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England and Wales High Court (Administrative Court) Decisions


You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> England and Wales High Court (Administrative Court) Decisions >> Church of Scientology, R (on the application of) v Registrar General of Births [2012] EWHC 3751 (Admin) (19 December 2012)
URL: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2012/3751.html
Cite as: [2012] EWHC 3751 (Admin)

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Neutral Citation Number: [2012] EWHC 3751 (Admin)
CO/10452/2011

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURT

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand
London WC2A 2LL
Wednesday, 19 December 2012

B e f o r e :

MR JUSTICE OUSELEY
____________________

Between:
THE QUEEN ON THE APPLICATION OF
(1) LOUISA HODKIN
1st Claimant
(2) CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY
RELIGIOUS EDUCATION COLLEGE INCORPORATED
2nd Claimant
And
REGISTRAR GENERAL OF BIRTHS,
DEATHS AND MARRIAGES
Defendant

____________________

Computer-Aided Transcript of the Stenograph Notes of
WordWave International Limited
A Merrill Communications Company
165 Fleet Street London EC4A 2DY
Tel No: 020 7404 1400 Fax No: 020 7404 1424
(Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)

____________________

Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC and Naina Patel (instructed by Mr Paul Hewitt, Withers LLP Solicitors) appeared on behalf of the Claimant
Mr Paul Greatorex (instructed by the Treasury Solicitor) appeared on behalf of the Defendant

____________________

HTML VERSION OF JUDGMENT
____________________

Crown Copyright ©

  1. MR JUSTICE OUSELEY: I have today dismissed an application by Louisa Hodkin and the Church of Scientology for the registration of a chapel as a place of meeting for religious worship under the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855. I did so because I concluded that I was bound by the decision of the Court of Appeal in Segerdal to hold that Scientologists did not worship for the purposes of that act. I expressed the view that Scientology was a religion for the purposes of that Act, an issue on which I did not see the Court of Appeal as having reached any contrary binding conclusion. I would have concluded that Scientologists worshiped at their chapels but for the conclusion of the Court of Appeal in Segerdal. I did not need in reaching those conclusions to consider anything arising out of the Human Rights Act or the Equality Act.
  2. I have recognised that the interaction between non-theistic religions whose places of religious worship are registered and those of Scientologists which are not registered is problematic in the light of the decision of the Court of Appeal.
  3. The impact of the Human Rights Act and the Equality Act is one which shorn of the binding effect of Segerdal will require greater consideration than I have given it.
  4. The Claimants seek a certificate under section 12 of the Administration of Justice Act 1969, permitting them to apply directly to the Supreme Court for permission to appeal to which the Defendant has consented.
  5. There is a point of law of general public importance involved in my decision which concerns the meaning and application of section 2 of the 1855 Act, to the beliefs and practices of the Church of Scientology and the application of the provisions to other, as I have found, religions which may practice their religion in similar ways.
  6. The decision relates wholly or mainly to the construction of the 1855 Act and that construction has been fully argued and fully considered by me in the judgment, and is one in respect of which I am, in relation to worship, bound by the decision of the Court of Appeal which in Segerdal fully considered the issue - whatever reservations there may be about certain aspects of it.
  7. It is undesirable in terms of cost and time for an application to be made to the Court of Appeal if the Court of Appeal is to conclude that it is bound by Segerdal and gives no greater consideration to the issues than I have felt it appropriate to give.
  8. I have considered carefully whether the Supreme Court would be assisted in its consideration of "religious worship" and its application to Scientology and other religions by a fully reasoned judgment from the Court of Appeal. I have concluded, however, that that is a decision which the Supreme Court should make for itself rather than be precluded from considering by the refusal of a certificate.
  9. I have also considered that the Registrar General freed from the shackles of Segerdal, as she undoubtedly would be in the Supreme Court, would be better placed to draw upon her experience of religions whose places of worship have been registered to illuminate any contrast or similarities with Scientology; whereas, in the Court of Appeal, the Registrar may feel properly that she has to maintain the binding nature of Segerdal which would delay the ultimate resolution of this issue, because if Segerdal is binding on the Court of Appeal a further appeal to the Supreme Court seems to me inevitable.
  10. For those reasons I have decided to grant the certificate. I grant the certificate on the basis that if permission to appeal to the Supreme Court is granted there will be no order for costs here or in the Supreme Court regardless of outcome.
  11. So far as costs are concerned, if the Supreme Court refuses to grant permission to appeal -- and I cannot see them, if granting permission at all, granting any less than the permission that enables the full scope of the arguments to be deployed before them, but if permission is refused my order in relation to costs is that the Claimants shall pay the costs of the claim to be subject to detailed assessment if not agreed. If the Court of Appeal wishes to alter that order in the light of any decision which it comes to it is entirely within its powers to do so if it allows the appeal. Likewise, if it dismisses the appeal and an appeal is ultimately successful in the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court can interfere as it wishes with the order for costs in the Court of Appeal and below.
  12. The parties have made the application as required by statute immediately. Although I have indicated I am going to grant it, the certificate cannot actually be provided until the question is finally resolved by agreement between the parties. I understand that that would be done on Friday for various reasons and no doubt associated with the Christmas period and the time limits for the next steps.
  13. MR JUSTICE OUSELEY: That is all right, is it, for the Friday?
  14. LORD LESTER QC: My Lord, we are very grateful indeed and on behalf of everyone in this row and behind me, it only remains for me to wish you and your staff a happy healthy contented celebration and a better New Year.
  15. MR JUSTICE OUSELEY: That is very kind of you. Thank you very much. There is no need for an oral hearing on Friday, is there?
  16. LORD LESTER QC: No. My Lord, what I would suggest is that we simply agree the term subject to your Lordship's correction, if necessary, and we send it to you before Friday and then if your Lordship does -- it is rather like leave on papers, as it were, if your Lordship thinks it is not quite right then it is for your Lordship to certify and if it is done on Friday that will be convenient all round.
  17. MR JUSTICE OUSELEY: I would find it useful rather than having to research the appropriate form if it came in on the appropriate form then I could play with it insofar as it needed tweaking. Very well. Thank you very much.


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URL: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2012/3751.html