A state religion (also called an established religion, state church, established church, or official religion) 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 – a country whose rulers have in their hands both secular and spiritual authority.
Official religions have been known throughout human history in almost all types of cultures. They were adopted by most ancient states, both monoethnic and polyethnic, and observing them was a requirement made to all citizens, and especially public officials.
Official religions justified and reinforced the type of government existing in a society. Sanctifying it as the most, or the only, correct (divine) one, they often put forward and/or supported ideas of its expansion to other lands, whether the latter already follow the same religion or, sometimes. not.
As the term church is typically applied to a Christian place of worship and organizations incorporating such ones, the term state church is associated with Christianity, historically the state church of the Roman Empire in the last centuries of the Empire's existence, 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.
In the Near East and Middle East, many states with mostly Islamic population have Islam as their state religion in its Shiite or Sunnite variety, though the degree of religious restrictions on the citizen's everyday life varies. On the one hand, rulers of Saudi Arabia join secular and religious power in their hands, and Iran's secular presidents since the revolution of 1979 are supposed to follow decisions of religious authorities. Turkey, which also has mostly Muslim population, after its 1920ies revolution became a secular country, though unlike Russian revolution of the same decade, it did not made the country atheistic.
The degree of strictness of official religions in modern world may vary considerably. Thus, while the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is still officially the head of the state church (in England only, because Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are legally disestablished Anglican provinces and appoint their own bishops), everyday life of ordinary British citizens is not in total strict religious subordination and dependence on the state church, while in typical theocratical states it usually is. Israel is the only modern state officially embracing Judaism as its official religion, yet it has a republican form of government.
- 1 Types of state religion
- 2 Current state religions
- 2.1 Christian countries
- 2.2 Muslim countries
- 2.3 Buddhist countries
- 2.4 Judaism
- 2.5 Political religions
- 2.6 Additional notes
- 3 Former state religions
- 3.1 Pre-modern era
- 3.2 Modern era
- 4 States without a state religion
- 5 Established churches and former state churches
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
Types of state religion
The degree and nature of state backing for denomination or creed designated as a state religion can vary. It can range from mere endorsement (with or without 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 without the Pope" until after his death in 1547, while in Scotland the Church of Scotland opposed the religion of the ruler.
In some cases, an administrative region may sponsor and fund a set of religious denominations; such is the case in Alsace-Moselle in France under its local law, following the pre-1905 French concordatry legal system and patterns in Germany.
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 seven state churches left, as most countries which once featured state churches have separated the church from their government.
- Alternative view – A state church is a governing body which adheres to the human secular religion, and thus cleverly positions that body with the circular concept of acting out that secularism is not a religion but instead the fairness policy to guard against any religious concepts except that of secularism.[clarification needed]
Disestablishment is the process of repealing a church's status as an organ of the state. Opponents of disestablishment are known as antidisestablishmentarians.
Current state religions
The following states recognize some form of Christianity as their state or official religion (by denomination):
Jurisdictions where Roman Catholicism has been established as a state or official religion:
- Argentina: article 2 of the constitution of Argentina explicitly states that the government supports the Catholic Church. However, the constitution does not establish a state religion.
- Costa Rica: article 75 of the constitution of Costa Rica confirms that "The Roman Catholic and Apostolic Religion is the religion of the State, which contributes to its maintenance, without preventing the free exercise in the Republic of other forms of worship that are not opposed to universal morality or good customs."
- Liechtenstein: the constitution of Liechtenstein describes the Catholic Church as the state religion and enjoying "the full protection of the State". The constitution does however ensure that people of other faiths "shall be entitled to practise their creeds and to hold religious services to the extent consistent with morality and public order."
- Malta: Article 2 of the Constitution of Malta declares that "the religion of Malta is the Roman Catholic Apostolic Religion"
- Monaco: article 9 of the constitution of Monaco describes "La religion catholique, apostolique et romaine [the catholic, apostolic and Roman religion]" as the religion of the state.
- Vatican City: the Vatican is an Elective, Theocratic, or sacerdotal Absolute Monarchy state ruled by the Pope, who is also the Vicar of the Catholic Church. The highest state functionaries are all Catholic clergy of various national origins. It is the sovereign territory of the Holy See (Latin: Sancta Sedes) and the location of the Pope's official residence, referred to as the Apostolic Palace.
Jurisdictions that give constitutional privileges to Roman Catholicism without establishing it as the state religion:
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- Panama – the Constitution recognizes Catholicism as "the religion of the majority" of citizens but does not designate it as the official state religion.
- Greece: Church of Greece
- Georgia: Georgian Orthodox Church is not the state church of Georgia but has a special constitutional agreement with the state, with the constitution recognising "the special role of the Apostle Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Georgia in the history of Georgia and its independence from the state." (See also Concordat of 2002)
- Bulgaria: in the Bulgarian Constitution, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church is recognized as "the traditional religion" of the Bulgarian people, but the state itself remains secular.
- England: 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 Anglican Church in Wales, the Episcopal Church of Scotland and the Church of Ireland are not established but are autonomous Provinces. The British monarch is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. The 26 most senior bishops in the Church of England are Lords Spiritual and have seats in the House of Lords of the UK Parliament. Scottish, Welsh and Irish bishops do not sit in the House of Lords.
In the 19th century, there was a campaign by Liberals, dissenters and nonconformists to disestablish the Church of England. The campaign for disestablishment was revived in the 20th century when Parliament rejected the 1928 revision of the Book of Common Prayer, leading to calls for separation of church and state to prevent political interference in matters of worship. Nevertheless, the Church of England remained the state church.
- Denmark: section 4 of the Danish constitution confirms the Church of Denmark as the state church.
