me an autistic spastic, all while the Bible was open."
Mr Ellis claimed the tension stemmed from "sour grapes" about charities he chose to fundraise.
He said he filed a complaint with UGLE before stepping down, but claimed it was not properly investigated.
Joe Ellis' claims have featured on a US TV report available on YouTube
Mr Ellis claimed that the investigating officer was a senior magistrate who worked closely with the person the complaint was about so could not be "impartial".
But, he claimed the problem of bullying and abuse within lodges was much more widespread than those he attended.
He said he would be shunned for speaking publicly about internal freemasonry matters, adding: "I will be labelled a rogue now I have mentioned it in public, but they will end up with a lawsuit from someone if they don't tackle it.
"They know there is a problem and are starting to address it. People are leaving at an an alarming rate."
He claimed over the past 25 years the number of UK registered freemasons had dropped from around 500,000 to 285,000.
In his own province of east Kent, he said the figure had fallen from 25,000 to 5,998 over the same timescale.
Joe Ellis claims he was bullied despite being a 7th dan black belt karate expert (Pic: YouTube)
In the post on his website, he said: "I felt that due to abuse I was getting from some quarters within the Province of East Kent, I was not willing to continue freemasonry within this province.
"When masonic abuse occurs which effects you, your wife and life, you have to think long and hard how to deal with it.
"I took the decision to cease freemasonry within East Kent and then decided how to continue to enjoy freemasonry without abuse and pressure."
He also quotes himself on the website as saying: "Choose carefully your masonic lodge. "Joining the wrong one will badly affect your masonic journey"
In the post he said the wider matter appeared to now be getting addressed by UGLE.
He pointed readers to a recent issue of the Freemasonry Today magazine, which included an article on a survey of members.
The article said a Membership Survey Group had found bullying and tensions within lodges a reason for new initiates leaving - with 10 percent of new members leaving in their first two years.
Freemasonry is seen as a secretive organisation (Pic: YouTube)
Problems identified in the article included:
*"Behaviour not in the spirit of freemasonry had led to relationship breakdown and people resigning from the craft"
*"People resigned because of the infighting, hypocrisy and dominant behaviour of senior masons which was unmasonic"
*Younger masons were frightened off by wellmeaing, more dominant seniors
It said: "While the successful lodge needs to be run by experienced, often senior masons, sometimes one or two individuals emerge who tend to dictate how a lodge is run.
"The underlying intentions are positive, but this enthusiasm may be perceived more negatively by others as dictating and controlling.
"The result can be overzealous demands placed on more junior members."
But, the article added that the problem was not widespread within freemasonry, and similar situations would be found in any large organisation.
A spokeswoman for UGLE said: "We understand that Mr Ellis was for some time a talented and helpful member of the lodge who appeared to greatly enjoy his freemasonry with us.
"It is possible that there were personality clashes or misinterpretation of communication on some occasions.
"Mr Ellis is a 7th Dan Black Belt Karate expert so it is unlikely that physical intimidation was involved.
Joe Ellis revealed the reasons for his resignation on his website (Pic: Joe Ellis)
"We understand he is now part of an irregular Masonic organisation, which has no links with the United Grand Lodge of England or mainstream freemasonry.
"Being an ancient institution, Freemasonry has well-honed rules of conduct to ensure harmony and fair play and had these long before the more recent convention for anti-bullying policies introduced by many organisations.
"We strive to give a voice to everyone and bullying of any kind is absolutely not tolerated.
"We carried out Membership Focus Group surveys to ensure that ordinary members have the opportunity to give views and make suggestions that shape the future of the organisation and this includes raising concerns in order to ensure the continuation of the common good."
She said retaining 90 percent of new members after two years was a fair retention rate.
She added: "In recent years we have introduced a mentoring scheme, new and young members groups and a variety of initiatives to ensure that all are considered at all times. "
"We are looking for ways to avoid occasional misunderstanding and will continue to strive to get the balance right."
We also contacted the lodge where Mr Ellis was a master through the East Kent Province, which handles its media enquiries, and was referred back to UGLE.
If you are a current or former freemason who is affected by this issue, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.