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 meet that test, and a valid ceremony of marriage could not be conducted there. The question of whether the services performed in the chapel are properly to be regarded as a form of religious worship is inevitably conditioned by whether Scientology is to be regarded as a religion.
Lord Denning asked whether the chapel was a place of meeting for religious worship within the meaning of the Act, saying: ‘We have had much discussion on the meaning of the word ‘religion’ and of the word ‘worship’, taken separately, but I think we should take the combined phrase, ‘place of meeting for religious worship’ as used in the statute of 1855. It connotes to my mind a place of which the principal use is as a place where people come together as a congregation or assembly to do reverence to God. It need not be the God which the Christians worship. It may be another God, or an unknown God, but it must be reverence to a deity. There may be exceptions. For instance, Buddhist temples are properly described as places of meeting for religious worship. But, apart from exceptional cases of that kind, it seems to me the governing idea behind the words ‘place of meeting for religious worship’ is that it should be a place for the worship of God. I am sure that would be the meaning attached by those who framed this legislation of 1855.’
As to how that might apply to the Church of Scientology: ‘Turning to the creed of the Church of Scientology, I must say that it seems to me to be more a philosophy of the existence of man or of life, rather than a religion. Religious worship means reverence or veneration of God or of a Supreme Being. I do not find any such reverence or veneration in the creed of this church . . When I look through the ceremonies and the affidavits, I am left with the feeling that there is nothing in it of reverence for God or a deity, but simply instruction in a philosophy. There may be belief in a spirit of man, but there is no belief in a spirit of God.’
Winn LJ said that he did not feel well qualified to discuss whether Scientology could properly be called a religion, but the evidence did not show to his mind that its adherents observed any form of worship. He explained what he meant by worship: ‘by no ‘worship’, if I am bound to define my terms, I mean to indicate that they do not humble themselves in reverence and recognition of the dominant power and control of any entity or being outside their own body and life.’
Buckley LJ said: ‘Worship I take to be something which must have some at least of the following characteristics: submission to the object worshipped, veneration of that object, praise, thanksgiving, prayer or intercession.’


Lord Denning MR, Winn and Buckley LJJ


[1970] 2 QB 697


Places of Worship Registration Act 1855 2


England and Wales


Appeal fromRegina 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. . .

Cited by:

OverruledHodkin and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages SC 11-Dec-2013
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 . .
CitedHodkin 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 . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Family, Administrative, Ecclesiastical

Updated: 04 May 2022; Ref: scu.540525