British couple marry in Scientology chapel

Louisa Hodkin and Alessandro Calcioli outside the Supreme Court in London. Picture: PA
Louisa Hodkin and Alessandro Calcioli outside the Supreme Court in London. Picture: PA
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Two newlyweds have become the first couple in Britain to marry in a Church of Scientology chapel.

Louisa Hodkin and Alessandro Calcioli, both 25, walked down the aisle in the historic ceremony after winning a landmark legal battle at the Supreme Court to exchange vows at the church.

The court ruled that the chapel was a “place of meeting for religious worship”.

Dressed in a traditional white wedding dress and clutching a white and red bouquet of flowers, Louisa beamed as she emerged from the ceremony arm in arm with her new husband.

Guests applauded and threw confetti over the newly married couple from East Grinstead, West Sussex, as they walked out of the Church of Scientology in Blackfriars, London.

Asked how he felt after the wedding, Mr Calcioli said: “Just ecstatic – a little bit speechless, just so happy that this day has finally come.”

Earlier, the couple hailed their wedding as a “victory” over “inequality and unfairness”.

In a statement released ahead of yesterday’s nuptials, the couple said their wedding was a “momentous” day and the culmination of a five-year battle to have their religious rights recognised.

The couple said: “We are extremely happy to announce today our marriage at the Church of Scientology in Queen Victoria Street.

“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.

“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.”

The wedding was broadcast live on the couple’s website. The couple said they decided to share “this happy day” with the world on the internet, adding: “We would like to thank everyone who has sent us their good wishes. We are naturally extremely excited.”

Bride-to-be Miss Hodkin took legal action after the registrar general of births, deaths and marriages 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”.

Five Supreme Court justices upheld Miss Hodkin’s challenge following a hearing in London last July.

In their ruling they said the Church of Scientology held religious services, therefore its church was a “place of meeting for religious worship”.

A Church of Scientology spokesman said: “They have paved the way for other Scientologist couples.”

The Church of Scientology, set up by L Ron Hubbard in 1953, remains one of the most controversial new religious movements and has been called a cult. Critics claim its practices include brainwashing and harassing perceived enemies.

Scientologists believe souls (known as thetans) come from outer space to be reincarnated on Earth. Movie star Tom Cruise famously married Katie Holmes in a Scientology ceremony in 2006.