Currently, Austria recognizes twelve religions. In addition to various Christian denominations, these include Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam. To date, Austria has not granted full recognition to several newer and allegedly controversial religions such as the Church of Scientology and Jehovah's Witnesses. Some newer religious groups, however, have applied under the 1998 Act and thereby attained the preliminary status of communities of believers.p.7
Some Australian judges have gone so far as to say that the government cannot support religious schools, even if done in a non-discriminatory way. The High Court of Australia, however, has consistently allowed funding of religious schools. State aid for non-Government schools became an issue in 1962 and was a major campaign issue in the 1963 federal election, following which federal and State Government funds have supported non-Government schools.
The issue of separation between religion and state is generally less contentious than in the United States. The Australian Parliament still holds prayers at the start of each sitting day and has since federation. Attendance at the prayer services is optional but many Members of Parliament do attend.
There is no established church, however religious groups can qualify for tax-exemption. The amount of funding religious schools receive varies from province to province. In many provinces religious schools are government funded in the same way other independent schools are. In most parts of Canada there is a Catholic education system alongside the secular "public" education system. They all run on Catholic principles and include religious activities and instruction as a matter of course. They are not exclusively attended by practicing Catholics.
Again, like most countries, the specific form of separation unique to the US does not apply here. There is no restriction on government funding of "faith-based" activities. Religious activity in schools is not excluded constitutionally (though in public schools it is usually not undertaken). Some Canadian public schools have the students recite the Lord's Prayer daily, some schools do not recite it.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is entrenched in the Constitution, states in the preamble that Canada "is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law. Freedom of religion as also guaranteed. The Supreme Court of Canada, in the case of Her Majesty The Queen in Right of Canada v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd.,  (1 S.C.R. 295) ruled that a 1906 statute that required most places to be closed on Sunday did not have a legitimate purpose in a "free and democratic society," and was an unconstitutional attempt to establish a religious-based closing law (see Blue law.)
Despite the fact that Egypt is a predominantly Islamic population, the prevailing belief is that the Coptic Orthodox Church is the unofficial state church of Egypt. It is not noted in the Constitution of Egypt (which is currently in use) what is the official State Church because Egypt is currently an Arab Republic that recognizes Islam as the State Religion, but most inhabitants of Egypt accept the Coptic Orthodox Church as the unofficial State Church mainly due to the fact that it incorporates Egypt's largest Christian population, which makes up approximately 10% of Egypt's total population. The separation of the state's influence on religion and vice versa is often undetermined; many rights groups have claimed that some laws passed by the State are heavily influenced by the State Religion, and sometimes aims at particular minorities in Egypt. The Coptic Orthodox Church is in fairly good relations with the State. This was seen when the State officially declared January 7, the Coptic Orthodox Christmas, as an official holiday in Egypt. However, some laws (e.g., the 19th century Hamayouni Decree, which requires the President of Egypt must approve any permits to build or repair any church in Egypt) still aim at persecuting the Coptic Orthodox Church.
see also Egyptian identification card controversy.
Teaching Christian religion as a school subject is an old tradition in Finland. Excusing students, who are not members of either national church, from such teaching has usually been the practice since the early 1900'ies , though the exact regulations concerning who is entighteled to exclusion from such teaching have varied. Also requirements for teacher competency for the teaching of religion have varied .
Since 2003, world view related teaching is compulsory to all students in basic education (primary and secondary school). Each government funded primary or secondary school must arrange teaching in the religion, which the majority of the students are members of. Also, for every group of at least three students, who belong to some other organized religion, teaching in their own religion must be arranged. For a group of at least three students, who do not belong to any organized religion, teaching in the subject "secular world view" (in Finnish "elämänkatsomustieto"), must be arranged. If there are too few students for a teaching group for the student's own religion to be arranged, the student (or as most such students are minors, their parents) can choose between joining the teaching group for the majority religion, requesting secular world view teaching or arranging the teaching from their own religious organization. A teaching group for a minority religion or for secular world view can be arranged for several schools together.
Current teacher education in Finland gives primary and secondary school teachers a basic competence to teach the national churches' religion, major world religions and secular world view as school subjects. However, it is also noted that a teacher should not have to teach a particular religion, if that offends her or his conscience, and any conflicts between students' right to receive teaching and teachers' religious freedom should be solved on a case-by-case basis.
