Scientology couple win wedding venue case

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A couple who want to marry in a Church of Scientology chapel are planning their wedding after winning a “human rights” fight in the UK’s highest court.

Scientologists Louisa Hodkin and Alessandro Calcioli, both 25 and from East Grinstead, West Sussex, had put the ceremony on hold after a High Court judge said services run by Scientologists were not “acts of worship”.

But the Supreme Court yesterday overturned that decision.

Miss Hodkin took legal action after the registrar general of births, deaths and marriages refused to register the London Church Chapel for the solemnisation of marriages – because it was not a place for “religious worship”.

Five Supreme Court justices upheld Miss Hodkin’s challenge after analysing the issue at a hearing in London in July.

Judges said religion should not be confined to faiths involving a “supreme deity”.

They said the Church of Scientology held religious services, therefore its church was a “place of meeting for religious worship”.

In 1970, the Church of Scientology launched a similar case. Then the Court of Appeal ruled that Scientology did not involve religious worship because there was no “veneration of God or of a Supreme Being”.

Miss Hodkin argued that the 1970 ruling should not be binding because Scientologist beliefs and services had evolved during the past four decades.

She said services were “ones of religious worship” and likened Scientology to Buddhism and Jainism.

She said she was “really excited” by yesterday’s ruling. “I wanted to be treated like any other religious person,” said Miss Hodkin, a church volunteer. “I want to get married in my own church. It’s a human rights issue.”

Mr Calcioli, a graphic designer, said he was “ecstatic”.

They said they aimed to marry in the next few months but had yet to set a date.

Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis said his department would be taking legal advice as a result of the Supreme Court ruling.

“I am very concerned about this ruling, and its implications for business rates,” he said.