Freemasonry – A Look at the Shriners

While many people know the Shriners primarily for their distinctive choice of headgear, there is much more to this unique organization that meets the eye.  The Shriners are also known for their extensive network of charitable work, including the famous Shriners Hospitals designed and built to treat sick children at no cost to their families.

The organization popularity known as the Shriners is officially known as the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, or A.A.O.N.M.S.  The organization was founded in 1870 in New York City as an appendant body to the freemasons.  The Shriners are distinguished both by their charitable works on behalf of children and by the unique red fez members wear.

When the Shriners were first founded, the freemason membership of New York city consisted of several thousand individuals.  Many of those freemasons would meet at a special table in the Knickerbocker Cottage, and during these frequent meetings they often discussed the formation of a new fraternity of masons, one that would stress fellowship and fun over ritual.

The Shriners are not a religious organization; rather they are a men’s fraternity.  The religious requirement for members is an indirect one – all Shriners must first be masons, and in order to be a mason one must profess a belief in some sort of supreme being.

Prior to the year 2000, all Shriners had to first complete the York Rite or the Scottish Rite, but since then all Master Masons are eligible for membership.

The Shriners often make an appearance in parades around the country, and the appearance of the signature miniature car occupied by Shriners is a welcome site for many parade enthusiasts.  These unique vehicles appear in a number of different guises, including sports cars, fire engines and even 18-wheelers.  Shriners often also appear in the form of brass bands, pipe bands, drummers or even motorcycle units.

Good Works
The Shriners are known for many things, but they are mainly known for their commitment to charity and community service.  Since their inception, the Shriners have been committed to good works, and perhaps the most famous of these good works are the Shriners Hospitals for Children.  These hospitals are committed to providing first-class medical care to sick children, at no cost to the parents or the taxpayers.

The Shriners operate a network of hospitals throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico, with 22 such hospitals currently in operation  The Shriners hospitals were originally founded to treat the youngest victims of the polio epidemic, but as the disease was brought under control their focus shifted and broadened.  The Shriners Hospitals for Children now work with all pediatric cases, with an emphasis on burns and orthopedic disease and injury.  The work at this network of hospitals has led to a number of innovative and highly effective treatments that have been adopted at hospitals throughout the world.