UK Supreme Court says Scientology is a religion, allows wedding

Wed Dec 11, 2013 7:19am EST
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By Estelle Shirbon

LONDON (Reuters) - A woman who wants to get married in a chapel of the Church of Scientology in London won her case on Wednesday at Britain's Supreme Court, which ruled that Scientology was a religion and the chapel was a place where marriages could be solemnized.

Louisa Hodkin, 25, had launched legal action after officials refused to record the chapel as a place that could be used to celebrate marriages, citing a court ruling from 1970 that said Scientology did not involve religious worship.

"My fiance and I have always believed in the fairness of the British legal process. It's been a long and demanding journey, but the Supreme Court's decision today has made it all worthwhile," Hodkin said in a statement.

"We are really excited that we can now get married."

The Church of Scientology itself was not a party to the legal action, but the Supreme Court's ruling is a notable victory for an organization that has struggled to gain recognition as a genuine religion in many countries.

Founded in the United States in 1954 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology now has thousands of churches in over 160 countries and has gained a high profile through celebrity followers including Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

Critics say it is a cult that harasses people who try and quit, a description the movement rejects.

In their unanimous decision to allow Hodkin's appeal, the Supreme Court justices said that the 1970 ruling was out of date in its definition of religious worship as involving "reverence or veneration of God or of a Supreme Being".   Continued...

Judges from the Supreme Court process to Westminster Abbey for a service to mark the beginning of the legal year, London October 1, 2012. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor