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Family Life Church loves their new building in Elgin, Illinois, except for one thing: The walls still bear symbols of its past as a Masonic temple. The suburban Chicago Daily Herald reported that Elgin officials barred the markings' removal because they "contribute to the overall character of the building, its history." The church argued the symbols conflict with Christian belief, but the government said the church can only cover them up, not remove them.

Family Life Church's effort echoes a long fight in Kenya's Presbyterian Church of East Africa over eradicating Masonic symbols in colonial-era churches and government buildings. "These symbols and artifacts must be removed and destroyed," PCEA head David Githii explained to The Nation as at least 30 stained-glass windows and other items were removed from Nairobi's St. Andrews Church. "They are anti-Christ." Githii sent demolition squads to other PCEA churches around the country. Tensions with preservationists and Presbyterian Freemasons got so heated that police had to be called to keep the peace.

Yes, there are still Freemasons, including a reported 1.8 million members in the United States. And if the unconfirmed anecdotes ct editors hear regularly are to believed, Masonic cliques still wield power in several places.

But membership is half what it was 50 years ago. It's hard to believe that Freemasons and similar secret societies were one of the top three social ills targeted by evangelicals of the mid-1800s, along with slavery and alcohol. In 1868, several prominent evangelicals, including revivalist Charles Grandison Finney and Wheaton College founder Jonathan Blanchard, created the National Christian Association (NCA) to warn believers that "all secret societies [are] ...

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August 2007

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