On appeal from: [2012] EWHC 3635

The question in this appeal was whether a church of the Church of Scientology is recordable as a “place of meeting for religious worship” under the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855, s 2, with the effect that a valid ceremony of marriage can be performed there. The Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages stated that she was bound by the Court of Appeal’s judgment in R v Registrar General, ex parte Segerdal [1970] 2 QB 697 to reject the appellant’s application to record such a church to marry in, as the authority held that Scientology did not involve “religious worship” since it did not involve “reverence or veneration of God or of a Supreme Being”, but rather instruction in a philosophy.

The appeal was unanimously allowed. Religion should not be confined to faiths involving a supreme deity, since to do so would exclude Buddhism, Jainism and others; and involve the Court in difficult theological territory. 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. On this approach to religion, Scientology was clearly a religion. It followed that as the Church of Scientology held religious services its church is a “place of meeting for religious worship”.

For judgment, please download: [2013] UKSC 77
For Court’s press summary, please download: Court’s Press Summary
For a non-PDF version of the judgment, please visit: BAILII