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Wedding party of Scientologists winds up in Queen's Park office

Title: Wedding party of Scientologists winds up in Queen's Park office
Date: Saturday, 9 November 1985
Publisher: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Author: Susan Delacourt
Main source:

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Earl Smith, president of the Toronto Church of Scientology, was married yesterday in a ceremony that is not considered legal in Ontario, and he used the occasion to push for having his church licenced to conduct marriages.

Immediately after their wedding, Mr. Smith and his bride, Elena Kristiansen, 27, headed for the offices of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations to plead that the Scientology ceremony be considered legal.

But the ministry is waiting for the outcome of a Supreme Court of Ontario case scheduled to be heard on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Mr. Smith says his church has a constitutional right to solemnize marriages and argues that the Ontario Government is denying it this right by refusing to licence Scientology ministers to conduct marriage ceremonies.

So, after his own wedding yesterday, Mr. Smith asked about 40 guests at the Scientology chapel on Yonge Street to sign a petition, which he and his wedding entourage took to the office of Consumer and Commercial Relations Minister Monte Kwinter.

They were greeted by Mr. Kwinter's executive assistant, Ken Rosenberg, and by Brad Nixon, senior policy adviser. Both men smiled, shook the couple's hands and promised to raise the issue with Mr. Kwinter, who had just left the office on his way to a trade mission in Israel.

Mr. Smith says his church has met the ministry's guidelines for recognition - including being in existence for more than 25 years - and the province cannot offer any reason for the six-year delay in granting it permission to perform legally recognized marriages.

The ministry would not comment on a matter that is before the courts, Mr. Rosenberg said.

Mr. Smith was pleased that Mr. Kwinter's staff saw him at all, and says this can be taken as a sign that the province is now willing to listen.

The Scientology church is hoping that it will have more luck with the Liberal Government than it had with the previous Progressive Conservative administration. The church has had an application for licencing filed with the province since 1979.

Ontario has never clearly stated its reason for not approving the application. The Scientologists, frustrated over government inaction, finally took the question to court.

The Scientology religion has been frequently labelled a cult in the more than 30 years since it was founded by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. But, in Australia, a high court decision recognized it as a religion.

In Canada, Scientology ministers are licenced to conduct marriage services in British Columbia and Manitoba, and individual Scientology ministers have received licences in Yukon and Nova Scotia.

Until Ontario gives its approval, ceremonies conducted by Scientology ministers in the province are not considered legal. Couples who want to be married in the church must either have a civil ceremony first or persuade a licenced minister to conduct a Scientologist service.

In fact, yesterday's marriage at the Scientology chapel is not considered legal, and unless approval were retroactive, Mr. Smith and Miss Kristiansen will have to go through the ceremony again if their church gets the permission it seeks.