Henning v Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtHouse of Lords
JudgeLord Reid,Lord Evershed,Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest,Lord Devlin,Lord Pearce
Judgment Date30 May 1963
Judgment citation (vLex)[1963] UKHL J0530-1

[1963] UKHL J0530-1

House of Lords

Lord Reid

Lord Evershed

Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest

Lord Devlin

Lord Pearce

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Henning (Valuation Officer)

Upon Report from the Appellate Committee, to whom was referred the Cause Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints against Henning (Valuation Officer), that the Committee had heard Counsel, as well on Wednesday the 27th, as on Thursday the 28th, days of March last, upon the Petition and Appeal of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, of 50 Prince's Gate, Exhibition Road, London, S.W.7, praying, That the matter of the Order set forth in the Schedule thereto, namely, an Order of Her Majesty's Court of Appeal of the 10th of July 1962, might be reviewed before Her Majesty the Queen, in Her Court of Parliament, and that the said Order might be reversed, varied or altered, or that the Petitioners might have such other relief in the premises as to Her Majesty the Queen, in Her Court of Parliament, might seem meet; as also upon the Case of William Sydney Henning (Valuation Officer), lodged in answer to the said Appeal; and due consideration had this day of what was offered on either side in this Cause:

It is Ordered and Adjudged, by the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in the Court of Parliament of Her Majesty the Queen assembled, That the said Order of Her Majesty's Court of Appeal, of the 10th day of July 1962, complained of in the said Appeal be, and the same is hereby, Affirmed, and that the said Petition and Appeal be, and the same is hereby, dismissed this House: And it is further Ordered, That the Appellants do pay, or cause to be paid, to the said Respondent the Costs incurred by him in respect of the said Appeal, the amount thereof to be certified by the Clerk of the Parliaments.

Lord Reid

My Lords,


I have had an opportunity of reading the speech about to be delivered by my noble and learned friend, Lord Pearce. I agree with it and I shall therefore move that this appeal should be dismissed.

Lord Evershed

My Lords,


I have found the problem presented by this case to be one of extreme difficulty and though, in the end, I have not come to a conclusion different from that entertained by the rest of your Lordships, I have felt grave doubts upon the matter. The result of this appeal will, of course, be that although no rates are, I understand, levied in respect of any of the chapels of that accepted branch of the Christian faith known as the Mormon, rates will be exigible in respect of their Temple at Godstone; and this result emerges from the use of the phrase "place of public religious worship" in the Rating and Valuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1955. I confess that I am not for myself satisfied that such was in truth the legislative intention and I accordingly state my doubts and the reasons for them in case the matter should at some time come up for further consideration in Parliament.


The problem is capable of simple—deceptively simple, as it seems to me—formulation; for it is confined to the proper sense and meaning to be given to the phrase already mentioned "place of public religious worship" in section 7 of the 1955 Act. The phrase occurs four times in the section—three times in the singular and once (in subsection (2) ( a) of the vital paragraph for present purposes) in the plural. It is, however, as I conceive, clear that nothing in the particular contexts in which the phrase occurs can be regarded as determining the true intent of the epithet "public" as applied to the noun which follows, namely, "worship".


My Lords, I have had the advantage of reading in advance the speech prepared by Lord Pearce and I do not therefore make any restatement of the facts. It is sufficient for me to say that the Temple at Godstone in Surrey which is the subject of the present appeal is the only religious edifice of its kind in England, and that for the services performed therein only those members of the Mormon Church who are in possession of a "recommend" of the local Bishop endorsed by the Temple President are admitted. No other person, whether a member of the Mormon Church or not, is permitted to enter the Temple whether for the purpose of taking part in or observing the services or for the purposes of seeing the interior of the Temple. It cannot, therefore, be in doubt that if by the use of the epithet "public" in the phrase "public religious worship" is meant that the services are open to the general public in the same sense as that intended by the use of the word "public" in relation to a park or a theatrical or other similar entertainment, the Appellants fail to satisfy the requirement of the subsection for exemption from rating liability. But according to the ordinary sense of the word, does "public" have this significance when applied to such a matter as "religious worship"? What in such a context is meant by the word "worship"? I am content to take the relevant meaning given in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary, namely, "the actions or practices of displaying reverence or veneration to a being regarded as Divine by appropriate … rites or ceremonies"; and it must be essential to the participation of any worshipper that his words and actions are addressed and directed to the Diety. If this be right, then the rites or ceremonies, the "worship" which they constitute, are in no true sense addressed to or directed to "the public", nor would the presence of any member of "the public" if admitted to the Temple be in any sense relevant to the true intent and purpose of the "worship". There is, therefore, as it has seemed to me, a strong case for the view that by the phrase "public religious worship" is meant and intended forms or ceremonies of worship distinct from "private religious worship", namely, the religious devotions which a man may offer up in the privacy of his bedroom or which are confined to the members of a family or household. In the latter case the worship is conducted alone or in the intimate presence only of the worshipper's family or household. By contrast in "public religious worship" the individual worshippers may come from widely different places and may be personally entirely unknown to one another. In other words, there is, as it has seemed to me, a strong case (as a matter of language) for the contrast expressed by Goddard, J., as he then was, in the case of Cole v. Police Constable 443 A [1937] 1 K.B. 316 at p. 334:

