It is a fact taken from the actual records that about one-third of the enlisted men, fighting in the Revolutionary Army under the leadership of General Washington, were of Irish birth or extraction. Likewise, a great number of Irish-Americans fought with the Northern Army and Navy during the Civil War, or War Between the States, from 1861 to 1865. Following the Civil War, organizations began to form in the United States that were constituted “to put the Catholic Church out of business. Organized mobs, particularly in New York City and Philadelphia, burned Catholic Churches and schools, and killed and injured members of the Catholic clergy. At the same time anti-Catholics organized the “Know Nothing” society, better known to our forefathers as the “A.P.A.”, whose object was to defeat Catholics for public offices, and pass legislation disenabling Catholics from enjoying their rights under the United States Constitution.
Since most Catholics at that time were of Irish extraction, the Irish Americans were made the special target of these anti-Catholic organizations, and signs were posted at places of commercial and industrial employment reading, “No Catholics or Irish need apply”. Irish-Americans were discriminated against in business, and generally ostracized socially.
The situation became so unbearable and desperate for these early Irish Americans that a group of sixteen met in a hall in Cleveland, Ohio in 1895, and there drew up a tentative constitution and by-laws for incorporation of an organization known as “The Knights of Equity”. This group was organized to advance its members spiritually, materially and socially, to teach Irish history and culture, and to help the cause of liberty and freedom for the people of Ireland. Qualifications for membership were that the candidate must be an American of Irish birth or extraction and a practicing Roman Catholic. A charter was granted by the State of Ohio for the “Supreme Council of the Knights of Equity”.
Three Courts were formed in Cleveland, one of which at one time had 5,000 members. Other states and cities were granted charters and at one time there were 65 courts in an area from the Canadian border to the mid-south, and from Boston, Massachusetts to Sioux City, Iowa. The Knights of Equity in cooperation with other Catholic societies put the A.P.A. and other anti-Catholic organizations out of business. Their efforts allowed Catholics in most places to enjoy their full civic rights and to be respected in business, the professions, and public office.
However, after the passage of some years such anti-Catholic Societies as the Pathfinders, Guardians of Liberty, The Units, and the Klu Klux Klan once more became active and began discrimination against Catholics. They had for their aim the passage of legislation in the United States Congress to cut off immigration from the Catholic countries of the world, especially from Ireland.
Once more the Knights of Equity, along with other Catholic organizations, rose to the occasion and largely neutralized the bigoted and un-American activities of these misguided societies. After these anti-Catholic and anti-Irish organizations disappeared, the Knights of Equity became a large and energetic society. The society directed its efforts towards mutual assistance for society members, to help for the church in any emergency, and to work for the cause of liberty for Ireland. Today the Knights of Equity and their families have their corporate Holy Communion and breakfasts. They assist in sponsoring the large turn-outs in the St. Patrick’s day parades; they organize Gaelic services to observe the spiritual significance of the Feast. All courts of the Knights of Equity are cooperating with the diocesan activities of the church in “Catholic Action”. They are sponsoring scholarships in Catholic high schools and colleges. They have raised funds to purchase trophies for Catholic school athletic activities. They are assisting orphan homes, homes for the aged, and young men interested in priesthood. They also continue to promote the knowledge of the history and culture of Ireland. While the discrimination against Catholics has disappeared in the larger cities and communities of this country, you do not go far afield to find examples of anti-Catholic bigotry. This is especially evident in communities where the population’s religious persuasion is other than Catholic. In some of these localities you will find not a single public office-holder of Catholic belief. This condition exists not only in the deeply bigoted and anti-Catholic south, but in suburban towns, just a few miles from our largest cities. Secret anti-Catholic fraternities in these communities see that their own members are given preferential treatment in public jobs, in business and in the professions. In many of our large communities, national groups have their own organizations to promote their individual members and, in many cases, they are monopolizing public patronage and business to the detriment of our unorganized people. We are all Americans first and denounce discrimination against anyone. The Knights of Equity will be ready now as it has been for many years to defend its church and members.
If you are an American of Irish birth or extraction, a practicing Catholic, and are interested in the aims and objects of the Knights of Equity, please come to our MEMBERSHIP page where you can learn to become a member. If you do not have a court within proximity to your home you can also become an associate member.
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