|Religions by country|
A state religion (also called an official religion, established church or state church) is a religious body or creed officially endorsed by the state. A state with an official religion, while not secular, is not necessarily a theocracy.
The term state church is associated with Christianity, historically the state church of the Roman Empire, and is sometimes used to denote a specific modern national branch of Christianity. Closely related to state churches are what sociologists call ecclesiae, though the two are slightly different.
State religions are official or government-sanctioned establishments of a religion, but neither does the state need be under the control of the church (as in a theocracy), nor is the state-sanctioned church necessarily under the control of the state.
The institution of state-sponsored religious cults is ancient, reaching into the Ancient Near East and prehistory. The relation of religious cult and the state was discussed by Varro, under the term of theologia civilis ("civic theology"). The first state-sponsored Christian church was the Armenian Apostolic Church, established in 301 AD.
The degree and nature of state backing for denomination or creed designated as a state religion can vary. It can range from mere endorsement and financial support, with freedom for other faiths to practice, to prohibiting any competing religious body from operating and to persecuting the followers of other sects. In Europe, competition between Catholic and Protestant denominations for state sponsorship in the 16th century evolved the principle cuius regio eius religio ("states follow the religion of the ruler") embodied in the text of the treaty that marked the Peace of Augsburg, 1555. In England, Henry VIII broke with Rome in 1534, being declared the "Supreme Head on earth of the Church of England", the official religion of England continued to be "Catholicism withouty the Pope" until after his death in 1547, while in Scotland the Church of Scotland opposed the religion of the ruler.
In some communist states, notably in North Korea and Cuba, the state sponsors religious organizations, and activities outside those state-sponsored religious organizations are met with various degrees of official disapproval. In these cases, state religions are widely seen as efforts by the state to prevent alternate sources of authority.
There is also a difference between a "state church" and the broader term of "state religion". A "state church" is a state religion created by a state for use exclusively by that state. An example of a "state religion" that's not also a "state church", is Roman Catholicism in Costa Rica which was accepted as the state religion in the 1949 Constitution, despite the lack of a national church. In the case of a "state church", the state has absolute control over the church, but in the case of a "state religion", the church is ruled by an exterior body (in the case of Catholicism, the Vatican has control over the church). In either case, the official state religion has some influence over the ruling of the state. As of 2012, there are only six state churches left, as most countries which once featured state churches have separated church and state.
Disestablishment is the process of depriving a church of its status as an organ of the state. Opponents of disestablishment are known as "antidisestablishmentarians".
The following states recognize some form of Christianity as their state or official religion (by denomination):
Jurisdictions which recognize Catholicism as their state or official religion:
A number of countries, including Andorra, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal and Spain give special recognition to Catholicism in their constitutions despite not making it the state religion.
Jurisdictions which recognize one of the Eastern Orthodox Churches as their state religion:
The Finnish Orthodox Church is not the state religion of Finland but has a special relationship with the Finnish state. The internal structure of the church is described in the Orthodox Church Act. The church has a power to tax its members and corporations if a majority of shareholders are members. The church does not consider itself a state church, as the state does not have the authority to affect its internal workings or theology.
Jurisdictions which recognize a Lutheran church as their state religion include the Nordic countries. Membership is very high among the general population, however the amount of actively participating members and believers is considerably lower than in many other countries with similar membership statistics. Furthermore, all of these churches have lately seen decline in the fraction of the population being members.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland has a special relationship with the Finnish state, its internal structure being described in a special law, the Church Act. The Church Act can be amended only by a decision of the synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and subsequent ratification by the Parliament of Finland. The Church Act is protected by the Finnish Constitution and the state can not change the Church Act without changing the constitution. The church has a power to tax its members and all corporations unless a majority of shareholders are members of the Finnish Orthodox Church. The state collects these taxes for the church, for a fee. On the other hand, the church is required to give a burial place for everyone in its graveyards. (77.2% of population members at the end of 2011). The President of the Republic of Finland also decides the themes for intercession days. The church does not consider itself a state church, as the Finnish state does not have the power to influence its internal workings or its theology, although it has a veto in those changes of the internal structure which require changing the Church Act. Neither does the Finnish state accord any precedence to Lutherans or the Lutheran faith in its own acts.
Sweden relegated their state church, Church of Sweden, to a national church in 2000. In late 2011 the Church of Sweden had 68.8% of the population as its members in 2011 although only around 20% of the Swedish population believes in any religion. Memberships are high because until 1996 membership was compulsory, all born before 1996 have to actively leave the church.
Jurisdictions which recognize a Reformed church as their state religion:
The Church of Scotland is recognized as the national church of Scotland, but is not a state church and thus differs from the Church of England. Its constitution, which is recognised by acts of the British Parliament, gives it complete independence from the state in spiritual matters.
