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Scientology Follower Denied Right To Marry In Chapel Of Her Church's Religion

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SCIENTOLOGY
Hodkin and her fiance are both volunteers at the church | PA

A Scientology follower has lost a High Court fight for the right to marry in a chapel of her Church's religion.

Louisa Hodkin had challenged a refusal by the registrar general of births, deaths and marriages in England and Wales to register the chapel for the solemnisation of marriages on the grounds that it was not "a place of meeting for religious worship".

Ms Hodkin wants to marry a fellow Scientologist at the church's chapel on the ground floor of its premises in Queen Victoria Street, central London.

Her lawyers argued she was the victim of unlawful religious discrimination.

But on Wednesday, Justice Ouseley backed the registrar's decision and dismissed the challenge, following a High Court hearing in London.

Justice Ouseley had been told, at a hearing in London in October, that, under Section 2 of the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855, the chapel had to be certified as a meeting place for religious worship to enable legally recognised religious marriages to take place.

Ms Hodkin and her fiance had challenged the legality of the registrar general's refusal to certify the London chapel for weddings in July last year.

The case is of general importance as Scientologists have previously unsuccessfully applied for certification at other premises in England they have claimed are for "religious worship".

Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC, appearing for Hodkin and the Church of Scientology Religious Education College, said Miss Hodkin's brother, David, was married in a religious ceremony at a Church of Scientology in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 2007.

He said Ms Hodkin and her fiance wanted to similarly celebrate their marriage through a legally recognised Scientology wedding in London, surrounded by their families and fellow church volunteers.

But a casework manager for the registrar general said such a wedding could not be recognised because of the 1970 case of "Segerdal" in the Court of Appeal.

Judges in that case ruled that another Scientology chapel was not a meeting place for religious worship because its services involved "instructions in the tenets of a philosophy concerned with man" and were not concerned with religious worship.

Justice Ouseley said that he felt bound by that Court of Appeal ruling.

But he said the issue should be analysed by the Supreme Court - the highest court in the UK.

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