British Supreme Court Recognises Scientology as 'Religion' in Landmark Case

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By Reissa Su | December 13, 2013 1:37 PM EST

Scientology has been officially recognised as a religion after Britain's highest court ruled that worshipping a god is not an important aspect of religion. The five Supreme Court justices set aside 158 years of law and redefined religion for members of scientology to be married.

The court's decision came after a 25-year-old scientologist Louisa Hodkin sought the right to get married five years ago in the Church of Scientology in London. Her fiancé, Alessandro Calcioli, was also present in the court.

The declaration of scientology as a religion after a five-year legal battle was hailed as a recognition of freedom of worship.

Ms Hodkin filed the case after she was refused by the Register General to enter the Church of Scientology chapel as a place to conduct marriages since the chapel was not deemed a place of "religious worship." The refusal was based on a court case in 1970 that did not recognise scientology as a religion since it was not in compliance of the1855 Places of Worship Registration Act. The Act only recognises groups that worship a "deity" or god as "true religions."

Britain's High Court Justice Ouseley initially dismissed the case of Ms Hodkin based on the legal definition of religion, but he referred the case to the Supreme Court for reassessment.

According to the Supreme Court president, Lord Neuberger, the court ruled that it would be tantamount to discrimination if the law will exclude groups not formally worshipping a god. The court ruled that religion should not be limited to religions recognising a "supreme deity."

After hearing the good news, Ms Hodkin said she and her fiance believed in the fairness of the British courts.

The British High Court's decision may have other implications as government ministers expressed alarm for the possibility of other groups to claim tax breaks and other legal privileges. The ruling may also lead to organisations labeled as "cults" to take advantage of tax breaks. Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis said he was concerned about the ruling and what it could mean for business rates. 

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