Since 1905, France has had a law requiring separation of church and state, prohibiting the state from recognizing or funding any religion. According to the French constitution, freedom of religion was already a constitutional right. The 1905 law on secularity was highly controversial at the time. France adheres to the notion of laïcité, that is, noninterference of the government into the religious sphere and noninterference of religion into government, and a strict neutrality of government in religious affairs.
References to religious beliefs by politicians to justify public policies are considered a political faux pas, since it is widely believed that religious beliefs should be kept out of the public sphere.
Public tax money supports some church-affiliated schools, but they must agree to follow the same curriculum as the public schools and are prohibited from forcing students to attend religion courses or to discriminate against students on the basis of religion.
Churches, synagogues, temples and cathedrals built before 1905, at the taxpayers' expense, are now the property of the state and the communes; however they may be gratuitously used for religious activities provided this religious use stays continuous in time. Some argue that this is a form of unfair subsidy for the established religions in comparison to Islam.
The Alsace-Moselle area, which was administered by Germany at the time the 1905 law was passed and was returned to France only after World War I, is still under the pre-1905 regime established of the Concordat, which provides for the public subsidy of the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, the Reformed church and the Jewish Religion as well as public education in those religions. An original trait of this area is that priests are paid by the state; the bishops are named by the President on the proposal of the Pope. Controversy erupts periodically on the appropriateness of these and other extraordinary legal dispositions of Alsace-Moselle, as well as on the exclusion of other religions in Alsace-Moselle from this arrangement. See also laïcité
In recent years, some legislation such as the About-Picard law and government actions were taken against some groups considered to be dangerous or criminal. Officials and associations fighting excesses of such groups, justified these measures by the need to have appropriate legal tools and the need to fight criminal organizations masquerading as legitimate religious groups. Critics contended that those actions unfairly targeted minority religions, jeopardized freedom of religion, and were motivated by prejudice. The matters were made even more complex by the fact that some of the groups involved are based in the United States, which prompted the intervention of the government of that country.
Today, church and state are separate, but there is cooperation in many fields, most importantly in the social sector. Churches and religious communities, if they are large, stable and loyal to the constitution, can get special status from the state as a "corporation under public law" which allows the churches to levy taxes called Kirchensteuer (literally church tax) on their members. This revenue is collected by the state without any fee.
Religious instruction (for members of the respective religions) is an ordinary subject in public schools (in most states). It is organized by the state, but also under the supervision of the respective religious community. Teachers are educated at public universities. Parents, or students 14 years old and above, can decide not to take those religion classes, but most federal states require classes in "ethics" or "philosophy" as replacements. A small but significant number of religious schools, which receive the majority of their funding (but never all of it) from the state, exist in most parts of the country; however nobody can be compelled to attend them. There was considerable public controversy when the Federal Constitutional Court declared a Bavarian law requiring a crucifix in every classroom to be unconstitutional in 1997; Bavaria replaced it with a law still demanding the same, unless parents file a formal protest with the state.
As immigration has significantly increased the numbers of Muslim inhabitants, there is ongoing discussion about introducing an Islamic religious instruction for Muslim pupils, but such plans have yet been hampered by difficulties in organising a curriculum for the whole Islamic spectrum. The Federal Administrative Court has ruled that the Berlin Islamic Federation was a qualified religious community under Berlin law (which differs considerably from most of the rest of the country); hence, the Berlin State Government decided to begin Islamic religious instruction in public schools in areas with significant Islamic populations.
The government did not recognize several belief systems, including Scientology, as Non-profit organizations; however, the absence of recognition did not prevent their adherents from engaging in public and private religious activities.
About 98% of the population is nominally Christian Orthodox.. However, in the Eurostat - Eurobarometer poll of 2005, only 81% of Greek citizens responded that they believe there is a God, whereas 16% answered that they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force, and 3% that they do not believe there is a God, spirit, nor life force. Non-Orthodox Christian Greeks are mainly Muslims, Roman Catholics, Eastern-rite Catholics and Jews. The Government, under the direction of the Ministry of Education and Religion, provides some financial support by, for example, paying for the salaries and religious training of clergy, and financing the maintenance of Orthodox Church buildings. The government also pays the salaries and some expenses of the two official Muslim religious leaders in Thrace. A separation of Church and State would require a Constitutional amendment in Greece.
