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The world's largest Catholic fraternal service organization, the Knights of Columbus was founded by Father Michael J. McGivney in 1882, and named for Christopher Columbus. The U.S. Order is a member of the International Alliance of Catholic Knights. The lay organization began as a mutual benefit society for working class Catholics in the United States, who were then regularly excluded from labor unions, secular fraternal organizations and other organized groups, and the Holy See prohibited Catholics from joining the Freemasons. Later, the Knights became a fraternal service organization, promoting Catholic education and Catholic public policy positions. The Knight's junior organization, the Columbian Squires, takes in Catholic boys from the age of ten to eighteen. The Daughters of Isabella and the Catholic Daughters of the Americas are women's auxiliaries of the Knights. Over the years, the organization has been involved in some important legal and political issues. For example, it successfully fought an Oregon law that would eliminate parochial schools, requiring children to attend public school. In the unanimous 1925 opinion, the Supreme Court ruled that law to be unconstitutional. The principles of the Knights are charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism. A First Degree exemplification ceremony, for new members, explicates the virtue of charity. After participating in the work of the organization, he moves through the subsequent degrees, each of which focus on another virtue, upon which he rises to that status. Upon reaching the Third Degree, he is a full member, after which he is eligible to receive the Fourth Degree, which is intended to encourage patriotism and participation in the responsibilities of citizenship. The Fourth Degree is optional, and fewer than twenty percent of Knights join the Fourth Degree. The Fourth Degree, a patriotic degree within the organization that has its own symbolic dress, was created in the early 1900s.



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