Thursday, October 25, 2012

What is a "place of worship?"

A member of the Church of Scientology in England is challenging a law that she cannot be married in a Scientology chapel.  See the article here; for more on the legal side, see here. According to a law from 1855, a chapel has to be registered as a place of religious worship for religious marriages performed therein to be accepted by the state.  However, her Scientology chapel is not certified as a place of worship but instead is recognized as a place where instructions are concerned with man but are not religious worship.

This story reveals just another one of those ways in which religion is regulated.  People can participate in Scientology activities, but the state has decided which of those activities to recognize as legally significant.  The state must decide what is and what is not religion.  As discussed in class, this is a trick question for scholars to resolve, and it is here leading to contention in the courts.

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