State 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.

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.

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.

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.

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States 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 Supreme Court of the United States.

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

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

Catholic Nations

Nations which recognize Catholicism as the official religion:

Protestant Nations

Nations which recognize a form of Protestant Christianity as their official religion:

Islamic Nations

Nations which recognize Islam as their official religion:

Buddhist Nations

Nations which recognize Buddhism as their official religion:

Hindu Nations

Nations which recognize Hinduism as their official religion:

State Churches & Former State Churches in Europe

CountryChurchDenominationDisestablished
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]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 ChurchCatholic?
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
LuxemburgRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic?
Republic of Macedonianone since independence
MaltaRoman Catholic ChurchCatholicno
MecklenburgEvangelical Church of MecklenburgLutheran1918
Moldovanone since independence
MonacoRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic?
NetherlandsDutch Reformed ChurchReformed?
NorwayChurch of NorwayLutheranno
OldenburgEvangelical Church of OldenburgLutheran1918
PolandRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic?
PortugalRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic?
Prussia13 provincial churchesLutheran1918
RomaniaRomanian Orthodox ChurchEastern Orthodox1947
RussiaRussian Orthodox ChurchEastern Orthodox1917
Saxon DuchiesEvangelical 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
TurkeyIslam1922
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 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
ConnecticutCongregational
Delawarenone
GeorgiaAnglican
Lower Canadanone
MarylandAnglican
MassachusettsCongregational
New BrunswickAnglican
New HampshireCongregational
New Jerseynone
New YorkAnglican/Dutch Reformed
Newfoundlandnone
North CarolinaAnglican
Nova ScotiaAnglican
Pennsylvanianone
Prince Edward IslandAnglican
Rhode Islandnone
South CarolinaAnglican
Upper CanadaAnglican
VirginiaAnglican

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