At the cantonal state level in Switzerland, of 26 Swiss cantons, 24 give official recognition to both the Roman Catholic Church and the Swiss Reformed Church. The Cantons of Geneva and Neuchâtel have no state recognized church. At the federal state level, Switzerland has no official religion.
Jurisdictions that recognise an Anglican church as their state religion:
The Church of England is the officially established religious institution in England, and also the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. It is the only established Anglican Church. The British monarch is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and is Defender of the Faith. In 19th century England there was a campaign by Liberals, dissenters and nonconformists to disestablish the Church of England, even when most of its privileges had been removed by Parliament. The campaigners styled themselves "Liberationists" (the "Liberation Society" was founded by Edward Miall in 1853). Though their campaign failed, nearly all of the legal disabilities of nonconformists were gradually dismantled. The campaign for disestablishment was revived in the 20th century when Parliament rejected the 1929 revision of the Book of Common Prayer, leading to calls for separation of Church and State to prevent political interference in matters of worship.
Lords Spiritual, who are the 26 most senior Archbishops and Bishops in the Church are reserved seats in Parliament in the House of Lords. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop of York, Bishop of London, Bishop of Durham, and the Bishop of Winchester sit automatically with the 21 longest-serving Bishops.
Governments which recognize Buddhism, either a specific form of, or the whole, as their official religion:
The constitution in Sri Lanka accords Buddhism the "foremost place," However, Buddhism is not recognized as the state religion.
Likewise, in Thailand, the 2007 Thai constitution recognized Buddhism as "the religion of Thai tradition with the most adherents" However, it is not formally named as state religion.
Israel is defined in several of its laws as a "Jewish and democratic state" (medina yehudit ve-demokratit). However, the term "Jewish" is a polyseme that can relate equally to the Jewish people or religion (see: Who is a Jew?). The debate about the meaning of the term Jewish and its legal and social applications is one of the most profound issues with which Israeli society deals.
At present, there is no specific law or official statement establishing the Jewish religion as the state's religion. However, the State of Israel supports religious institutions, particularly Orthodox Jewish ones, and recognizes the "religious communities" as carried over from those recognized under the British Mandate. These are: Jewish and Christian (Eastern Orthodox, Latin [Catholic], Gregorian-Armenian, Armenian-Catholic, Syrian [Catholic], Chaldean [Uniate], Greek Catholic Melkite, Maronite, and Syrian Orthodox). The fact that the Muslim population was not defined as a religious community is a vestige of the Ottoman period during which Islam was the dominant religion and does not affect the rights of the Muslim community to practice their faith. At the end of the period covered by this report, several of these denominations were pending official government recognition; however, the Government has allowed adherents of not officially recognized groups freedom to practice. In 1961, legislation gave Muslim Shari'a courts exclusive jurisdiction in matters of personal status. Three additional religious communities have subsequently been recognized by Israeli law – the Druze (prior under Islamic jurisdiction), the Evangelical Episcopal Church, and the Bahá'í. These groups have their own religious courts as official state courts for personal status matters (see millet system).
The structure and goals of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel are governed by Israeli law, but the law does not say explicitly that it is a state Rabbinate. However, outspoken Israeli secularists such as Shulamit Aloni and Uri Avnery have long maintained that it is that in practice. Non-recognition of other streams of Judaism such as Reform Judaism and Conservative Judaism is the cause of some controversy; rabbis belonging to these currents are not recognized as such by state institutions and marriages performed by them are not recognized as valid. As of 2011[update] marriage in Israel provides no provision for civil marriage, marriage between people of different religions, marriages by people who do not belong to one of nine recognised religious communities, or same-sex marriages, although there is recognition of marriages performed abroad.
The concept of state religions was known as long ago as the empires of Egypt and Sumer, when every city state or people had its own god or gods. Many of the early Sumerian rulers were priests of their patron city god. Some of the earliest semi-mythological kings may have passed into the pantheon, like Dumuzid, and some later kings came to be viewed as divine soon after their reigns, like Sargon the Great of Akkad. One of the first rulers to be proclaimed a god during his actual reign was Gudea of Lagash, followed by some later kings of Ur, such as Shulgi. Often, the state religion was integral to the power base of the reigning government, such as in Egypt, where Pharaohs were often thought of as embodiments of the god Horus.
Zoroastrianism was the state religion of the Sassanid dynasty which lasted until 651, when Persia was conquered by the forces of Islam. However, it persisted as the state religion of the independent state of Hyrcania until the 15th century.
The tiny kingdom of Adiabene in northern Mesopotamia converted to Judaism around 34 AD.
Many of the Greek city-states also had a 'god' or 'goddess' associated with that city. This would not be the 'only god' of the city, but the one that received special honors. In ancient Greece the city of Athens had Athena, Sparta had Ares, Delphi had Apollo and Artemis, Olympia had Zeus, Corinth had Poseidon and Thebes had Demeter.
