State religion

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(Redirected from State church)
A quite different topic is treated in statist religion, and yet another topic in civil religion.

A state religion (also called an established church or state church) is a religious body or creed officially endorsed by the state. The term state church is most closely associated with Christianity, although it is sometimes used in the context of other faiths as well. Closely related to state churches are what sociologists call ecclesiae, though the two are slightly different.


Types of state churches

The degree of state endorsement of a state religion varies, from mere endorsement and financial support, with freedom for other faiths to practice, to prohibiting any competing church from operating and persecuting the followers of other churches. In Europe, competition between Catholic and Protestant denominations for state sponsorship in the 16th century evolved the principle cuius regio eius religio embodied in the text of the treaty that marked the Peace of Augsburg, 1555.

In some cases, a state may have a set of state-sponsored religious denominations that it funds; such is the case in Alsace-Moselle in France, following the pattern in Germany.

In some communist countries, notably the People's Republic of China, the state sponsors religious organizations, and activities outside the 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.

Sociology of state churches

Sociologists refer to mainstream non-state religions as denominations. State religions tend to admit a larger variety of opinion within them than denominations. Denominations encountering major differences of opinion within themselves are likely to split; this option is not open for most state churches, so they tend to try to integrate differing opinions within themselves. An exception to this is the Church of Scotland which has split several times in the past for doctrinal reasons. Its largest surviving offshoots are the Free Church of Scotland and the United Free Church of Scotland. These offshoots have lost the established status of their parent.

Increasingly, sociologists of religion are using the concept of monopolies in economics as an analogy for state churches.

State religions tend to enjoy the allegiance of the majority of their country; however much of this support is little more than nominal, with many members of the church rarely attending it. But the population's allegiance towards the state religions is often strong enough to prevent them from joining competing religious groups. Sociologists put this forward as an explanation for the religious differences between the United States and Europe: many sociologists theorise that the continuing vitality of religion in American life, compared to many European countries, is due to the lack of a strong state church (or indeed, any state church at all) during much of American history.

Just because a country has an official religion does not make that country intolerant towards other religions. It all depends upon the government and the level of tolerance the citizens of that country have for each other. Some countries with official religions have laws that guarantee the freedom of worship, full liberty of conscience, and places of worship for all citizens and implement those laws in society better than countries that do not have an official or established state religion.


See also secular state.

Disestablishment is the process of divesting a church of its status as an organ of the state. In England there was a campaign by Liberals, dissenters and nonconformists to disestablish the Church of England in the late 19th century; it failed in England but demands for the measure persist to this day. The Church of Ireland was disestablished in 1869 and the Church of England was disestablished in Wales in 1920, becoming the Church in Wales. Those who wish to continue with an established church take a position of antidisestablishmentarianism.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution explicitly bans the federal government from setting up a state church. Until the mid-19th century this amendment was understood as allowing for state governments to create established churches and a number of states did so. With the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, the prohibition on established churches was interpreted as a general prohibition on state support of religion. The exact boundaries of this prohibition are still disputed and are a frequent source of cases before the US Supreme Court, especially as the court must reconcile the establishment clause of First Amendment with the clause that prohibits restraints on the free exercise of religion.

Christian countries

The following states which recognize some form of Christianity as their official religion (by denomination):

Roman Catholic

States which recognize Catholicism as their official religion:


Nations which recognize the Orthodox Church as their official religion:


Nations which recognize a Lutheran church as their official religion:

Other Protestant

Nations which recognize a non-Lutheran Church (for most of these, a member of the Anglican Communion) as their official religion:

Islamic states

Countries which recognize Islam as their official religion:

Nations which recognize Sunni Islam as their official religion:

Buddhist states

Countries which recognize Buddhism as their official religion:

Countries which recognize Tibetan Buddhism as their official religion:

Countries which recognize Lamaistic Buddhism as their official religion:

Country which recognizes Theravada Buddhism as their official religion:

Hindu states

Country which recognizes Hinduism as their official religion:

Jewish states

Note: Officially, Israel has no state religion or established church. A few personal status laws, in particular regarding marriage and divorce, are governed by state-recognized Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Druze authorities. As the Jewish state, however, its de facto state religion is Judaism.

Established churches and former state churches in Europe

Albania [1] none since independence
AndorraRoman Catholic ChurchCatholicno
AnhaltEvangelical Church of AnhaltLutheran1918
ArmeniaArmenian Orthodox ChurchOriental Orthodox1921
AustriaRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic1918
BadenRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic1918
BavariaRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic1918
Belarusnone since independence
Belgiumnone since independence
Bosnia and Herzegovinanone since independence
Brunswick-LüneburgEvangelical Church of BrunswickLutheran1918
BulgariaBulgarian Orthodox ChurchEastern Orthodox1946
Croatianone since independence
CyprusCypriot Orthodox ChurchEastern Orthodox?
Czech RepublicRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic?
DenmarkChurch of DenmarkLutheranno
EnglandChurch of EnglandAnglicanno
EstoniaChurch of EstoniaLutheran1940
Finland [2]Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland/Finnish Orthodox ChurchLutheran/Eastern Orthodoxno
FranceRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic1905
GeorgiaGeorgian Orthodox ChurchEastern Orthodox1921
GreeceGreek Orthodox ChurchEastern Orthodoxno
HesseEvangelical Church of Hesse and NassauLutheran1918
HungaryRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic1946
IcelandChurch of IcelandLutheranno
IrelandChurch of IrelandAnglican1871
ItalyRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic1984
LatviaRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic1940
LiechtensteinRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic?
LippeChurch of LippeReformed1918
LithuaniaRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic1940
LübeckNorth Elbian Evangelical ChurchLutheran1918
LuxembourgRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic?
Republic of Macedonianone since independence
MaltaRoman Catholic ChurchCatholicno
MecklenburgEvangelical Church of MecklenburgLutheran1918
Moldovanone since independence
MonacoRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic?
NetherlandsDutch Reformed ChurchReformed1795
NorwayChurch of NorwayLutheranno
OldenburgEvangelical Church of OldenburgLutheran1918
PolandRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic1918
PortugalRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic?
Prussia13 provincial churchesLutheran1918
RomaniaRomanian Orthodox ChurchEastern Orthodox1947
RussiaRussian Orthodox ChurchEastern Orthodox1917
ThuringiaEvangelical Church in ThuringiaLutheran1918
SaxonyEvangelical Church of SaxonyLutheran1918
Schaumburg-LippeEvangelical Church of Schaumburg-LippeLutheran1918
ScotlandChurch of ScotlandReformedno
Serbia and MontenegroSerb Orthodox ChurchEastern Orthodox?
Slovakianone since independence
Slovenianone since independence
SpainRoman Catholic ChurchCatholicno
SwedenChurch of SwedenLutheranJanuary 2000
Switzerlandnone since independence
Ukrainenone since independence
WaldeckEvangelical Church of the Hesse Electorate and WaldeckLutheran1918
WalesChurch in WalesAnglican1920
WürttembergEvangelical Church of WürttembergLutheran1918

[1] In 1967, the Albanian government made atheism the "state religion". This designation remained in effect until 1991.
[2] Finland's State Church was the Church of Sweden until 1809, and the Russian Orthodox Church from 1809 to 1917. After independence in 1917 Finland gave State Church status to both the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (successor to the Church of Sweden in Finland) and the Finnish Orthodox Church (successor to the Russian Orthodox Church in Finland).

Former state churches in British North America

ColonyDenomination Disestablished*
GeorgiaChurch of England
New BrunswickChurch of England
New HampshireCongregational1790
NewfoundlandChurch of England
North CarolinaChurch of England<=1776
Nova ScotiaChurch of England1850
Prince Edward IslandChurch of England
South CarolinaChurch of England
Upper CanadaChurch of England1854
VirginiaChurch of England1786
West IndiesChurch of England1868

*In several colonies, the establishment ceased to exist in practice at the Revolution,about 1776; this is the date of legal abolition.
**Replaced by a system which required every man to belong to a church, and permitted each church to tax its members. This was not, in theory, an establishment; but was sufficiently oppressive in practice, to be abolished in 1833.

See also

ja:国家宗教 de:Staatsreligion


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