Gallagher v Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtHouse of Lords
Judgment Date30 July 2008
Neutral Citation[2008] UKHL 56
Date30 July 2008

[2008] UKHL 56


Appellate Committee

Lord Hoffmann

Lord Hope of Craighead

Lord Scott of Foscote

Lord Carswell

Lord Mance

Gallagher (Valuation Officer)
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


Jonathan Sumption QC

Richard Glover

(Instructed by Devonshires)


Timothy Mould QC

Daniel Kolinsky

(Instructed by HM Revenue & Customs Solicitors Office)

Intervener (Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government)

Philip Sales QC

Tim Ward

(Instructed by Treasury Solicitors)


My Lords,


This appeal concerns the assessability for non-domestic rating of a group of buildings belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon Church) in the Borough of Chorley in Lancashire. The largest and most imposing is the Temple, which stands 48m high and has 6306m 2 of internal floor space on five floors. It is fully air conditioned and is fitted and finished both externally and internally to the highest standards. In addition, in proximity to the Temple, there are (i) the Stake Centre, a single storey building containing a space of 1227m 2 divided by a moveable partition into a chapel and a multi-purpose hall, together with a number of small meeting rooms, an office and a baptistery (ii) the Missionary Training Centre, a three storey building containing class rooms, dormitory rooms, cafeteria and ancillary rooms, as well as the President's flat, which is subject to council tax (iii) the Patrons' Services Building, a small (523m 2) single storey building containing a reception area for visitors, a section which sells Church literature and a section for genealogical research by and on behalf of church members (iv) the Grounds Building, a small (287.8m 2) single storey building which houses machinery and equipment used for the maintenance of the grounds and all the buildings on the site. It also contains a workshop area, garage and plant room, including the air conditioning unit for the Temple (v) the Patrons' Accommodation, a two storey building housing 35 bedroom and bathroom suites and ancillary rooms for members of the Church who are visiting the Temple and including a caretaker's flat which is subject to council tax (vi) the Temple Missionaries' Accommodation, a two storey building containing 20 self-contained flats, each of which is subject to council tax. I shall in due course say more about the use of these buildings.


Hereditaments which count as domestic and are subject to council tax are of course excluded from liability for non-domestic rates and the Valuation Officer therefore excluded from assessment the flats subject to council tax (including the whole of the Temple Missionaries Accommodation). Nothing more need be said about them. The dispute is over whether all but one of the other buildings are entitled to exemption under the following provisions of paragraph 11 of Schedule 5 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 (as amended), which appear under the heading "Places of religious worship, etc":

"(1) A hereditament is exempt to the extent that it consists of any of the following —

(a) a place of public religious worship which belongs to the Church of England or the Church in Wales …or is for the time being certified as required by law as a place of religious worship;

(b) a church hall, chapel hall or similar building used in connection with a place falling within paragraph (a) above for the purposes of the organisation responsible for the conduct of public religious worship in that place.

(2) A hereditament is exempt to the extent that it is occupied by an organisation responsible for the conduct of public religious worship in a place falling within sub-paragraph (1)(a) above and —

(a) is used for carrying out administrative or other activities relating to the organisation of the conduct of public religious worship in such a place; or

(b) is used as an office or for office purposes, or for purposes ancillary to its use as an office or for office purposes.

(3) In this paragraph 'office purposes' include administration, clerical work and handling money; and 'clerical work' includes writing, book-keeping, sorting papers or information, filing, typing, duplicating, calculating (by whatever means), drawing and the editorial preparation of matter for publication."


The Valuation Officer accepted that the Stake Centre, with its chapel, associated hall and ancillary rooms, was a "place of public religious worship" which was entitled to exemption under paragraph 1(a) or (b). But he rejected the claims for exemption in respect of the other buildings.


The chief dispute is over whether the Temple is a "place of public religious worship" within the meaning of paragraph 1(a), although the Church submits in the alternative that it is a "a church hall, chapel hall or similar building used in connection with a place falling within paragraph (a)" within the meaning of sub-paragraph (b), the place falling within (a) being the Stake Centre.


The Valuation Officer's case is extremely simple. He says that the Temple is not a place of "public religious worship" because it is not open to the public. It is not even open to all Mormons. The right of entry is reserved to members who have acquired a "recommend" from the bishop after demonstrating belief in Mormon doctrine, an appropriate way of life and payment of the required contribution to church funds. Such members are called Patrons and the rituals which take place in the Temple are exclusive to them. These facts are agreed.


Mr Sumption QC, in an argument deployed with great skill and learning, submitted that a "place of public religious worship" did not have to be open to the public. Read in its historical context (the phrase first appeared in the Poor Rate Exemption Act 1833 and has been carried over into subsequent rating legislation) the statute required only what has been called "congregational worship", that is to say, the assembly of a congregation whose association is solely for the purpose of joining in worship and not because they have private links such as being members of the same family, school or college: see Goddard J in Cole v Police Constable 443A [1937] 1 KB 316, 334. The fact that the services of the Church of England were open to the public did not mean that the legislation was intended to impose the same pattern upon everyone else. A construction which did not require conformity to the practice of the Established Church would be more ecumenical and in accordance with the spirit of the age.


Mr Sumption pointed out the difficulties and anomalies which might arise if public access were insisted upon: some religions segregated the sexes and others excluded the public from parts of the building such as the sanctuary of an Eastern Orthodox Church. There was no rational basis for the requirement of access by non-participants in the services and the law accepted that religious institutions could provide the necessary public benefit to qualify as religious charities even if their premises were not open to the public. If they could qualify for the purpose of charity law, why not for rating?


These arguments were extremely interesting but the difficulty for the appellants is that this very point was decided more than 40 years ago by this House in Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v Henning (Valuation Officer) [1964] AC 420. The case concerned the Mormon Temple at Godstone and the question was whether it was exempt from rates as a "place of public religious worship" within the meaning of section 7(2)(a) of the Rating and Valuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1955, which was the relevant legislation then in force. The House, affirming a unanimous Court of Appeal (Lord Denning MR, Donovan and Pearson LJJ) [1962] 1 WLR 1091, held that the words could not apply to places used for religious worship from which the public was excluded. Lord Evershed alone showed some sympathy for the construction now advanced by Mr Sumption, but did not carry his opinion to the point of dissent, saying that he had stated his doubts in case the matter should again be considered by Parliament. No doubt the House did not have the benefit of all the arguments advanced to your Lordships by Mr Sumption, but there is no doubt that the question was squarely raised.


Lord Pearce, who gave the leading opinion, said (at pp. 440-441) that Parliament was entitled to take the view that religious services which were open to the public provided a public benefit which justified the exemption. No doubt the concept of public benefit in charity law was different, but it would be unwise to regard charity law as a paradigm of rationality (Lord Simonds, in Gilmour v Coats [1949] AC 426, 449A said that it had been built up "not logically but empirically").


Mr Sumption submitted that the House should depart from Henning's case or at any rate not apply its reasoning to Schedule 5 of the 1988 Act. It is true that since Henning's case [1964] AC 420, the exemption has been extended to buildings used for administrative purposes (paragraph 2(a), added by the 1988 Act) and office purposes (paragraph 2(b), added by the Local Government Finance Act 1992). So the current legislation is not the same as the statute which was construed in Henning's case. But the extensions are dependent upon the central concept of a "place of public worship": the administrative buildings must be used for purposes relating to the organisation of worship in such a place and the offices must be used by an organisation responsible for public worship in such a place. Although there is no rigid rule that words used in an Act of Parliament must be given the same construction as the courts have given those words in an earlier Act...

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