In Rome, the office of Pontifex Maximus came to be reserved for the Emperor, who was often declared a god posthumously, or sometimes during his reign. Failure to worship the Emperor as a god was at times punishable by death, as the Roman government sought to link emperor worship with loyalty to the Empire. Many Christians and Jews were subject to persecution, torture and death in the Roman Empire, because it was against their beliefs to worship the Emperor.
In 311, Emperor Galerius, on his deathbed, declared a religious indulgence to Christians throughout the Roman Empire, focusing on the ending of anti-Christian persecution. Constantine I and Licinius, the two Augusti, by the Edict of Milan of 313, enacted a law allowing religious freedom to everyone within the Roman Empire. Furthermore, the Edict of Milan cited that Christians may openly practice their religion unmolested and unrestricted, and provided that properties taken from Christians be returned to them unconditionally. Although the Edict of Milan allowed religious freedom throughout the Empire, it did not abolish nor disestablish the Roman state cult (Roman polytheistic paganism). The Edict of Milan was written in such a way as to implore the blessings of the deity.
Constantine called up the First Council of Nicaea in 325, although he was not a baptised Christian until years later. Despite enjoying considerable popular support, Christianity was still not the official state religion in Rome, although it was in some neighboring states such as Armenia and Aksum.
Catholic Christianity, as opposed to Arianism and other ideologies deemed heretical, was declared to be the state religion of the Roman Empire on 27 February 380 by the decree De Fide Catolica of Emperor Theodosius I.
In China, the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) advocated Confucianism as the de facto state religion, establishing tests based on Confucian texts as an entrance requirement into government service-although, in fact, the "Confucianism" advocated by the Han emperors may be more properly termed a sort of Confucian Legalism or "State Confucianism". This sort of Confucianism continued to be regarded by the emperors, with a few notable exceptions, as a form of state religion from this time until the overthrow of the imperial system of government in 1911. Note however, there is a debate over whether Confucianism (including Neo-confucianism) is a religion or purely a philosophical system.
From the Meiji era to the first part of the Showa era, Koshitsu Shinto was established in Japan as the national religion. According to this, the Emperor of Japan was an arahitogami, an incarnate divinity and the offspring of goddess Amaterasu. As the Emperor was, according to the constitution, "head of the empire" and "supreme commander of the Army and the Navy", every Japanese citizen had to obey his will and show absolute loyalty.
A state that does not profess a state religion is known as a "Secular state".
|Anhalt||Evangelical State Church of Anhalt||united Protestant||1918|
|Armenia||Armenian Apostolic Church||Oriental Orthodox||1921|
|Austria||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1918|
|Baden||Roman Catholic Church and the United Evangelical Protestant State Church of Baden||Catholic and united Protestant||1918|
|Bavaria||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1918|
|Bolivia||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||2009|
|Brazil||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1890|
|Brunswick||Evangelical Lutheran State Church in Brunswick||Lutheran||1918|
|Bulgaria||Bulgarian Orthodox Church||Eastern Orthodox||1946|
|Chile||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1925|
|Cuba||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1902|
|Cyprus||Cypriot Orthodox Church||Eastern Orthodox||1977 with the death of the Ethnarch Makarios III|
|Czechoslovakia||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1920|
|Denmark||Church of Denmark||Lutheran||no|
|England||Church of England||Anglican||no|
|Ethiopia||Ethiopian Orthodox Church||Oriental Orthodox||1974|
|Finland||Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland||Lutheran||1869|
|France||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1905|
|Georgia||Georgian Orthodox Church||Eastern Orthodox||1921|
|Greece||Greek Orthodox Church||Eastern Orthodox||no|
|Guatemala||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1871|
|Haiti||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1987|
|Hesse||Evangelical Church in Hesse||uniting Lutheran, Reformed and united Protestants||1918|
|Hungary||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1946|
|Iceland||Lutheran Evangelical Church||Lutheran||no|
|Ireland||Church of Ireland||Anglican||1871|
|Italy||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||18 February 1984 (into force 25 April 1985)|
|Liechtenstein||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||no|
|Lippe||Church of Lippe||Reformed||1918|
|Lithuania||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1940|
|Lübeck||Evangelical Lutheran Church in the State of Lübeck||Lutheran||1918|
|Luxembourg||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||?|
|Republic of Macedonia||Macedonian Orthodox Church||Eastern Orthodox||1921|
|Malta||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||no|
|Mecklenburg-Schwerin||Evangelical Lutheran State Church of Mecklenburg-Schwerin||Lutheran||1918|
|Mecklenburg-Strelitz||Mecklenburg-Strelitz State Church||Lutheran||1918|