Religious instruction is provided in Greek public schools, and students are taught the tenets of the Christian Orthodox faith (or, respectively, Islam, for the Muslim religious minority in Thrace). Typically, one hour per week (out of the 32 hour program of studies) is devoted to these lessons. However, students and parents can choose to opt out of religious instruction lessons by providing a written note to their school stating they desire to do so. The Lord's Prayer or another prayer is typically recited before lessons, once a day, but school prayer attendance is not mandatory.
The relationship between church and state in Greece is partly responsible for the fact that Athens doesn't have a mosque . A Greek Government plan exists which would build an Islamic center and mosque on some 35,000 square meters of donated land in the Athens suburb of Peania. The plan has drawn fire on grounds that Peania currently has no Muslim community. The Mayor of Peania has initiated legal action, pointing to a century-old deed which, municipal authorities say, proves that the land on which the Mosque would be built belongs to Peania and not the central government. Muslim communities have also criticized the Peania project, noting that such a mosque would be located some 30 kilometers (19 miles) from Athens, where most of the capital's Muslim faithful live.
Das Leben des Jesus (The Life of Jesus), a satire in which Jesus is portrayed as an incense-addicted hippy, was banned in Greece in 2005 under blasphemy statute, while Haderer received a suspended six-month jail sentence. However, both the ban and sentence were repealed on appeal and the book has circulated freely since.
In 2006, an Athens court has decreed the official recognition of the ancient Greek pantheon, as a "known religion".
The Indian constitution's preamble states that India is a secular state. Freedom of religion is a fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution. Every citizen of India has a right to practise and promote their religions peacefully. But there have been many incidence of religious intolerance which resulted in riots.
The United States Department of State in its annual human rights report for 2006 noted attacks against religious minorities in India. State Department's annual reports on religious freedom for 2007 expressed concern over organized societal attacks against religious minorities. However in judging overall religious freedom, the report noted signs of improvement in India along with Saudi Arabia and Vietnam compared to Iran, Iraq, Burma, Eritrea, North Korea, China and Egypt.
Religion plays a major role in life in Indonesia. It is stated in the first principle of the state ideology, Pancasila: "belief in the one and only God". A number of different religions are practiced in Indonesia and their collective influence on the country's political, economical and cultural life is significant. As of 2007, 86.1% of Indonesia's 234.7 million people (July 2007 est.) are Muslims, 5.7% are Protestant, 3% are Catholic, 1.8% are Hindu, and 3.4% other or unspecified (percentages based on 2000 census).
The Indonesian Constitution states "every person shall be free to choose and to practice the religion of his/her choice" and "guarantees all persons the freedom of worship, each according to his/her own religion or belief". The government, however, officially only recognises six religions, namely Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.
However, adherents of the Bahá'í Faith, Iran's largest religious minority are not recognized and are persecuted. Bahá'ís have been subjected to unwarranted arrests, false imprisonment, executions, confiscation and destruction of property owned by individuals and the Bahá'í community, denial of civil rights and liberties, and denial of access to higher education. Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iranian Bahá'ís have regularly had their homes ransacked or been banned from attending university or holding government jobs, and several hundred have received prison sentences for their religious beliefs. Bahá'í cemeteries have been desecrated and property seized and occasionally demolished, including the House of Mírzá Buzurg, Bahá'u'lláh's father. The House of the Báb in Shiraz has been destroyed twice, and is one of three sites to which Bahá'ís perform pilgrimage.
However, the ultra-Orthodox minority parties in Israel, being a necessary element in almost every coalition government, try to increase religious influence over the state, and receive state funding for religious schools, and other benefits, such as exemption from service in the Israeli Defence Forces. Israel also offers automatic citizenship to any Jew who wishes to become a citizen. Such benefits and funds are considered by many as discriminatory privileges, and as clear violations of the principle of separation of church and state.
Israel is commonly referred to as "the Jewish State" which is often a source of confusion, as the term "Jew" has the twin meaning of referring to both a religion and a nation. Israel's founders considered "Jew" as a nationality and hence Israel can be considered "the Jewish State" with regard to nationality only, just as Italy can be described as the "Italian State," France "the French Republic" and so on.
Notwithstanding, this definition is often cited as justification for enforcement of religious laws as official policies. Unlike other democracies, Israel enforces several religious laws, such as the ban on commerce on Sabbath or on the selling of pork. Civil marriage and public transport on Shabbat (sundown Friday until the appearance of three stars in the sky on Saturday night) are also against the Israeli law. Some religious schools are considered independent and are run without being monitored by the ministry of education, resulting in an alternative education system whereby parents can have their children educated in institutions which teach nothing but religion. This phenomenon, non- existent in any other democracy, is an official Israeli policy. Such controversial practices make Israel differ substantially from other, secular democracies, and may pose a problem if Israel is to apply for EU membership.
But according to almost all sources, kosher is not enforced in Israel. "Having said this, due to the secular nature of much of Israel, most foods can be found, and most restaurants aren't kosher." http://wikitravel.org/en/Israel
There is no state religion; however, the Catholic Church enjoys a large number of privileges, stemming from its sovereign status and its historical political authority, not available to other religious groups.
Historically, Japan had long tradition of mixed religious practice between Shinto and Buddhism since the introduction of Buddhism in 7th century. Though the Emperor of Japan is supposed to be the direct descendant of Amaterasu Oomikami, Shinto sun goddess, all Imperial family members, as well as almost all Japanese, were Buddhists who also practiced Shinto religious rites as well. Christianity flourished when it was first introduced by Francis Xavier, but was soon violently suppressed.
After the Meiji Restoration, Japan tried to remodel the state in line of modern European constitutional monarchy. Upon learning that many European states sourced their constitutional authority to the Christian God, which Japanese religious tradition did not have, the emperor itself was substituted to its position. Buddhism and Shintoism were officially separated and Shintoism was set as the state religion. The Constitution specifically stated that Emperor is "holy and inviolable" (Tennou ha shinsei nishite okasu bekarazu). During the period of Emperor Showa, the status of emperor was further elevated to be a living god (Arahito gami). This ceased at the end of World War II, when the current constitution was drafted. (See Ningen-sengen.)
Article 20 of the constitution of Japan drafted in by the US occupation forces, in 1946 and currently in use, mandates a separation of religious organizations from the state, as well as ensuring religious freedom: "No religious organization shall receive any privileges from the State, nor exercise any political authority. No person shall be compelled to take part in any religious act, celebration, rite or practice. The State and its organs shall refrain from religious education or any other religious activity." However, like the CDU of Germany, Japan is not without a political party that has religious affiliation, namely the New Komeito Party which has affiliation with Sōka Gakkai. Less than one percent of Japanese population are Christian, and Soka Gakkai is a minor religion itself. Japanese in general mix Buddhism, Shinto, and secularism in practice, and often have "Christian" weddings, but have Buddhist funerals. A secular form of Christmas is widely observed. Tenrikyo and other Japan-centered faiths are also present.
According to one source which is generally considered authoritative, "The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice.
Article 11 [Equality], paragraph 1, of the Constitution decares: "All citizens are equal before the law, and there may be no discrimination in political, economic, social, or cultural life on account of sex, religion, or social status.
Tensions also existed between the Roman Catholic Church and the post-Revolution Mexican government. Severe restrictions on the rights of the Church and members of the clergy were written into the country's 1917 constitution that led to the eruption of the Cristero War in 1926. In 1992 the government reestablished diplomatic relations with the Holy See and lifted almost all restrictions on the Catholic Church. This later action included granting all religious groups legal status, conceding them limited property rights, and lifting restrictions on the number of priests in the country. However, the law continues to mandate a strict separation of church and state. The constitution still bars members of the clergy from holding public office, advocating partisan political views, supporting political candidates, or opposing the laws or institutions of the state.
The constitution provides that education should avoid privileges of religion, and that one religion or its members may not be given preference in education over another. Religious instruction is prohibited in public schools; however, religious associations are free to maintain private schools, which receive no public funds.
According to the Religious Associations and Public Worship Law, religious groups may not own or administer broadcast radio or television stations; however, the Catholic Church owns and operates a national cable television channel. Government permission is required to transmit religious programming on commercial broadcast radio or television, and permission is granted routinely.
The Netherlands has separation of church and state, but the government does recognize religious communities, especially in cultural affairs. Schools founded by religious communities, whether Protestant, Catholic, Jewish or Islamic, receive government finance. This was instituted in 1918 in what is known as the Pacification. Religiously inspired broadcasting associations are also allowed to broadcast on Dutch national public television. As such the Netherlands does not have a strong separation between church and state, but instead the state sustains a plural society, which historically consisted out of multiple separated religious groups. One anomaly in this respect is the convention that the Dutch monarch has to be a member of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands.
Article 13 of the Portuguese Constitution states, in part, that "No one is privileged, favored, injured, deprived of any right, or exempt from any duty because of his ancestry, sex, race, language, territory of origin, religion, political or ideological convictions, education, economic situation, or social condition"
The country is mostly Roman Catholic, although other Christian churches are on the rise since the 1974 Revolution which inserted the aforementioned article in the constitution.
Immigrants from ex-colonies are Muslim and Hindu.
Recent immigration from Eastern European countries also brought the presence of the Orthodox faith.
After the October Revolution and bolshevik coup, the government of the Soviet Union was quite active in religious affairs, even though it was theoretically atheist and purely secular. Between 1917 and 1922, Soviet authorities executed 28 Orthodox Bishops and over 1,000 priests. A government-sponsored "renovation" known as the Living Church was instigated in May of 1922 as a replacement for the Russian Orthodox Church. It was eliminated in 1943 during the Second World War, but state intervention in religious affairs did not end, and religion was highly regulated and controlled until the end of the Soviet Union.
On October 9 and November 10 of 1990, the Russian Parliament passed two freedom of conscience laws that formally disestablished the Russian Orthodox Church as the state church of Russia (this step had never actually been explicitly taken in the Soviet Union). In 1997, however, the Russian Parliament passed a law restricting the activities of religious organizations within Russia. Complete freedom is given to any religious organization officially recognized by the Soviet government before 1985: the Orthodox Church, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism. The basis for consideration as an official religion of the Russian Federation is supposed to be a 50-year presence in the state. According to this criterion, Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, and the Baptist faith should all enjoy official status as Russian religions. However, this is not the case. Non-official religions are strictly limited in that they are not permitted to operate schools or import non-Russian citizens to act as missionaries or clergy. Likewise, they must annually re-register with local officials.
This act has been sharply criticized as antithetical to the concept of freedom of religion, especially in countries with religious organizations that expend a great deal of money and effort in proselytizing.
The Russian government also engages in practices that have been accused of being discriminatory against citizens who profess faiths other than Orthodox Christianity. In the Russian armed forces — for which there continues to be universal conscription — no form of religious worship other than Orthodox Christian is permitted. Thus, conscripted Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists (despite their ostensible religious freedom granted in the 1997 law) are prohibited from engaging in prayer, even if they do so in solitude.
Despite these overtly religious practices listed above, The Constitution of the Russian Federation adopted on December 12, 1993, declares the state to be secular, and that no religion shall be declared an official or compulsory religion. The Constitution further provides for equality of all religious associations before the law and states in Article 14 that all religious organizations shall be separate from the state. This provision is contained in the chapter that constitutes the fundamental principles of the constitutional system of the Russian Federation and cannot be changed except by a very complicated procedure established by the Constitution. No other legal acts may contradict the fundamental principles of the Russian constitutional system.p.107
The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. The Government at all levels seeks to protect this right in full and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors. The rights and freedoms enumerated in the constitution include the rights to practice one's religion and protection of religious freedom. The laws concerning religious freedoms are generally observed and enforced at all government levels and by the courts in a non-discriminatory fashion. Legal protections cover discrimination or persecution by private actors.
Since the separation of church and state in 2000, eight recognized religious denominations, in addition to the Church of Sweden, raise revenues through member-contributions made through the national tax system. All recognized denominations are entitled to direct government financial support, contributions made through the national tax system, or a mix of both. The state does not favor the Church of Sweden at the expense of other religious groups in any noticeable way. Since the population is predominantly Christian, certain Christian religious holy days are national holidays, but this does not appear to affect other religious groups negatively. School students from minority religious backgrounds are entitled to take relevant religious holidays.
There are ongoing efforts to remove the special status from the former state church. Marriage can now be performed by anyone who has received a certificate.
Nominally, 99.0% of the Turkish population is Muslim (in practice it is less), of whom a majority belong to the Sunni branch of Islam. A sizeable minority of the population is affiliated with the Alevi sect. The remainder of the population belongs to other beliefs, particularly Christian denominations (Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Syriac Orthodox, Chaldean Catholic, Church of the East), Judaism, Yezidism and others are irreligious.
There were reports of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious belief or practice. Violent attacks and threats against non-Muslims during the reporting period created an atmosphere of pressure and diminished freedom for some non-Muslim communities. Although proselytizing is legal in the country, some Muslims, Christians, and Baha'is faced a few restrictions and occasional harassment for alleged proselytizing or unauthorized meetings. The Government continued to oppose "Islamic fundamentalism." Authorities continued their broad ban on wearing Muslim religious headscarves in government offices, universities, and schools (upheld by the European Court of Human Rights); a 2006 court ruling, some argue, has extended this ban to the private sphere.
Religious minorities said they were effectively blocked from careers in state institutions because of their faith. Christians, Baha'is, and some Muslims faced societal suspicion and mistrust, and more radical Islamist elements continued to express anti-Semitic sentiments. Additionally, persons wishing to convert from Islam to another religion sometimes experienced social harassment and violence from relatives and neighbors.
According to the most recent Eurobarometer Poll 2005, Turkey is a country with a strong stance of secularism since the republican revolution of October 29, 1923 and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's modernization movement in March 3, 1924 which, among other things, abolished the Caliphate and removed all religious influence over the affairs of the state. Even though the state has no official religion nor promotes any, it actively monitors the area between the religions. The constitution recognises freedom of religion for individuals, whereas religious communities are placed under the protection of the state; but the constitution explicitly states that they cannot become involved in the political process (by forming a religious party, for instance) or establish faith-based schools. No party can claim that it represents a form of religious belief; nevertheless, religious sensibilities are generally represented through conservative parties.
In reverse, the mainstream Hanafite school of Sunni Islam is largely organised by the state, through the Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı (Religious Affairs Directorate), which controls all mosques and Islamic clerics. All Islamic views which are deemed political are censored in accordance with the principle of secularism. All mosques are state funded and it is the state that appoints their imams. The content of the weekly seminars of these mosques has to be approved a priori by the DRI. As such, independent Sunni communities and mosques are illegal. Minority religions, like Alevi Islam or Armenian or Greek Orthodoxy, are guaranteed by the constitution as individual faiths and are mostly tolerated, but this guarantee does not give any rights to religious communities. However, the Treaty of Lausanne gives certain minority religious rights to Jews, Greeks and Armenians, but not, for example, to Syriac-Orthodox or Roman Catholics. The question over the re-establishment of an ancient Greek Orthodox seminary in Istanbul has became a political issue in regard to the accession of Turkey to the European Union. The EU considers such prohibition to amount to suppression of religious freedom. However, it is pointed out that, if the Greek Orthodox are allowed to reopen the school, they will become the only religion in Turkey with the right to independent religious schools.
Moreover, Turkey, like France, prohibits by law the wearing of religious headcover and theo-political symbolic garments for both genders in government buildings, schools, and universities; the law was upheld by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights as "legitimate" in Leyla Şahin v. Turkey on November 10 2005.
Britain is a predominantly Christian country with two established, i.e. state, churches, the Church of England (COE), the mother church of the Anglican Communion and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Roman Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists and Orthodox are among the other Christian faiths present. Most of the world's religions are also represented, including a large number of Muslims (1 million), Sikhs (400,000), Hindus (400,000), and Jews (285,000). There are smaller communities of Bahá'í (6,000), Buddhists (over 500 groups and centers), Jains (25,000) and Zoroastrians (5,000), as well as followers of new religious movements and pagans. Many Britons consider themselves agnostic.p.159
The Church of Scotland is Presbyterian while the Church of England is Anglican (Episcopalian). The former is a national church guaranteed by law to be separate from the state, while the latter is a state-established church and any major changes to doctrine, liturgy, or structure must have parliamentary approval. Neither Wales nor Northern Ireland currently have established churches: the Church in Wales was disestablished in 1920, the Church of Ireland in 1871. The king or queen must promise to uphold the rights of the Presbyterian church in Scotland and the Anglican church in England. He or she is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, holding the title of Defender of the Faith, but an ordinary member of the Church of Scotland. Neither church receives direct funding from taxation. State schools must provide religious instruction and regular religious ceremonies, though parents may withdraw their children from either; the choice of religion is left up to the school governors, but in the absence of an explicit choice it is by default "broadly Christian;" the Church of England and the Catholic Church operate many state-funded schools and there are a small number of Jewish and Muslim ones. Senior Church of England bishops have a right to sit in the House of Lords, the upper chamber of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
In the 1600s and 1700s, many Europeans emigrated to what would later become the United States. For some this was driven by the desire to worship freely in their own fashion. These included a large number of nonconformists such as the Puritans and the Pilgrims as well as English Catholics. However, with some exceptions, such as Roger Williams of Rhode Island or the Roman Catholic Lord Baltimore in Maryland, most of these groups did not believe in religious toleration and in some cases came to America with the explicit aim of setting up an established religion.
The original U.S. Constitution said "... no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.". The people's belief in religious freedom was further integrated into the U.S. Constitution with the passing of the Bill of Rights containing the First Amendment. The clauses of the First Amendment that adopted the founders' principles that the federal government should not establish an official religion and should allow religious freedom are known respectively as the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. They state, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...".
The court-enforced separation does not extend to all elements of civil religion. By law, the country's currency now carries the motto "In God We Trust." Congress begins its sessions with a prayer, and since 1954 the Pledge of Allegiance contains the phrase, "one nation, under God." Court rulings have upheld these apparently religious references, viewing them as non-substantive "ceremonial deism" or utilizing other legal theories. Recent lawsuits have unsuccessfully attempted to challenge this view. Some expressions of religion on public property, such as certain displays of the Ten Commandments in courtrooms or Nativity scenes on public land have been ruled to be unconstitutional. The government is also permitted to restrict religious activities so long as these restrictions do not target religion specifically. For instance, a religious group cannot perform human sacrifice under the veil of separation of church and state because the government views it as murder and murder is illegal.
Religion plays a strong role in national politics, especially in controversial issues like abortion, euthanasia, and homosexuality. Direct church-state issues also arise, currently including the question of whether or not school vouchers should be used to help parents pay for education at private schools which may have religious affiliations, and the status of the faith-based initiatives of the current President, George W. Bush.
While there are numerous Catholics in the government, the most prominent religious participants in national politics are Evangelical Christians, Conservative Catholics, some Orthodox Jews, and Mormons, largely allied with the Republican Party and in the Bible Belt of the Southern and Midwestern United States, comprising what is known as the "religious right." Some religious groups wish to increase the ability of government to make various religious expressions; they often emphasize the largely Christian demographics and history of the country, however it is also often used as an attempt to give state sanction to a majoritarian faith at the direct expense of the rights of minority religious groups. See Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe
It is common practice for national politicians with strongly religious constituencies to cite religious texts or beliefs in support of certain policies. In other areas voters may be more disapproving of expressions of religious faith by political candidates and government officials.
The Constitution formally allows religious freedom. Every citizen is declared to be allowed to freely follow no, one, or more religions, practice his or her religion without violating the law, be treated equally regardless of his or her religion, be protected from being violated his or her religious freedom, but is prohibited to use religion to violate the law.
Despite the official position, Freedom House states that, although the conditions had improved in recent years, "freedom of religion and expression are again under attack in Vietnam" and "that the country’s recent economic liberalization is not equally matched by necessary improvements in political rights and civil liberties.”
All religious groups and most clergy must join a party controlled supervisory body, religions must obtain permission to build or repair houses of worship, run schools, engage in charity or ordain or transfer clergy, and some clergy remain in prison or under serious state repression.