"… congregational worship, as distinct from private and family devotion".


I think, further, that substantial support is lent to this view by two considerations. The first such consideration is this. The present Rating Act of 1955 requires that, in order to qualify for exemption from rating, the places of "public religious worship" must also be "certified as required by law as places of religious worship". The latter part of the requirement involves reference to the Act 18 & 19 Vict. c. 81 known as the Places of Worship Registration Act, 1855, which enables every place of meeting for religious worship not appertaining to the established church and not certified under the Act 52 Geo. III c. 155 to be certified in writing to the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages in England. The Temple in the present case has been so certified; but it does not, of course, follow from the terms of the 1855 Act that it is therefore to be regarded as a place of public religious worship. I observe, however, the reference to the Act of 1812, 52 Geo. III c. 155. The predecessor of the Rating Act of 1955 was the Poor Rate Exemption Act. 1833, 3 & 4 William IV c. 30. Prior to the passing of that Act, although it appears that in practice places of worship belonging to the Established Church had not been rated, the exemption did not apply to places of worship of other religious denominations. The Act of 1833 was passed pursuant to the then current principle of religious toleration. Its terms were, save in one important respect, akin to those of the Act of 1955. Exemption from rating was granted "for or in respect of any churches … meeting houses or premises or such part thereof as shall be exclusively appropriated to public religious worship and which" (other than premises of the established church) "shall be duly certified for the performance of such religious worship according to the provision of any Act or Acts now in force". As Mr. Gardiner forcibly observed in opening the case before your Lordships, the phrase "such religious worship" can in the context have no other meaning than "public religious worship". The relevant Act then in force was the Act of 1812, 52 Geo. Ill c. 155, already referred to and mentioned in the Places of Worship Registration Act, 1855. By section 2 of the 1812 Act it was (stating the matter briefly) provided that no congregation or assembly for religious worship of protestants at which more than twenty persons (other than the immediate family and servants of the owner of the premises) should participate should be permitted unless and until the place of such meeting should have been certified as therein provided. Reading together the relevant terms of the Acts of 1833 and 1812, there is at the least much support for the view that by "public religious worship" in the former Act was meant religious ceremonies of the kind indicated in the Act of 1812, that is to say, ceremonies at which the participants numbered more than twenty persons other than the immediate family and servants of the owner of the premises and that the admissibility of members of the public to the ceremonies was not regarded as relevant or as constituting the test for their qualification in "public religious worship".


I do not forget that section 11 of the Act of 1812 (which I understand to be still in force) made it an offence to hold any form of religious meeting behind locked doors—a provision, as my noble friend, Lord Pearce,...

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8 cases
  • Attorney General v British Broadcasting Corporation
    • United Kingdom
    • House of Lords
    • 12 June 1980
    ...House in considering a similar question relating to the Mormon church in Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v. Henning [1964] A.C. 420 decided that the Mormon chapels in which religious services took place and were open to the public were relieved from the payment of rates but that......
  • Gallagher v Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
    • United Kingdom
    • House of Lords
    • 30 July 2008
    ...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......
  • Attorney General v British Broadcasting Corporation
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 11 April 1979
    ...A Mormon temple was held not to qualify for relief but their chapels did, see Henning's case (1962) 1 Weekly Law Reports 1091, (1964) Appeal Cases 420. 5 On the 26th September, 1976 the B.B.C. showed a television broadcast entitled "Anno Domini-Brethren". We have been supplied wit......
  • Esso Petroleum Company Ltd v Ministry of Defence
    • United Kingdom
    • Chancery Division
    • 28 July 1989
    ...v. Norwich Crematorium Ltd. WLR[1967] 1 W.L.R. 691 Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v. Henning (Valuation Officer) ELR[1964] A.C. 420 Clerical, Medical and General Life Assurance Society v. Carter (Surveyor of Taxes) TAX(1889) 2 T.C. 437 I.R. Commrs. v. Bew Estates Ltd. TAX(1956)......
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