A state religion (also called an official religion, established church or state church) is a religious body or creed officially endorsed by the state. Practically, a state without a state religion is called a secular state. The term state church is associated with Christianity, and is sometimes used to denote a specific national branch of Christianity. Closely related to state churches are what sociologists call ecclesiae, though the two are slightly different. State religions are examples of the official or government-sanctioned establishment of religion, as distinct from theocracy. It is also possible for a national church to become established without being under state control.
In some communist states, notably the People's Republic of China, 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.
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.
However, state churches have divided, with the dissidents losing the advantages of state support. The Church of Scotland has split several times in the past for doctrinal reasons, including the meaning and acceptability of state support. Attempts by the monarch to impose bishops on the Kirk led to the splitting off of the non-established Scottish Episcopal Church. Its largest offshoots from a later disruption were the Free Church of Scotland and later the United Free Church of Scotland. These offshoots lost the established status of their parent, but since 1929 the (partially) reunited Church of Scotland has considered itself to be a "national church" rather than an established church, as it is entirely independent of state control in matters spiritual. Legally, it remains established.
Many sociologists now consider the effect of a state church as analogous to a chartered monopoly in religion.
Where state religions exist, it is usually true the majority of residents are officially considered adherents; however, much of this support is little more than nominal; many members of the church rarely attend it. But the population's allegiance towards the state religion is often strong enough to prevent them from joining competing religious groups.
A denomination's status as official religion does not always imply that the jurisdiction prohibits the existence or operation of other sects or religious bodies. 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 more than other countries that do not have an official or established state religion.
The First Amendment to the US Constitution explicitly forbids the U.S. federal government from enacting any law respecting a religious establishment, and thus forbids either designating an official church for the United States, or interfering with State and local official churches — which were common when the First Amendment was enacted. It did not prevent state governments from establishing official churches. Connecticut continued to do so until it replaced its colonial Charter with the Connecticut Constitution of 1818; Massachusetts did not disestablish its official church until 1833, more than forty years after the ratification of the First Amendment; and local official establishments of religion persisted even later.
The Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified in 1868, makes no mention of religious establishment, but forbids the states to "abridge the privileges or immunities" of U.S. citizens, or to "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law". In the 1947 case of Everson v. Board of Education, the United States Supreme Court held that this later provision incorporates the First Amendment's Establishment Clause as applying to the States, and thereby prohibits state and local religious establishments. 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 now balance, on a state (equivalent to province) level, the First Amendment prohibitions on government establishment of official religions with the First Amendment prohibitions on government interference with the free exercise of religion. See school prayer for such a controversy in contemporary US politics.
All current U.S. state constitutions include guarantees of religious liberty parallel to the First Amendment, but eight (Arkansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas) also contain clauses that prohibit atheists from holding public office. However, these clauses have been held by the United States Supreme Court to be unenforceable in the 1961 case of Torcaso v. Watkins, where the court ruled unanimously that such clauses constituted a religious test incompatible with First and Fourteenth Amendment protections.
The tiny kingdom of Adiabene in northern Mesopotamia converted to Judaism around 34 AD.
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 heretical and schismatic groups, was declared to be the state religion of the Roman Empire on February 27 380 by the decree De Fide Catolica of Emperor Theodosius I.
|Albania||none since independence||N/A||n/a|
|Andorra||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||?|
|Anhalt||Evangelical Church of Anhalt||Lutheran||1918|
|Armenia||Armenian Apostolic Church||Oriental Orthodox||1921|
|Austria||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1918|
|Baden||Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelical Church of Baden||Catholic and Lutheran||1918|
|Bavaria||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1918|
|Brazil||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1890|
|Brunswick-Lüneburg||Evangelical Lutheran State Church of 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|
|Czechoslovakia||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1920|
|Denmark||Church of Denmark||Lutheran||no|
|England||Church of England||Anglican||no|
|Estonia||Church of Estonia||Eastern Orthodox||1940|
|Finland||Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland||Lutheran||1870/1919|
|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 of Hesse and Nassau||Lutheran||1918|
|Hungary||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1848|
|Iceland||Lutheran Evangelical Church||Lutheran||no|
|Ireland||Church of Ireland||Anglican||1871|
|Italy||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1984|
|Lebanon||Maronite Catholic Church/Islam||Catholic/Islam||no|
|Liechtenstein||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||no|
|Lippe||Church of Lippe||Reformed||1918|
|Lithuania||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1940|
|Lübeck||North Elbian Evangelical Church||Lutheran||1918|
|Luxembourg||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||?|
|Republic of Macedonia||Macedonian Orthodox Church||Eastern Orthodox||no|
|Malta||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||no|
|Mecklenburg||Evangelical Church of Mecklenburg||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|
|Philippines||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1902|
|Poland||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1939|
|Portugal||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1910|
|Prussia||13 provincial churches||Lutheran||1918|
|Romania||Romanian Orthodox Church||Eastern Orthodox||1947|
|Russia||Russian Orthodox Church||Eastern Orthodox||1917|
|Thuringia||Evangelical Church in Thuringia||Lutheran||1918|
|Saxony||Evangelical Church of Saxony||Lutheran||1918|
|Schaumburg-Lippe||Evangelical Church of Schaumburg-Lippe||Lutheran||1918|
|Scotland||Church of Scotland||Presbyterian||no|
|Serbia||Serbian Orthodox Church||Eastern||?|
|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|
|Waldeck||Evangelical Church of Hesse-Kassel and Waldeck||Lutheran||1918|
|Wales||Church in Wales||Anglican||1920|
|Württemberg||Evangelical Church of Württemberg||Lutheran||1918|
In 1967, the Albanian government made atheism the "state religion". This designation remained in effect until 1991.
Finland's State Church was the Church of Sweden until 1809. As an autonomous Grand Duchy under Russia 1809-1917, Finland retained the Lutheran State Church system, and a state church separate from Sweden, later named the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, was established. It was detached from the state as a separate judicial entity when the new church law came to force in 1870. After Finland had gained independence in 1917, religious freedom was declared in the constitution of 1919 and a separate law on religious freedom in 1922. Through this arrangement, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland lost its position as a state church but gained a constitutional status as a national church alongside with the Finnish Orthodox Church, whose position however is not codified in the constitution.
In Hungary the constitutional laws of 1848 declared five established churches on equal status: the Roman Catholic, Calvinist, Lutheran, Eastern Orthodox and Unitarian Church. In 1868 the law was ratified again after the Ausgleich. In 1895 Judaism was also recognized as the sixth established church. In 1948 every distinction between the different denominations were abolished.
Disestablished by the Philippine Organic Act of 1902.
The Church of Scotland is "established" in the sense that its system of church courts was set up by Parliament, but over the centuries it has resisted interference by secular authorities. The Church of Scotland Act 1921 recognizes its exclusive authority to decide ecclesiastical issues, and the statute incorporates and accepts the Church's Declaratory Articles as lawful.p.161
|Georgia||Church of England||1789|
|Maryland||Church of England||1776|
|New Brunswick||Church of England|
|Newfoundland||Church of England|
|North Carolina||Church of England||1776|
|Nova Scotia||Church of England||1850|
|Prince Edward Island||Church of England|
|South Carolina||Church of England||1790|
|Canada West||Church of England||1854|
|West Florida||Church of England||,|
|East Florida||Church of England||N/A,|
|Virginia||Church of England||1786|
|West Indies||Church of England||1868|
in 1789 the Georgia Constitution was amended as follows: "Article IV. Section 10. No person within this state shall, upon any pretense, be deprived of the inestimable privilege of worshipping God in any manner agreeable to his own conscience, nor be compelled to attend any place of worship contrary to his own faith and judgment; nor shall he ever be obliged to pay tithes, taxes, or any other rate, for the building or repairing any place of worship, or for the maintenance of any minister or ministry, contrary to what he believes to be right, or hath voluntarily engaged. To do. No one religious society shall ever be established in this state, in preference to another; nor shall any person be denied the enjoyment of any civil right merely on account of his religious principles."
From 1780 Massachusetts had a system which required every man to belong to a church, and permitted each church to tax its members, but forbade any law requiring that it be of any particular denomination. This was objected to, as in practice establishing the Congregational Church, the majority denomination, and was abolished in 1833.
Until 1877 the New Hampshire Constitution required members of the State legislature to be of the Protestant religion.
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 only atheists 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.
Religious Tolerance for Catholics with an Established Church of England were policy in the former Spanish Colonies of East and West Florida while under British rule.
Religious tolerance for Catholics with an established Church of England were policy in the former Spanish Colonies of East and West Florida while under British rule.
Tithes for the support of the Anglican Church in Virginia were suspended in 1776, and never restored. 1786 is the date of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, which prohibited any coercion to support any religious body.