Scientology case to be reconsidered

Louisa Hodkin and fiancee Alessandro Calcioli lost their High Court fight for the right to marry in a Scientology chapel (Bell Pottinger/PA)

Louisa Hodkin and fiancee Alessandro Calcioli lost their High Court fight for the right to marry in a Scientology chapel (Bell Pottinger/PA)

First published in National News © by

Leading judges may decide whether services organised by the Church of Scientology involve "acts of worship".

Scientologist Louisa Hodkin lost a High Court fight for the right to marry fiance Alessandro Calcioli in a Church of Scientology chapel in central London.

A High Court judge concluded that the couple could not marry in the London Church Chapel, in Queen Victoria Street, because it was not legally a "place of meeting for religious worship".

But Mr Justice Ouseley said Supreme Court justices - the most senior judges in the UK - should consider the question of whether Scientologists worshipped and decide whether they wanted to rule on the issue.

Miss Hodkin, 24, who, like her fiance, is a volunteer at the London Church Chapel, said she was pleased that the Supreme Court had been asked to consider the case.

"I knew I would have to be strong and patient given the current law," she said after today's High Court hearing in London. "I am delighted that the court has granted me the opportunity to ask the Supreme Court to hear my case. I hope that the court allows me to marry in my own church, surrounded by my family and friends, which means everything to me."

Her solicitor, Paul Hewitt, who works for law firm Withers, said: "It has always felt wrong that, simply because she is a member of the Church of Scientology, Louisa has been denied the right given to Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains and other faiths to have a legal marriage ceremony in accordance with her own religious beliefs and in her own church." He added: "Louisa is determined to see the process through to achieve this basic right."

Mr Justice Ouseley ruled after hearing legal argument at a High Court hearing in London in October. He was told that Miss Hodkin launched a challenge after the registrar general of births, deaths and marriages refused to register the London Church Chapel for the solemnisation of marriages under the 1855 Places of Worship Registration Act - because it was not a place for "religious worship".

The judge said the issue had been considered by the Court of Appeal in 1970. He said appeal judges had decided that Scientology services "did not involve acts of worship" - and he said he was bound by that decision. He said he therefore had to dismiss Miss Hodkin's challenge.

"In my judgment there has been no significant change in the beliefs of Scientologists or in their services since (that) decision," said Mr Justice Ouseley in a written ruling handed down at a hearing in London today. "(That ruling), in the absence of a significant change in the way Scientologists worship, still binds me to hold that they do not worship."

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