Withers defeated in Scientology wedding challenge

Withers has lost a High Court case over a woman’s right to get married in a Church of Scientology chapel.

Partner Paul Hewitt advised clients Louisa Hodkin and the Church of Scientology RE College in their challenge against the Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

The registrar decided not to approve Church of Scientology chapels as ‘places of meeting for religious worship’, which meant that Hodkin could not marry her Scientologist fiancé in one.

Lord Lester QC and Naina Patel of Blackstone Chambers were instructed by Withers for the claimants and James Strachan of 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square was instructed for the defendant by the Treasury Solicitor.

Hodkin’s lawyers had argued that she was being unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of her religion. But Mr Justice Ouseley, sitting in the High Court, dismissed the challenge.

Referring to legal precedent from the Court of Appeal case of Segerdal, which ruled that a Scientology chapel was not a place for religious worship, Ouseley concluded that the 1970 case was “binding”.

But the judge left the door open for further legal action. He added: “Forty years on from Segerdal, the Court of Appeal may find the route at least to reconsider its decision in Segerdal, with the fuller material now available.”