The Shrine, a group which is also know as The Shriners, is the a charitable and philanthropic organization of the Masonic Order.
It was founded in 1872 by a group of 13 men Masonic brothers and was originally established as a public social outlet to the otherwise closed and secret world of FreeMasonry. But as the organization grew in numbers, its members decided to dedicate their efforts to a more productive past time, and by establishing an official Shrine philanthropy. This has taken the form of the Shriners Hospitals that are found in 22 major cities and specialize in orthopedic surgery, restorative treatment and burn care for children. These services are offered free of charge to those who require it.
The full name of The Shrine is "the Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine", though it is still an American Institution. And despite the heavy-sounding name, The Shrine regards itself as a light-hearted society, as can be evidenced by the driving of the tiny cars in parades. One of the founding members, the actor William Florance, knew the value of pageantry and showmanship and the shrine reflected such things. Another founder, Walter M. Fleming, had an urge to establish a playground for Masons; an organization to which only Masons who had completed their Scottish Rite or York Rite would be eligible. The design and format came largely as a result of actor Florence being invited to attend a party given by an Arabian diplomat in Marseilles. The entertainment apparently was something in the nature of an elaborately staged musical comedy, at the conclusion of which, the guests became members of a secret society.
The Crescent is the insignia of the Shrine. It includes in its form the claws of a Royal Bengal Tiger, the head of a sphinx, a star and a scimitar. It bears the the Arabic motto, "Kuwat Wa Ghadab," the English translation of which is "Strength and Fury".
The Fez, too, was adopted as a "uniform" for public functions. It was selected for both it's audacity and antiquity, itself having a history longer then most people appreciate. Shrine Fez' are always red and frequently bear the Crescent insignia.
Eligibility for Shrine membership requires a that a prospective Mason must have attained good standing as either a Knights Templar of York Rite or a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason before he may petition for membership in the Shrine. As individuals they must all comply with the accepted and established principles of Masonic conduct and practices. Gross failure to do so subjects them to suspension or expulsion from the lodge which carries with it ultimate suspension in the Shrine.