State religion

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

State religion (also official religion ) is a religion preferred by a state over other religions . In Europe, after the beginning of the Reformation at the beginning of the 16th century and wars between Protestants and Catholics in the Augsburg religious peace, the principle of Cuius regio, eius religio applied .

Types of state religions

State religions (or in Europe also known as state churches ) are linked to or dependent on the state to varying degrees. The state identifies itself with a religion and recognizes it as “its” religion.

The weakest form of a state religion is the naming of the religious affiliation of the population, such as the French constitution of 1830 with its determination of the predominantly Roman Catholic religious affiliation of the French. In countries with Christian Orthodox national churches there is a high, historically grown identification of society with the local churches. This in fact sometimes results in close relationships and also support from the state, without the national churches being specifically designated as state churches in the constitutions.

A low level is given if the state institutionally prefers a religion, but at the same time guarantees unrestricted individual religious freedom. Examples of this are currently England and Denmark in particular , Sweden up to 2000 and Norway up to 2012 . In these states, the Anglican or Lutheran Church is / was part of the state and was also controlled by the state. The Queen of Great Britain is also the head of the Anglican Church of England (" Fidei defensor "), and the Queen of Denmark is also the head of the Lutheran Church of Denmark. Internal church decisions are made in the form of state laws, the churches are part of the state to grant z. B. bound by freedom of belief. From these examples it can be seen that a state religion does not necessarily mean a lack of individual freedom of religion or belief.

The status as a state religion is usually accompanied by a financial preference for the relevant religious community.

In some Islamic countries, the connection between the state and religion is more extensive, in that the basis of the community is the religious rules of a current of Islam . The identification of content with a religion goes hand in hand with the persecution of people of different faiths, and in particular those who have fallen away from the state religion. Examples of this are Yemen and, in particular, Saudi Arabia . The state also has the task of protecting and preserving the “true” religion, and thus ensuring the cohesion of society and domestic political stability.


  • Since the First Vatican Council in the second half of the 19th century, it has been explicit Catholic teaching that the Roman Catholic faith, as the only true religion in Catholic-dominated states, should also be elevated to the status of a state religion. This concept was built on the Vatican II abandoned by the Declaration Dignitatis Humanae , the freedom of religion , including public non-Catholic religion and the ban on discrimination were positively rated. In several southern European countries with a predominantly Catholic population, the corresponding constitutional regulations were subsequently deleted, most recently in Italy in 1984. In other countries, such as Malta , Catholicism is still the state religion.
  • In Germany , when the Weimar Constitution came into force, Article 137, Paragraph 1 banned any state church. This ban first and foremost had an impact on the Protestant regional churches , which had already largely broken away from state administration in the 19th century, but were still subject to the respective sovereign as their "supreme bishop" (so-called sovereign church regiment ). This state leadership of the church was deprived of its foundation by the state church ban. However, the status as a corporation under public law was retained in accordance with Article 137 (5) of the Weimar Constitution and explicitly opened for other religious and ideological communities.
  • In Switzerland there is no actual state religion (s) either at federal or cantonal level. Responsibility in state church law is located at the cantonal level, and accordingly each canton can recognize different denominations and religions (Protestant Reformed, Roman Catholic, Christian Catholic, Jewish) under public law ( regional churches ). The conditions thus more or less correspond to those in Germany, in that certain religious communities can be given a formally prominent position without others being restricted and consequently discriminated against. A “strict” separation of the state and religious communities was carried out in the cantons of Geneva and Neuchâtel , where, following the example of France, all religious communities are subject to private law.
  • In Liechtenstein , the Roman Catholic Church is a regional church and, as a prominent religion, enjoys the full protection of the state. In June 2011, however, a draft law was presented that provides for equal rights for all religious communities and the end of the state religion.
  • In Norway there has been no state religion since 2012, as the Evangelical Lutheran Church ( Den norske kirke ) no longer figures as a “state church” but as a “people's church”. In fact, this means an institutional separation; For example, the monarch is no longer the head of the church and the church appoints its bishops itself. Since January 1, 2017, it has been a legal entity independent of the Norwegian state .
  • The Swedish Church has been financed through church taxes since 2000.
  • The Roman Catholic Church is the state religion in Malta . In addition to a preferred status, B. Abortions and "bathing topless" are strictly prohibited and punishable. On May 29, 2011, the Maltese voted in a referendum for divorce law .
  • The Russian Orthodox Church has enjoyed preferential treatment in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 . However , it has not regained its status of state religion, which it had until the October Revolution of 1917.
  • In the Ottoman Empire , the Sunni - Islamic law school was the Hanafi state law school . In modern Turkey state and religion are separated according to the constitution; in practice, however, there are close links between the state and Sunni Islam . The administration of the Sunni institutions is incumbent on a state religious authority attached to the office of the Turkish Prime Minister and thus subordinate to the current Prime Minister, the Praesidium for Religious Affairs , which is endowed with far-reaching powers .
  • In the United States of America and its predecessors, the former colonies, the separation of church and state was guaranteed as early as the 17th century . However, Christianity has played a significant role throughout US history to this day.
  • In Ethiopia , church and state were separated in 1994. Prior to 1974, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church had a highly preferred status. The Muslim minority in particular was exposed to severe discrimination.

List of states with state religion




Evangelical Lutheran

Reformed (Calvinist)









Individual evidence

  1. ^ Draft law in Liechtenstein ( Memento of November 7, 2011 in the Internet Archive )