A state religion (also called official religion) is a religion or creed officially endorsed by a sovereign state. A state with an official religion (also known as confessional state), while not a secular state, is not necessarily a theocracy. State religions are official or government-sanctioned establishments of a religion, but the state does not need to be under the control of the clergy (as in a theocracy), nor is the state-sanctioned religion necessarily under the control of the state.

Confessional states[a]
  Christianity (unspecified doctrines)
  Islam (unspecified doctrines)

Official religions have been known throughout human history in almost all types of cultures, reaching into the Ancient Near East and prehistory. The relation of religious cult and the state was discussed by the ancient Latin scholar Marcus Terentius Varro, under the term of theologia civilis (lit.'civic theology'). The first state-sponsored Christian church was the Armenian Apostolic Church, established in 301 CE.[28] In Christianity, as the term church is typically applied to a place of worship for Christians or organizations incorporating such ones, the term state church is associated with Christianity as sanctioned by the government, historically the state church of the Roman Empire in the last centuries of the Empire's existence, and is sometimes used to denote a specific modern national branch of Christianity. Closely related to state churches are ecclesiae, which are similar but carry a more minor connotation.

In the Middle East, the majority of states with a predominantly Muslim population have Islam as their official religion, though the degree of religious restrictions on citizens' everyday lives varies by country. Rulers of Saudi Arabia use religious power, while Iran's secular presidents are supposed to follow the decisions of religious authorities since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Turkey, which also has Muslim-majority population, became a secular country after Atatürk's Reforms, although unlike the Russian Revolution of the same time period, it did not result in the adoption of state atheism.

The degree to which an official national religion is imposed upon citizens by the state in contemporary society varies considerably; from high as in Saudi Arabia and Iran, to none at all as in Greenland, Denmark, England, Iceland, and Greece (in Europe, the state religion might be called in English, the established church).



The degree and nature of state backing for denomination or creed designated as a state religion can vary. It can range from mere endorsement (with or without financial support) with freedom for other faiths to practice, to prohibiting any competing religious body from operating and to persecuting the followers of other sects.[29] In Europe, competition between Catholic and Protestant denominations for state sponsorship in the 16th century evolved the principle Cuius regio, eius religio (states follow the religion of the ruler) embodied in the text of the treaty that marked the Peace of Augsburg in 1555. In England, Henry VIII broke with Rome in 1534, being declared the Supreme Head of the Church of England,[b] the official religion of England continued to be "Catholicism without the Pope" until after his death in 1547.[31]

In some cases, an administrative region may sponsor and fund a set of religious denominations; such is the case in Alsace-Moselle in France under its local law, following the pre-1905 French concordatory legal system and patterns in Germany.[32]

State churches

Westminster Abbey is responsible directly to the British monarch. The Church of England is the established church in England.

A state church (or "established church") is a state religion established by a state for use exclusively by that state. In the case of a state church, the state has absolute control over the church, but in the case of a state religion, the church is ruled by an exterior body; for example, in the case of Catholicism, the Vatican has control over the church. As of 2024, there are only five state churches left.[33]



Disestablishment is the process of repealing a church's status as an organ of the state. In a state where an established church is in place, opposition to such a move may be described as antidisestablishmentarianism. This word is, however, most usually associated with the debate on the position of the Anglican churches in the British Isles: the Church of Ireland (disestablished in 1871), the Church in Wales (disestablished in 1920), and the Church of England itself (which remains established in England).[citation needed]

Current states with a state religion




Governments where Buddhism, either a specific form of it, or Buddhism as a whole, has been established as an official religion:

  •   Bhutan: The Constitution defines Buddhism as the "spiritual heritage of Bhutan". The Constitution of Bhutan is based on Buddhist philosophy.[34] It also mandates that the Druk Gyalpo (King) should appoint the Je Khenpo and Dratshang Lhentshog (The Commission for Monastic Affairs).[35]
  •   Cambodia: The Constitution declared Buddhism as the official religion of the country.[36] About 98% of Cambodia's population is Buddhist.[37]
  •   Myanmar: Section 361 of the Constitution states that "The Union recognizes special position of Buddhism as the faith professed by the great majority of the citizens of the Union."[38] The 1961 State Religion Promotion and Support Act requires : to teach Buddhist lessons in schools, to give priority to Buddhist monasteries in founding of primary schools, to make Uposatha days holidays during Vassa months, to broadcast Buddhist sermons by State media on Uposatha days, and other promotion and supports for Buddhism as State Religion.[39]
  •   Sri Lanka: The constitution of Sri Lanka states under Chapter II, Article 9, "The Republic of Sri Lanka declares Buddhism as the state religion and accordingly it shall be the duty of the Head of State and Head of Government to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana".[40]

In some countries, Buddhism is not recognized as a state religion, but holds special status:

  •   Thailand: Article 67 of the Thai constitution: "The State should support and protect Buddhism". In supporting and protecting Buddhism, the State should promote and support education and dissemination of dharmic principles of Theravada Buddhism, and shall have measures and mechanisms to prevent Buddhism from being undermined in any form. The State should also encourage Buddhists to participate in implementing such measures or mechanisms.[41]
  •   Laos: According to the Lao Constitution, Buddhism is given special privilege in the country. The state respects and protects all the lawful activities of Buddhism.[42]
  •   Kalmykia (Russia): The local Government supports Buddhism and also encourages Buddhist teachings and traditions. It also builds various Buddhist temples and sites. Various efforts are taken by the Government for the revival of Buddhism in the republic.[43][44][45]



The following states recognize some form of Christianity as their state or official religion or recognize a special status for it (by denomination):

Non-denominational Christianity

  •   Samoa: In June 2017, Parliament voted to amend the wording of Article 1 of the constitution, thereby making Christianity the state religion. Part 1, Section (1)(3) reads "Samoa is a Christian nation founded on God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." The status of the religion had previously only been mentioned in the preamble, which Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi considered legally inadequate.[46][47]
  •   Zambia: The preamble to the Zambian Constitution of 1991 declares Zambia to be "a Christian nation", while also guaranteeing freedom of religion.[48]



Jurisdictions where Catholicism has been established as a state or official religion:

Jurisdictions that give various degrees of recognition in their constitutions to Roman Catholicism without establishing it as the State religion:

Eastern Orthodoxy


The jurisdictions below give various degrees of recognition in their constitutions to Eastern Orthodoxy, but without establishing it as the state religion:

  •   Greece: The Church of Greece is recognized by the Greek Constitution as the prevailing religion in Greece[67] However, this provision does not give exclusivity of worship to the Church of Greece, while all other religions are recognized as equal and may be practiced freely.[68]
  •   Bulgaria: In the Bulgarian Constitution, Eastern Orthodoxy is recognized as "the traditional religion" of the Bulgarian people, but the state itself remains secular.[69]
  •   Cyprus: The Constitution of Cyprus states: "The Autocephalous Greek-Orthodox Church of Cyprus shall continue to have the exclusive right of regulating and administering its own internal affairs and property in accordance with the Holy Canons and its Charter in force for the time being and the Greek Communal Chamber shall not act inconsistently with such right."[70][c]
  •   Finland: Both the Finnish Orthodox Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland are "national churches".[71][72]
  •   Georgia: The Georgian Orthodox Church has a constitutional agreement with the state, the constitution recognizing "the special role of the Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Georgia in the history of Georgia and its independence from the state".[73] (See also Concordat of 2002)



The following states recognize some form of Protestantism as their state or official religion:


The Anglican Church of England is the established church in England as well as all three of the Crown Dependencies:

  •   Scotland: The Church of Scotland is the national church, but not the United Kingdom as a whole.[77] Whilst it is the national church, it 'is not State controlled' and the monarch is not the 'supreme governor' as in the Church of England.[77]
  •   Tuvalu: The Church of Tuvalu is the state religion, although in practice this merely entitles it to "the privilege of performing special services on major national events".[78] The Constitution of Tuvalu guarantees freedom of religion, including the freedom to practice, the freedom to change religion, the right not to receive religious instruction at school or to attend religious ceremonies at school, and the right not to "take an oath or make an affirmation that is contrary to his religion or belief".[79]

Nordic Countries


Jurisdictions where a Lutheran church has been fully or partially established as a state recognized religion include the Nordic States.

Jurisdictions that give various degrees of recognition in their constitutions to Lutheranism without establishing it as the state religion:

  •   Finland: The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland has a special relationship with the Finnish state, its internal structure being described in a special law, the Church Act.[71] The Church Act can be amended only by a decision of the synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and subsequent ratification by the Parliament of Finland. The Church Act is protected by the Constitution of Finland and the state cannot change the Church Act without changing the constitution. The church has the power to tax its members. The state collects these taxes for the church, for a fee. On the other hand, the church is required to give a burial place for everyone in its graveyards.[71] The President of Finland also decides the themes for intercession days. The church does not consider itself a state church, as the Finnish state does not have the power to influence its internal workings or its theology, although it has a veto in those changes of the internal structure which require changing the Church Act. Neither does the Finnish state accord any precedence to Lutherans or the Lutheran faith in its own acts.
  •   Sweden: The Church of Sweden was the state church of Sweden between 1527 when King Gustav Vasa broke all ties with Rome and 2000 when the state officially became secular. Much like in Finland, it does have a special relation to the Swedish state unlike any other religious organizations. For example, there is a special law that regulates certain aspects of the church[85] and the members of the royal family are required to belong to it in order to have a claim to the line of succession. A majority of the population still belongs to the Church of Sweden.[86]


  •   Armenia: The Armenian Apostolic Church has a constitutional agreement with the State: "The Republic of Armenia shall recognise the exclusive mission of the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church, as a national church, in the spiritual life of the Armenian people, in the development of their national culture and preservation of their national identity."[87]
  •   Dominican Republic: The constitution of the Dominican Republic specifies that there is no state church and provides for freedom of religion and belief. A concordat with the Holy See designates Catholicism as the official religion and extends special privileges to the Catholic Church not granted to other religious groups. These include the legal recognition of church law, use of public funds to underwrite some church expenses, and complete exoneration from customs duties.[88]
  •   Haiti: While Catholicism has not been the state religion since 1987, a 19th-century concordat with the Holy See continues to confer preferential treatment to the Catholic Church, in the form of stipends for clergy and financial support to churches and religious schools. The Catholic Church also retains the right to appoint certain amounts of clergy in Haiti without the government's consent.[89][90]
  •   Hungary: The preamble to the Hungarian Constitution of 2011 describes Hungary as "part of Christian Europe" and acknowledges "the role of Christianity in preserving nationhood", while Article VII provides that "the State shall cooperate with the Churches for community goals." However, the constitution also guarantees freedom of religion and separation of church and state.[91]
  •   Nicaragua: The Nicaraguan Constitution of 1987 states that the country has no official religion, but defines "Christian values" as one of the "principles of the Nicaraguan nation".[92]
  •   Portugal: Although Church and State are formally separate, the Catholic Church in Portugal still receives certain privileges.[93]



Many Muslim-majority countries have constitutionally established Islam, or a specific form of it, as a state religion. Proselytism (converting people away from Islam) is often illegal in such states.[94][95][96][97]

In some countries, Islam is not recognized as a state religion, but holds special status:

  •   Tajikistan: Although there is a separation of religion from politics, certain aspects of law also privilege Islam. One such law declares "Islam to be a traditional religion of Tajikistan, with more rights and privileges given to Islamic organizations than to religious groups of non-Muslim origin".[124]
  •   Tunisia: Article 5 of the Constitution declares that "Tunisia is part of the Muslim world, and the state alone must work to achieve the goals of pure Islam in preserving honourable life of religious freedom". Although, Islam has been given special privileges by the Constitution, though it is no longer the state religion.[125][126]
  •   Turkmenistan: The Constitution claims to uphold a secular system in which religious and state institutions are separate. However, in Turkmenistan, the state actively privileges a form of traditional Islam. The culture, including Islam, is a key facet, contributes to the Turkmen national identity. The state encourages the conceptualization of "Turkmen Islam".[127]
  •   Uzbekistan: Since independence, Islam has taken on an altogether new role in the nation-building process in Uzbekistan. The government affords Islam in special status and declared it as a national heritage and a moral guideline.[128]


  •   Israel is defined in several of its laws as a "Jewish and democratic state" (medina yehudit ve-demokratit). However, the term "Jewish" is a polyseme that can describe the Jewish people as either an ethnic or a religious group. The debate about the meaning of the term "Jewish" and its legal and social applications is one of the most profound issues with which Israeli society deals. The problem of the status of religion in Israel, even though it is relevant to all religions, usually refers to the status of Judaism in Israeli society. Thus, even though from a constitutional point of view Judaism is not the state religion in Israel, its status nevertheless determines relations between religion and state and the extent to which religion influences the political center.[129] The Law of Return, passed on 5 July 1950, gives the global Jewish diaspora the right to relocate to Israel and acquire Israeli citizenship. Section - (1) of that law declares that "Every Jew has the right to come to this country as an Oleh"('immigrant'). In the Law of Return, the State of Israel gave effect to the Zionist movement's "credo" which called for the establishment of Israel as a Sovereign Jewish state with Democratic setups, ideals and values.[130]

The State of Israel supports religious institutions, particularly Orthodox Jewish ones, and recognizes the "religious communities" as carried over from those recognized under the British Mandate—in turn derived from the pre-1917 Ottoman system of millets. These are Jewish and Christian (Eastern Orthodox, Latin Catholic, Gregorian-Armenian, Armenian-Catholic, Syriac Catholic, Chaldean, Melkite Catholic, Maronite Catholic, and Syriac Orthodox). The fact that the Muslim population was not defined as a religious community does not affect the rights of the Muslim community to practice their faith. At the end of the period covered by the 2009 U.S. International Religious Freedom Report, several of these denominations were pending official government recognition; however, the Government has allowed adherents of not officially recognized groups the freedom to practice. In 1961, legislation gave Muslim Shari'a courts exclusive jurisdiction in matters of personal status. Three additional religious communities have subsequently been recognized by Israeli law: the Druze (prior under Islamic jurisdiction), the Evangelical Episcopal Church, and followers of the Baháʼí Faith.[131]

Political religions


In some countries, there is a political ideology sponsored by the government that may be called political religion.[132]

Multiple religion recognition


Islam in Russia is recognized under the law and by Russian political leaders as one of Russia's traditional religions, Islam is a part of Russian historical heritage, and is subsidized by the Russian government.[152] The position of Islam as a major Russian religion, alongside Orthodox Christianity, dates from the time of Catherine the Great, who sponsored Islamic clerics and scholarship through the Orenburg Assembly.[153]

In addition, the Treaty of Lausanne explicitly guarantees the security and protection of both Greek and Armenian Orthodox Christian minorities and the Turkish-Jews. Their religious institutions are being recognized officially by the state.[161][162]

  •   Vietnam is officially atheist[163] (although sometimes also referred as atheist-Buddhist),[164][165] but recognizes only 38 religious organizations and one dharma practice.[166]

Former state religions


Roman religion and Christianity


In Rome, the office of Pontifex Maximus came to be reserved for the Emperor, who was occasionally declared a god posthumously, or sometimes during his reign. Failure to worship the Emperor as a god was at times punishable by death, as the Roman government sought to link emperor worship with loyalty to the Empire. Many Christians and Jews were subject to persecution, torture and death in the Roman Empire because it was against their beliefs to worship the Emperor.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Constantine called up the First Council of Nicaea in 325, although he was not a baptized 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, Iberia, and Aksum.[citation needed]

Roman religion (Neoplatonic Hellenism) was restored for a time by the Emperor Julian from 361 to 363. Julian does not appear to have reinstated the persecutions of the earlier Roman emperors.[citation needed]

Catholic Christianity, as opposed to Arianism and other ideologies deemed heretical, was declared to be the state religion of the Roman Empire on 27 February 380[167] by the decree De fide catolica of Emperor Theodosius I.[168]

Han dynasty Confucianism


In China, the Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE) advocated Confucianism as the de facto state religion, establishing tests based on Confucian texts as an entrance requirement into government service—although, in fact, the "Confucianism" advocated by the Han emperors may be more properly termed a sort of Confucian Legalism or "State Confucianism". This sort of Confucianism continued to be regarded by the emperors, with a few notable exceptions, as a form of state religion from this time until the collapse of the Chinese monarchy in 1912. Note, however, there is a debate over whether Confucianism (including Neo-Confucianism) is a religion or purely a philosophical system.[169]

Yuan dynasty Buddhism


During the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty of China (1271–1368 CE), Tibetan Buddhism was established as the de facto state religion by the Kublai Khan, the founder of the Yuan dynasty. The top-level department and government agency known as the Bureau of Buddhist and Tibetan Affairs (Xuanzheng Yuan) was set up in Khanbaliq (modern Beijing) to supervise Buddhist monks throughout the empire. Since Kublai Khan only esteemed the Sakya sect of Tibetan Buddhism, other religions became less important. Before the end of the Yuan dynasty, 14 leaders of the Sakya sect had held the post of Imperial Preceptor (Dishi), thereby enjoying special power.[170]

Golden Horde and Ilkhanate


The Mongol rulers Ghazan of Ilkhanate and Uzbeg of Golden Horde converted to Islam in 1295 CE because of the Muslim Mongol emir Nawruz and in 1313 CE because of Sufi Bukharan sayyid and sheikh Ibn Abdul Hamid respectively. Their official favoring of Islam as the state religion coincided with a marked attempt to bring the regime closer to the non-Mongol majority of the regions they ruled. In Ilkhanate, Christian and Jewish subjects lost their equal status with Muslims and again had to pay the poll tax; Buddhists had the starker choice of conversion or expulsion.[171]

Former state churches in British North America


Other states

  • The State of Deseret was an unrecognised provisional state of the United States, proposed in 1849, by Mormon settlers in Salt Lake City. The provisional state existed for slightly over two years, but attempts to gain recognition by the United States government floundered for various reasons. The Utah Territory which was then founded was under Mormon control, and repeated attempts to gain statehood met resistance, in part due to concerns that the principle of separation of church and state conflicted with the practice of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints placing their highest value on "following counsel" in virtually all matters relating to their church-centered lives. The state of Utah was eventually admitted to the union on 4 January 1896, after the various issues had been resolved.[172]
  •   Kingdom of Hawaii: From 1862 to 1893 the Church of Hawaii, an Anglican body, was the official state and national church of the Kingdom of Hawaii.[citation needed]
  •   Japanese Empire: see details in the State Shintō article.
  •   Netherlands: Article 133 of the 1814 Constitution stipulated the Sovereign Prince should be a member of the Reformed Church; this provision was dropped in the 1815 Constitution.[173] The 1815 Constitution also provided for a state salary and pension for the priesthood of established religions at the time (Protestantism, Catholicism and Judaism). This settlement, nicknamed de zilveren koorde (the silver cord), was abolished in 1983.[174][175][176]
  •     Nepal was the world's only Hindu state until 2015, when the new constitution declared it a secular state. Proselytizing remains illegal.[177][178]
  •   Ottoman Empire: the Millet system (Turkish: [millet]; Arabic: مِلَّة) was the independent court of law pertaining to "personal law" under which a confessional community (a group abiding by the laws of Muslim Sharia, Christian Canon law, or Jewish Halakha) was allowed to rule itself under its own laws.
  •   Spain: Spain formerly was a Catholic confessional state under Francisco Franco, but currently is a non-confessional state.
  •   Sudan had Islam as the official religion during the rule of Omar al-Bashir according to the Constitution of Sudan of 2005.[179] It was declared a secular state in September 2020.[180]
  •   Tunisia: Article 5 of the Constitution declares that "Tunisia is part of the Muslim world, and the state alone must work to achieve the goals of pure Islam in preserving honourable life of religious freedom". Although, Islam has been given special privileges by the Constitution, though it is no longer the state religion.[125][181]
  •   Tokugawa shogunate sanctioned Buddhism and Confucianism as the state religions.[182][183] Buddhism became an arm of the shogunate, and temples were used for population registration. Distinctive schools of Japanese Buddhism such as Zen, Pure Land, and Nichiren structured Japanese religious life until the 19th century.[184] Confucian Zhu Xi's teaching became a major intellectual force, and the Four Books became available to virtually every educated person.[185]

Established churches and former state churches

Country Church Denomination Disestablished
Anhalt Evangelical State Church of Anhalt united Protestant 1918
Armenia Armenian Apostolic Church Oriental Orthodox 1921
Austria Roman Catholic Church Catholic 1918
Baden Roman Catholic Church Catholic


United Evangelical Protestant State Church of Baden united Protestant 1918
Bavaria Roman Catholic Church Catholic 1918
Protestant State Church in the Kingdom of Bavaria right of the Rhine Lutheran and Reformed 1918
United Protestant Evangelical Christian Church of the Palatinate united Protestant 1918
Barbados Church of England Anglican 1968
Bolivia Roman Catholic Church Catholic 2009
Brazil[d] Roman Catholic Church Catholic 1890
Brunswick Evangelical Lutheran State Church in Brunswick Lutheran 1918
Bulgaria Bulgarian Orthodox Church Eastern Orthodox 1946
Central African Empire Roman Catholic Church Catholic 1979
Chile Roman Catholic Church Catholic 1925
Colombia Roman Catholic Church Catholic 1936[186]
Cuba Roman Catholic Church Catholic 1902
Cyprus Church of Cyprus Eastern Orthodox 1977, following the death of the Ethnarch Makarios III
Czechoslovakia Roman Catholic Church Catholic 1920
Denmark Church of Denmark Lutheran Current
England Church of England Anglican Current
Ethiopia Ethiopian Orthodox Church Oriental Orthodox 1974
Faroe Islands Church of the Faroe Islands Lutheran Elevated from a diocese of the Church of Denmark in 2007 (the two remain in close cooperation)
Finland Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland Lutheran 1867
Finnish Orthodox Church Eastern Orthodox 1917
France Cult of Reason N/A 1794 (established 1793)
Cult of the Supreme Being N/A 1794, officially banned in 1802
Roman Catholic Church[e] Catholic 1905
Georgia Georgian Orthodox Church Eastern Orthodox 1921
Greece Church of Greece Eastern Orthodox[67] The Church of Greece is recognized by the Greek Constitution as the "prevailing religion" in Greece.[67] However, this provision does not give official status to the Church of Greece, while all other religions are recognized as equal and may be practiced freely.[68]
Greenland Church of Denmark Lutheran Under discussion to be elevated from The Diocese of Greenland in the Church of Denmark to a state church for Greenland, along‐the‐lines the Faroese Church took in 2007
Guatemala Roman Catholic Church Catholic 1871
Haiti Roman Catholic Church Catholic 1987
Hawaii Church of Hawaii Anglican 1893
Hesse Evangelical Church in Hesse united Protestant 1918
Hungary[f] Roman Catholic Church Catholic 1946
Iceland Lutheran Evangelical Church Lutheran Current
Ireland[g] Church of Ireland Anglican 1871
Italy Roman Catholic Church Catholic 18 February 1984 (into force 25 April 1985[193])
Liechtenstein Roman Catholic Church[51] Catholic Current
Lippe Church of Lippe Reformed 1918
Lithuania Roman Catholic Church Catholic 1940
Lübeck Evangelical Lutheran Church in the State of Lübeck Lutheran 1918
Luxembourg Roman Catholic Church Catholic Not an official state church[194]
Malta Roman Catholic Church Catholic Current
Mecklenburg-Schwerin Evangelical Lutheran State Church of Mecklenburg-Schwerin Lutheran 1918
Mecklenburg-Strelitz Mecklenburg-Strelitz State Church Lutheran 1918
Mexico Roman Catholic Church Catholic 1857 (reestablished between 1864 and 1867)
Monaco Roman Catholic Church Catholic 1999 (reestablished again in 2020–present).
Netherlands Dutch Reformed Church Reformed 1795
Nicaragua Roman Catholic Church Catholic 1939[195]
North Macedonia Macedonian Orthodox Church Eastern Orthodox 1921
Norway Church of Norway Lutheran As of 2012 the Constitution of Norway no longer names Lutheranism as the official religion of the state and in 2017 the church became an independent legal entity,[196][197][198] but article 16 says that "The Church of Norway [...] will remain the National Church of Norway and will as such be supported by the State."[199] As of 1 January 2017 the Church of Norway is a legal entity independent of the state.[196][200]
Oldenburg Evangelical Lutheran Church of Oldenburg Lutheran 1918
Panama Roman Catholic Church Catholic 1904
Paraguay Roman Catholic Church Catholic 1992[201]
Peru Roman Catholic Church Catholic 1993
Philippines[h] Roman Catholic Church Catholic 1898
Poland[i] Roman Catholic Church Catholic 1947
Portugal[j] Roman Catholic Church Catholic 1910, 1976
pre 1866 provinces
Evangelical State Church of Prussia's older Provinces with nine ecclesiastical provinces united Protestant 1918
Province of Hanover
Evangelical Reformed State Church of the Province of Hanover Reformed 1918
Province of Hanover
Evangelical Lutheran State Church of Hanover Lutheran 1918
Province of Hesse-Nassau (partially)
Evangelical State Church of Frankfurt upon Main united Protestant 1918
Province of Hesse-Nassau (partially)
Evangelical Church of Electoral Hesse united Protestant 1918
Province of Hesse-Nassau (partially)
Evangelical State Church in Nassau united Protestant 1918
Province of Schleswig-Holstein
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Schleswig-Holstein Lutheran 1918
Romania Romanian Orthodox Church Eastern Orthodox 1947
Russia Russian Orthodox Church Eastern Orthodox 1917
Saxony Evangelical Lutheran State Church of Saxony Lutheran 1918
Schaumburg-Lippe Evangelical State Church of Schaumburg-Lippe Lutheran 1918
Scotland[202] Church of Scotland Presbyterian Remains the national church; state control disclaimed since 1638. Formally recognised as not an established church by the Church of Scotland Act 1921.
Serbia Serbian Orthodox Church Eastern Orthodox 1920
Spain Roman Catholic Church Catholic 1978
Sweden Church of Sweden Lutheran 2000
Thuringia church bodies in principalities which merged in Thuringia in 1920 Lutheran 1918
Tuvalu Church of Tuvalu Reformed Current
Uruguay Roman Catholic Church Catholic 1918 (into effect in 1919)
United States[k] none since 1776, which was made explicit in the Bill of Rights in 1792 none n/a; some state legislatures required all citizens in those states to be members of a church, and some had official churches, such as Congregationalism in some New England states such as Massachusetts. This eventually ended in 1833 when Massachusetts was the last state to disestablish its church.
Waldeck Evangelical State Church of Waldeck and Pyrmont united Protestants 1918
Wales[l] Church of England Anglican 1920
Württemberg Evangelical State Church in Württemberg Lutheran 1918

Former confessional states


Note: This only includes states that abolished their state religion themselves, not states with a state religion that were conquered, fell apart or otherwise disappeared.


Country Denomination Disestablished
Laos Theravada Buddhism 1975[207]
Siam Theravada Buddhism 1932
Tokugawa Shogunate Japanese Buddhism 1868


Country Disestablished
Nepal 2008 (de facto)[208]
2015 (de jure)[208]


Country Denomination Disestablished
Sudan Sunni Islam 2020[209]
Tunisia Sunni Islam 2022[125]
Turkey Sunni Islam 1928[m]


Country Denomination Disestablished
Silla Korean Shamanism 527 CE


Country Denomination Disestablished
Japan State Shinto 1947 (de facto)[211]

See also



  1. ^ Bhutan,[1] Mauritania,[2] Western Sahara (via Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic[3] and Morocco,[4] which divide control), Morocco,[4] Tunisia,[5] Egypt,[6] England,[7] Jordan,[8] Iraq,[9] Pakistan,[10] Bangladesh,[11] United Arab Emirates,[12] Oman,[13] Yemen,[14] Maldives,[15] Iran,[16] Algeria,[17] Saudi Arabia,[18] Sri Lanka,[19] Afghanistan,[20] Somalia,[21] Malaysia,[22] Brunei,[23] Greece,[24] Denmark,[25] Costa Rica,[26] Zambia.[27] See also here.
  2. ^ The headship was administrative and jurisdictional but did not include the potestas ordinis (the right to preach, ordain, administer the sacraments and rites of the Church which were reserved to the clergy).[30]
  3. ^ The Constitution also states that "Any matter relating to divorce, judicial separation or restitution of conjugal rights or to family relations of the members of the Greek-Orthodox Church, shall be cognizable by family courts each of which is composed: For a divorce trial, of three judges, one of which is a lawyer ecclesiastical officer appointed by the Greek Orthodox Church and presides over the Court and the other two of high professional and moral standard belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church are appointed by the Supreme Court among lawyers. If no ecclesiastical officer is appointed as above, the Supreme Court appoints the President of the Court as well."[70]
  4. ^ Brazilian Laws – the Federal Constitution – The Organization of State. V-brazil.com. Retrieved 5 May 2012. Brazil had Roman Catholicism as the state religion from the country's independence, in 1822, until the fall of the Brazilian Empire. The new Republican government passed, in 1890, Decree 119-A "Decreto 119-A". Prohibits federal and state authorities to intervene on religion, granting freedom of religion. (still in force), instituting the separation of church and state for the first time in Brazilian law. Positivist thinker Demétrio Nunes Ribeiro urged the new government to adopt this stance. The 1891 Constitution, the first under the Republican system of government, abolished privileges for any specific religion, reaffirming the separation of church and state. This has been the case ever since the 1988 Constitution of Brazil, currently in force, does so in its Nineteenth Article. The Preamble to the Constitution does refer to "God's protection" over the document's promulgation, but this is not legally taken as endorsement of belief in any deity.
  5. ^ In France the Concordat of 1801 made the Roman Catholic, Calvinist, Lutheran churches and Judaism state-sponsored religions until 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and the State.
  6. ^ 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.[187][188]
  7. ^ In the Kingdom of Ireland the Church of Ireland was established in the Reformation.[189] The Act of Union 1800 created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland with the United Church of England and Ireland established outside Scotland. The Irish Church Act 1869 demerged and disestablished the Church of Ireland,[189] and the island was partitioned in 1922. The Republic of Ireland's 1937 constitution prohibits an established religion.[190] Originally, it recognized the "special position" of the Roman Catholic Church "as the guardian of the Faith professed by the great majority of the citizens", and recognized "the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Religious Society of Friends in Ireland, as well as the Jewish Congregations and the other religious denominations existing in Ireland at the date of the coming into operation of this Constitution".[191] These provisions were deleted in 1973.[192]
  8. ^ The Philippines was among several possessions ceded by Spain to the United States in 1898; religious freedom was subsequently guaranteed in the archipelago. This was codified in the Philippine Organic Act (1902), section 5: "... That no law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, and that the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed." A similarly-worded provision still exists in the present Constitution. Catholicism remains the predominant religion, wielding considerable political and cultural influence.
  9. ^ Article 25 of the constitution states: "1. Churches and other religious organizations shall have equal rights. 2. Public authorities in the Republic of Poland shall be impartial in matters of personal conviction". Article 114 of the Polish March Constitution of 1921 declared the Roman Catholic Church to hold "the principal position among religious denominations equal before the law" (in reference to the idea of first among equals). The article was continued in force by article 81 of the April Constitution of 1935. The Soviet-backed PKWN Manifesto of 1944 reintroduced the March Constitution, which remained in force until it was replaced by the Small Constitution of 1947.
  10. ^ Until 1910 Roman Catholic Church was considered as state religion. Between 1951 and 1976 Catholic religion was considered as religion of the Portuguese Nation.[citation needed]
  11. ^ The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution explicitly forbids the 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 retained an establishment of religion in general until 1833.[203] Until its substitution by Article of Amendment XI in 1834, Article III of the Massachusetts constitution's bill of rights provided, "... the legislature shall, from time to time, authorize and require, the several towns, parishes, precincts, and other bodies politic, or religious societies, to make suitable provision, at their own expense, for the institution of the public worship of God, and for the support and maintenance of public Protestant teachers of piety, religion and morality, in all cases where such provision shall not be made voluntarily."[204] The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. 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 U.S. Supreme Court—especially as the Court must now balance, on a state 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 American politics. All current State constitutions do mention a Creator, but include guarantees of religious liberty parallel to the First Amendment. The constitutions of eight states (Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas) also contain clauses that prohibit atheists from holding public office.[205][206] However, these clauses were held by the U.S. 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 the religious test prohibition in Article 6 Section 3 of the United States Constitution. The Church of Hawaii was the state church of Hawaii from 1862–1893.
  12. ^ The Church in Wales was split from the Church of England in 1920, by Welsh Church Act 1914; at the same time becoming disestablished.
  13. ^ The Turkish Constitution of 1924 was amended for the first time on 10 April 1928, including removing inter alia Article 2 and the provision of "Religion of the Turkish state is Islam".[210]


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Further reading

  • Rowlands, John Henry Lewis (1989). Church, State, and Society, 1827–1845: the Attitudes of John Keble, Richard Hurrell Froude, and John Henry Newman. Worthing, Eng.: P. Smith [of] Churchman Publishing; Folkestone, Eng.: distr. ... by Bailey Book Distribution. ISBN 1850931321