|Mexico||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1874|
|Monaco||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||no|
|Netherlands||Dutch Reformed Church||Reformed||1795|
|Norway||Church of Norway||Lutheran||no|
|Oldenburg||Evangelical Lutheran Church of Oldenburg||Lutheran||1918|
|Panama||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1904|
|Paraguay||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1992|
|Philippines||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1898|
|Poland||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1947|
|Portugal||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1910, 1976 (Reestablished between 1933 and 1974).|
pre 1866 provinces
|Evangelical State Church of Prussia's older Provinces with nine ecclesiastical provinces||uniting Lutheran, Reformed and united Protestants||1918|
Province of Hanover
|Evangelical Reformed State Church of the Province of Hanover||Reformed||1918|
Province of Hanover
|Evangelical Lutheran State Church of Hanover||Lutheran||1918|
Province of Hesse-Nassau (partially)
|Evangelical State Church of Frankfurt upon Main||uniting Lutheran, Reformed and united Protestants||1918|
Province of Hesse-Nassau (partially)
|Evangelical Church of Electoral Hesse||uniting Lutheran, Reformed and united Protestants||1918|
Province of Hesse-Nassau (partially)
|Evangelical State Church in Nassau||united Protestant||1918|
Prov. of Schleswig-Holstein
|Evangelical Lutheran Church of Schleswig-Holstein||Lutheran||1918|
|Quebec||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1960|
|Romania||Romanian Orthodox Church||Eastern Orthodox||1947|
|Russia||Russian Orthodox Church||Eastern Orthodox||1917|
|Thuringia||church bodies in principalities which merged in Thuringia in 1920||Lutheran||1918|
|Saxony||Evangelical Lutheran State Church of Saxony||Lutheran||1918|
|Schaumburg-Lippe||Evangelical State Church of Schaumburg-Lippe||Lutheran||1918|
|Scotland||Church of Scotland||Presbyterian||State control disclaimed since 1638. Formally recognised as not an established church in 1921|
|Serbia||Serbian Orthodox Church||Eastern||1921|
|Spain||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1978|
|Sweden||Church of Sweden||Lutheran||2000|
|Switzerland||none since the adoption of the Federal Constitution (1848)||n/a||n/a|
|Uruguay||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1919|
|United States||none since 1776 which was made explicit in the Bill of Rights in 1792||none||n/a; some state legislatures required all citizens in those states to be members of a church, and some had official churches, such as Congregationalism in some New England states such as Massachusetts. This eventually ended in 1833 when Massachusetts was the last state to disestablish its church.|
|Waldeck||Evangelical State Church of Waldeck and Pyrmont||uniting Lutheran and Reformed Protestants||1918|
|Wales||Church in Wales||Anglican||1920|
|Württemberg||Evangelical State Church in Württemberg||Lutheran||1918|
|Georgia||Church of England/Episcopal Church||1789|
|Maryland||Church of England/Episcopal Church||1776|
|New Brunswick||Church of England|
|Newfoundland||Church of England|
|North Carolina||Church of England/Episcopal Church||The North Carolina Constitution of 1776 disestablished the Anglican church, but until 1835 the NC Constitution allowed only Protestants to hold public office. From 1835–1876 it allowed only Christians (including Catholics) to hold public office. Article VI, Section 8 of the current NC Constitution forbids "any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God" from holding public office. Such clauses were held by the United States Supreme Court to be unenforceable in the 1961 case of Torcaso v. Watkins, when the court ruled unanimously that such clauses constituted a religious test incompatible with First and Fourteenth Amendment protections.|
|Nova Scotia||Church of England||1850|
|Prince Edward Island||Church of England|
|South Carolina||Church of England/Episcopal Church||1790|
|Canada West||Church of England||1854|
|West Florida||Church of England/Episcopal Church||1783|
|East Florida||Church of EnglandEpiscopal Church||1783|
|Virginia||Church of England/Episcopal Church||1786|
|West Indies||Church of England||1868 (Barbados, not until 1969)|
In both cases, these areas were disestablished and dissolved, yet their presences were tolerated by the Anglo-American government, as Foreign Protestants, whose communities were expected to observe their own ways without causing controversy or conflict for the prevalent colonists. After the Revolution, their ethno-religious backgrounds were chiefly sought as the most compatible non-British Isles immigrants.
The State of Deseret was a provisional state of the United States, proposed in 1849 by Mormon settlers in Salt Lake City. The provisional state existed for slightly over two years, but attempts to gain recognition by the United States government foundered for various reasons. The Utah Territory which was then founded was under Mormon control, and repeated attempts to gain statehood met resistance, in part due to concerns over the principle of separation of church and state conflicting with the practice of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of placing their highest value on "following counsel" in virtually all matters relating to their church-centered lives. The state of Utah was eventually admitted to the union on 4 January 1896, after the various issues had been resolved.
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