Scientology and exemption from rates: Church of Scientology v Ricketts (VO)

In The Church of Scientology Religious Education College Inc v Ricketts (VO) [2023] UKUT 1 (LC), the issue in the appeal was whether two buildings used by the Church of Scientology in London were exempt from non-domestic rating under the exemption covering places of public religious worship and related church premises. The key to the relevant exemption was that the hereditament concerned had to be, or include “a place of public religious worship” [1 & 2]. The Upper Tribunal noted that in R (Hodkin) v Registrar General [2013] UKSC 77, the Supreme Court had ruled that the Scientologists’ London chapel was a place of meeting for religious worship within the meaning of section 2 of the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855 and should be registered for the solemnisation of marriages under the Marriage Act 1949 [3]. Further:

“The question in Hodkin was simply whether the Scientology chapel was a place of meeting for religious worship. The Supreme Court did not have to consider whether that worship was public. Nor was it concerned with the uses of other parts of the building which contains the chapel.  Both are in issue in this appeal” [5].

The buildings in question were the London Church in Queen Victoria Street and the Information Centre near Goodge Street Underground Station.

The Church held a weekly Sunday service at the London Church to which entry was free of charge, and there was no collection. It held about 60 or 80 people, with others capable of being accommodated in the adjacent café area for large services such as weddings [17]. In addition to Sunday services and twice weekly graduation and testimony ceremonies, the chapel at the London Church was also used for weddings, funerals, naming ceremonies and ordinations, and a great deal of space at the London Church and at the Information Centre was given over to informing and educating visitors about Scientology [28 & 28].

The Tribunal noted that, though the church premises was registered under the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855, in order to be exempt from rating a building must additionally be a place of public religious worship [50], citing Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v Henning [1964] AC 420, Broxtowe v Birch [1983] 1 WLR 314 and Gallagher v Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints [2008] 1 WLR 1852.

The Tribunal concluded that some parts of each of the two buildings were exempt and others were not, depending on the uses to which they were put [144]. [With thanks to Elijah Z Granet.]

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "Scientology and exemption from rates: Church of Scientology v Ricketts (VO)" in Law & Religion UK, 10 January 2023, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2023/01/10/scientology-and-exemption-from-rates-church-of-scientology-v-ricketts-vo/

1 thought on “Scientology and exemption from rates: Church of Scientology v Ricketts (VO)

  1. Pingback: Law and religion round-up – 22nd January | Law & Religion UK

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *