Freemasons in Dorset are supporting a campaign calling for an end to discrimination of members of the historical and charitable organisation.

Frustrated members say they are facing claims of prejudice because they belong to the supposed secret society.

A series of open public sessions are now being arranged where questions can be asked about the group.

Head of Dorset’s 2,500 Freemasons Richard Merritt said: “We pride ourselves on openness, about what being a Freemason means for us. We treat everyone as equal and respect the opinions of others, behaving with understanding towards them.”

He added: “I look forward to continuing the openness with the Dorset public that characterises Freemasonry in this beautiful county.”

It comes after the national group took out full page adverts in national newspapers calling for an end to discrimination of its 200,000 plus members.

The ad, headlined Enough is Enough is a letter from CEO Dr David Staples which reiterates the organisation’s values and highlights how throughout its 300-year history when people have suffered discrimination, Freemasonry has welcomed them into lodges as equals.

Dr Staples has also written to the Equality and Human Rights Commission to make its case.

He said: “This is a first for us, but necessary under the circumstances. For too long we have been unjustly singled out. We are an organisation whose whole tenet is about helping individuals become better people, with values of honesty, integrity and service to others. Membership of Freemasonry is not only positive for them as individuals, but also for society at large.

“Sadly, too many Freemasons have to exercise caution in response to prejudice and discrimination they fear they will face. We want the day when every Freemason can proudly declare themselves a member of our great and historical organisation without fear of retribution, suspicion or damage. We’re open and happy to talk about anything and today we are announcing a series of sessions up and down the country too and to answer any questions people may have. I am also welcoming any queries from individuals myself.”

The existence of Freemasonry in Dorset is first recorded as far back as 1736 with the creation of the Three Crowns Lodge at Weymouth. It now comprises 49 Lodges meeting at 18 centres.