Scientology: religion redefined in Supreme Court judgment

Scientology logo

Judges allow wedding in Scientology chapel but will there be repercussions for the taxpayer?

LAST UPDATED AT 15:49 ON Wed 11 Dec 2013

THE UK's highest court has ruled that Scientology is a religion as a woman today won her legal battle to marry in a Church of Scientology chapel.

Louisa Hodkin wants to marry her fiancé Alessandro Calcioli in a Scientology chapel in central London, but the wedding was blocked by the registrar general of births, deaths and marriages.

Hodkin was told that the chapel could not be registered for the solemnisation of marriages under the 1855 Places of Worship Registration Act because it was not a place for "religious worship". This decision was upheld last year by a High Court judge, who ruled that services run by Scientologists were not "acts of worship".

But Hodkin took her fight to the Supreme Court, which today ruled in her favour, announcing that the Scientology church was a "place of meeting for religious worship". describes it as a "fascinating and potentially far-reaching judgment" that offers a new legal definition of religion.

The Supreme Court justices said religion should not be confined to faiths involving a "supreme deity". Instead, they ruled that "religion could be described as a belief system going beyond sensory perception or scientific data held by a group of adherents, which claims to explain mankind's place in the universe and to teach its adherents how they are to live their lives in conformity with the belief system".

Hodkin said she was "ecstatic" with the result. But local government minister Brandon Lewis has raised concerns about the implications for the taxpayer. Scientology has previously fallen outside the religious exemption for business rates, he said. But it might now be eligible for rate relief, with the taxpayer having to pick up the bill.

"We will review the Court's verdict and discuss this with our legal advisers before deciding the next steps," he told the Daily Telegraph. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.