The appellants sought to be married in their regular church in London. The minister would be pleased to perform the ceremony, but church to which they belonged was part of the Church of Scientology, and had been refused registration under the 1855 Act.
Held: That a religion did not involve beliefs in a god should not be a bar to registration of its places of worship under the Act.
Toulson L said: ‘Unless there is some compelling contextual reason for holding otherwise, religion should not be confined to religions which recognise a supreme deity. First and foremost, to do so would be a form of religious discrimination unacceptable in today’s society. It would exclude Buddhism, along with other faiths such as Jainism, Taoism, Theosophy and part of Hinduism. The evidence in the present case shows that, among others, Jains, Theosophists and Buddhists have registered places of worship in England. Lord Denning in Segerdal  2 QB 697, 707 acknowledged that Buddhist temples were ‘properly described as places of meeting for religious worship’ but he referred to them as ‘exceptional cases’ without offering any further explanation. The need to make an exception for Buddhism (which has also been applied to Jainism and Theosophy), and the absence of a satisfactory explanation for it, are powerful indications that there is something unsound in the supposed general rule. ‘
. . And ‘ For the purposes of PWRA, I would describe religion in summary as a spiritual or non-secular belief system, held by a group of adherents, which claims to explain mankind’s place in the universe and relationship with the infinite, and to teach its adherents how they are to live their lives in conformity with the spiritual understanding associated with the belief system. By spiritual or non-secular I mean a belief system which goes beyond that which can be perceived by the senses or ascertained by the application of science. ‘
Lord Neuberger, President, Lord Clarke, Lord Wilson, Lord Reed, Lord Toulson
 UKSC 77,  WLR(D) 492,  PTSR 1,  1 AC 610,  1 All ER 737,  2 WLR 23,  1 FCR 577, UKSC 2013/0030
Bailii, WLRD, Bailii Summary, SC Summary, SC
Places of Worship Registration Act 1855, Charities Act 2011 3(2)(a)
England and Wales
Cited – Davis v Beason, Sheriff 3-Feb-1890
United States Supreme Court. The defendant claimed that the First Amendment insulated from civil punishment certain practices inspired or motivated by religious beliefs.
Held: The assetion failed: ‘It was never intended or supposed that the . .
Cited – Adelaide Company of Jehovah’s Witnesses Inc v The Commonwealth 1943
Latham CJ said: ‘It would be difficult, if not impossible, to devise a definition of religion which would satisfy the adherents of all the many and various religions which exist, or have existed, in the world.’ . .
Cited – United States v Seeger 8-Mar-1965
United States Supreme Court – The respondent claimed conscientius objection to serving in the armed forces. . .
Appeal from – Hodkin and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages Admn 19-Dec-2012
The claimants, both scientologists, wanted to be married as the London Church Chapel. The respondent had declined to register it as a place of worship under the 1855 Act.
Held: The claim failed. Scientology is a religion. Counsel for the . .
Cited – Regina v Registrar General, Ex parte Segerdal QBD 1969
The Church of Scientology challenged the refusal of the Registrar General to register its chapel at East Grinstead as a place of meeting for religious worship.
Held: The challenge failed. . .
Overruled – Regina v Registrar General, Ex parte Segerdal CA 1970
The Church of Scientology chapel at East Grinstead, Sussex was not a ‘place of meeting for religious worship’ within the meaning of section 2 of the 1855 Act since that would require reverence to a deity. The Church of Scientology’s services did not . .
Cited – Welsh v United States 15-Jun-1970
United States Supreme Court – The appellant had refused to submit to joining the Armed Forces because he was ‘by reason of religious training and belief . . conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form.’ . .
Cited – Malnak v Yogi 2-Feb-1979
United States Court of Appeals – Third Circuit. The court considered whether the programme of teaching transcendental meditation and its associated Science of Creative Intelligence was a religious activity and so was not to be allowed to be taught . .
Cited – In re South Place Ethical Society 1980
The court considered the meaning and nature of religious belief, and whether a trust for this purpose could be charitable.
Held: Dillon J referred to Russell LJ as having taken the view that the court could hold that there are purposes ‘so . .
Cited – Church of the New Faith v Commissioner of Pay-Roll Tax 1983
(Victoria) Under the Victoria Pay-roll Tax Act 1971, there was an exemption from tax payable under the Act for wages paid by a religious institution. The question considered by the High Court was ‘whether the beliefs, practices and observances which . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Administrative, Family, Ecclesiastical
Updated: 26 November 2021; Ref: scu.518899