Couple get married in Britain's first Scientology wedding

Scientologists Louisa Hodkin and Alessandro Calcioli won a landmark legal battle to have the Church of Scientology recognised as a "place of meeting for religious worship"

A Scientology couple who won a landmark Supreme Court case to allow their wedding to be held in one of the controversial group’s chapels got married on Sunday.

Louisa Hodkin and Alessandro Calcioli, both 25, declared that their “happy day” was the culmination of a “long, five-year battle to achieve a simple freedom - the right to marry in our own church”. It was the first wedding in a Scientology chapel in England.

The judges’ ruling in December said that the chapel should be registered as a place where marriages could take place because “Scientology comes within the meaning of a religion” – a decision that could have significant ramifications as religions can seek charitable status and tax exemptions.

A government source said at the time that the ruling could “open the floodgates” to other groups claiming to be religions for tax purposes.

The Church, founded by American science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard, said on Sunday that this would be “the first of many weddings” and that people living overseas were planning to come to London to get married.

The couple, from East Grinstead, where Scientology’s UK headquarters are based, said in a statement that “all weddings should be magical and momentous for the couple concerned”.

“But we are conscious that ours, as the first for our religion in England, has its own place in history,” they said.

“It has been a long, five-year battle to achieve a simple freedom - the right to marry in our own church with a service in accordance with the rites and customs of our religion and surrounded by our friends and family.

“We are pleased and proud that our victory brings to an end inequality and unfairness, not just for Scientologists, but for people of all faiths - because the Supreme Court have now provided a definitive description of what a religion is, which had not existed before in English law.

“We would like to thank everyone who has sent us their good wishes. We are naturally extremely excited.”

Prior to the court case, the registrar general of births, deaths and marriages had refused to register the London Church Chapel for the solemnisation of marriages under the 1855 Places of Worship Registration Act - because it was not a place for “religious worship” as Scientology does not believe in a supreme deity. The Supreme Court’s ruling said religions did not necessarily need to believe in a god-like figure.

The Church of Scientology – dismissed by some as a money-making cult – said it was “delighted” that the couple were able to marry in “their church in front of their family and fellow parishioners”.

“They have paved the way for other Scientologist couples,” it said in a statement. “We extend our congratulations to the happy couple and wish them well in their future life together. This is an historic day for religious equality and freedom for all in the UK.”

A spokesman declined to comment about the church’s intentions over its charitable status, saying Sunday was “all about celebrating a wedding and we’re not thinking beyond that right now”.

“However I have no doubt that this is the first of many weddings! I know of several queuing up already,” he said. “I’ve even heard of people overseas wanting to come back to London to be married in the London chapel.”

David Hodkin, the bride’s brother, was married at the Church of Scientology in Edinburgh, after Scientology ministers were authorised to perform wedding ceremonies by the Scottish registrar general in 2007.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea