Thursday, October 25, 2012

Scientologist Challenges Britain's Limits On Religious Buildings In Which Marriages Can Be Performed

Under British law, in England and Wales any building that has been certified as a place of religious worship under the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855 may then, under the Marriage Act 1949, be certified as a building in which marriages can be solemnized. However, Britain's Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages refuses to recognize Church of Scientology chapels as a "places of worship" so individuals wanting to marry according to Scientology ritual must first be civilly married at a registrar's office and then have the marriage blessed on Scientology premises. The Independent reports on a lawsuit argued in London's High Court on Tuesday in which Scientologist Louise Hodkin charges that the refusal to recognize Scientology chapels violates the 2010 Equality Act. She wants to be married at London's elaborate Scientology headquarters. According to a report by the Press Association, the refusal by the Registrar's office to recognize Scientology chapels stems from a 1970 Court of Appeal decision, R v. Registrar General ex parte Segerdal, in which the court denied registration to Scientology buildings, holding that adherents come together primarily for instruction in a philosophy of human life, not for religious worship. In Tuesday's High Court arguments, plaintiff's counsel argued that the form of worship by Scientologists has evolved and is now materially different from what it was in 1970 when the Segerdal case was decided.