- Iceland: the Icelandic constitution confirms the Church of Iceland as the state church of Iceland. (73.8% of population members at 1 January 2015) 
- Norway: the Constitution of Norway stipulates that "The Church of Norway, an Evangelical-Lutheran church, will remain the Established Church of Norway and will as such be supported by the State." This was amended in 2012, from "Evangelical-Lutheran religion remains the public religion of the State". The church is granted autonomy in doctrine and appointment of bishops.
- Finland: 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: the Church of Sweden was until year 2000 the official state church of Sweden and Lutheran Christianity was therefore the state religion of Sweden. In spite of the separation between the state and the church in 2000, the Church of Sweden still has a special status in Sweden. Sweden is therefore often seen as a midway between having a state religion and not. The church has its own legal regulation in the Church of Sweden Act, which regulates the church's basic structure, creeds and right to tax members of the church (ca 70% of the population). According to the Act, the Church of Sweden must be a democratic, Lutheran people's church. Only the Swedish Riksdag can change this fact. The connections to the Swedish royal family are complicated. For example, the Swedish constitution stipulates that the Monarch of Sweden must be a true Lutheran, accepting the doctrine of the Church of Sweden. All members of the royal house must accept the same doctrine to be able to inherit the Throne of Sweden. The parishes of the Church of Sweden are still the smallest administrative entities in Sweden and are used as civil registration and taxation units.
In 1928, Queen Salote Tupou III, who was a member of the church, established the Free Wesleyan Church as the state religion of Tonga. The chief pastor of the Free Wesleyan Church serves as the representative of the people of Tonga and of the Church at the coronation of a King or Queen of Tonga where he anoints and crowns the Monarch. In Opposition to the establishment of the Free Wesleyan Church as a state religion, the Church of Tonga separated from the Free Wesleyan Church in 1928.
Calvinism (Reformed Tradition)
- Tuvalu: The Church of Tuvalu is the state religion, although in practice this merely entitles it to "the privilege of performing special services on major national events". The Constitution of Tuvalu guarantees freedom of religion, including the freedom to practice, the freedom to change religion, the right not to receive religious instruction at school or to attend religious ceremonies at school, and the right not to "take an oath or make an affirmation that is contrary to his religion or belief".
- Scotland: 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.
- France: The local law in Alsace-Moselle relates to the official status accorded to certain religions in this region of France. The law is a remnant of the Napoleonic Concordat of 1801. The 1801 Concordat was abrogated in the rest of France by the law of 1905 on the separation of church and state. However, at the time, Alsace-Moselle had been annexed by Germany, so the Concordat remained in force in these areas. The Concordat recognises four religious traditions in Alsace-Moselle: the Jewish religion and three branches of Christianity: Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed. Therefore, the separation of church and state, part of the French concept of Laïcité, does not apply in this region.
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Main article: Non-denominational Muslim
States which define Islam as the state religion, but do not specify either Sunni or Shia.
Mixed Shia and Sunni
Governments where Buddhism, either a specific form of, or the whole, has been established as an official religion:
See also: Jewish state
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 describe the Jewish people as both an ethnic or a religious group. 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.
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 the 2009 U.S. International Religious Freedom 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 2015[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.
Former state religions
Egypt and Sumer
See also: History of religion
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 Rashidun Caliphate. However, it persisted as the state religion of the independent state of Hyrcania until the 15th century.
Many of the Greek city-states also had a god or goddess associated with that city. This would not be its only god/dess, 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.
Roman religion and Christianity
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.
Han dynasty Confucianism
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.
Yuan dynasty Buddhism
During the Mongol Yuan dynasty (1271 – 1368 AD), Tibetan Buddhism was established as the de facto state religion by the Mongol ruler Kublai Khan, the founder of the Yuan dynasty. The top-level department and government agency known as the Bureau of Buddhist and Tibetan Affairs (Xuanzheng Yuan) was set up in Khanbaliq (modern Beijing) to supervise Buddhist monks throughout the empire. Since Kublai Khan only esteemed the Sakya sect of Tibetan Buddhism, other religions became less important. Before the end of the Yuan dynasty, 14 leader of the Sakya sect had held the post of Imperial Preceptor (Dishi), thereby enjoy special power.
Golden Horde and Ilkhanate
Shamanism and Buddhism were once the dominant religions among the ruling class of the Mongol khanates of Golden Horde and Ilkhanate, the two western khanates of the Mongol Empire. In the early days, the rulers of both khanates increasingly adopted Tibetan Buddhism, similar to the Yuan dynasty at that time. However, the Mongol rulers Ghazan of Ilkhanate and Uzbeg of Golden Horde converted to Islam in 1295 AD because of the Muslim Mongol emir Nawruz and in 1313 AD because of Sufi Bukharan sayyid and sheikh Ibn Abdul Hamid respectively. Their official favoring of Islam as the state religion coincided with a marked attempt to bring the regime closer to the non-Mongol majority of the regions they ruled. In Ilkhanate, Christian and Jewish subjects lost their equal status with Muslims and again had to pay the poll tax; Buddhists had the starker choice of conversion or expulsion. In Golden Horde, Buddhism and Shamanism among the Mongols were proscribed, and by 1315, Uzbeg had successfully Islamicized the Horde, killing Jochid princes and Buddhist lamas who opposed his religious policy and succession of the throne.
Former state churches in British North America
Colonies with no established church
These areas were disestablished and dissolved, yet their presences were tolerated by the English and later British colonial governments, 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.
State of Deseret
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.
States without a state religion
A state that does not profess a state religion is known as a secular state.
Established churches and former state churches