Christian State

Christian state is a country that recognizes a form of Christianity as its official religion and often has a state church (also called an established church), which is a Christian denomination that supports the government and is supported by the government.

Historically, the nations of Armenia, Aksum, Georgia, as well as the Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire declared themselves as Christian states.

Today, several nations officially identify themselves as Christian states or have state churches, including Argentina, Costa Rica, Denmark (incl. Greenland), Dominican Republic, El Salvador, England, Faroe Islands, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, Norway, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vatican City, and Zambia. A Christian state stands in contrast to a secular state, an atheist state, or another religious state, such as a Jewish state, or an Islamic state.

Countries with Christianity as their state religion are in blue.

Countries with Christianity as their state religion are in blue.

History

By 301 AD, the Kingdom of Armenia became the first state to declare Christianity as its official religion following the conversion of the Royal House of the Arsacids in Armenia. The Armenian Apostolic Church is the world’s oldest national church. Later, in AD 380, three Roman emperors issued the Edict of Thessalonica (Cunctos populos), making the Roman Empire a Christian state, and establishing Nicene Christianity, in the form of its State Church, as its official religion.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the late 5th century, the “Byzantine Empire” under the emperor Justinian (reigned 527-565), became the world’s predominant Christian state, based on Roman law, Greek culture, and the Greek language.” In this Christian state, in which nearly all of its subjects upheld faith in Jesus, an “enormous amount of artistic talent was poured into the construction of churches, church ceremonies, and church decoration”. John Binns describes this era, writing that:

A new stage in the history of the Church began when not just localised communities but nations became Christian. The stage is associated with the conversion of Constantine and the beginnings of a Christian Empire, but the Byzantine Emperor was not the first ruler to lead his people into Christianity, thus setting up the first Christian state. That honour traditionally goes to the church of Armenia.

As a Christian state, Armenia “embraced Christianity as the religion of the King, the nobles, and the people”. In AD 326, according to official tradition of the Georgian Orthodox Church, following the conversion of Mirian and Nana, the country of Georgia became a Christian state, the Emperor Constantine the Great sending clerics for baptising people. In the 4th century AD, in the Kingdom of Aksum, after Ezana’s conversion to the faith, this empire also became a Christian state.

In the Middle Ages, efforts were made in order to establish a Pan-Christianity state by uniting the countries within Christendom. Christian nationalism played a role in this era in which Christians felt the impulse to also recover those territories in which Christianity historically flourished, such as the Holy Land and North Africa.

Modern era

Argentina

The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Although it enforces neither an official nor a state faith, it gives Roman Catholicism a preferential status.

The Federal Government supports the Roman Catholic Apostolic religion.

— Section II of Constitution of Argentina

Costa Rica

The constitution of Costa Rica states that “The Roman Catholic and Apostolic Religion is the religion of the State”. As such, Catholic Christian holy days are recognized by the government and “public schools provide religious education”, although parents are able to opt-out their children if they choose to do so.

Denmark

As early as the 11th century AD, “Denmark was considered to be a Christian state”, with the Church of Denmark, a member of the Lutheran World Federation, being the state church. Prof. Wasif Shadid, of Leiden University, writes that:

The Lutheran established church is a department of the state. Church affairs are governed by a central government ministry, while clergy are government employees. The registration of births, deaths and marriages falls under this ministry of church affairs, and normally speaking the local Lutheran pastor is also the official registrar.

82.1% of the population of Denmark are members of the Lutheran Church of Denmark, which is “officially headed by the queen of Denmark”. Furthermore, clergy “in the Church of Denmark are civil servants employed by the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs” and the “economic base of the Church of Denmark is state-collected church taxes combined with a direct state subsidiary (12%), which symbolically covers the expenses of the Church of Denmark to run the civil registration and the burial system for all citizens.”

England

Barbara Yorke writes that the “Carolingian Renaissance heightened appreciation within England of the role of king and church in a Christian state.” As such,

Since the 1701 Act of Establishment, England’s official state church has been the Church of England, the monarch being its supreme governor and ‘defender of the faith’. She, together with Parliament, has a say in appointing bishops, twenty-six of whom have ex officio seats in the House of Lords. In characteristically British fashion, where the state is representative of civil society, it was Parliament that determined, in the Act of Establishment, that the monarch had to be Anglican.

Christian religious education is taught to children in primary and secondary schools in the United Kingdom. English schools have a legal requirement for a daily act of collective worship “of a broadly Christian character” that is widely flouted.

Faroe Islands

The Church of the Faroe Islands is the state church of Faroe Islands.

Georgia

Georgia is one of the oldest Christian states. Article 8 of Georgian Constitution and the Concordat of 2002 grants the Georgian Orthodox Church special privileges, which include legal immunity to the Patriarch of Georgia. The Orthodox Church is the most trusted institution in the country and its head, Patriarch Ilia II, the most trusted person.

Greece

Greece is a Christian state, with the Greek Orthodox Church playing “a dominant role in the life of the country”.

Greenland

Being an autonomous constituent country within the Kingdom of Denmark, the Church of Denmark is the established church of Greenland through the Constitution of Denmark:

The Evangelical Lutheran Church shall be the Established Church of Denmark, and, as such, it shall be supported by the State.

— Section IV of Constitution of Denmark

This applies to all of the Kingdom of Denmark, except for the Faroe Islands, as the Church of the Faroe Islands became independent in 2007.

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.

Iceland

Around AD 1000, Iceland became a Christian state. The Encyclopedia of Protestantism states that:

The majority of Icelanders are members of the state church. Almost all children are baptized as Lutheran and more than 90 percent are subsequently confirmed. The church conducts 75 percent of all marriages and 99 percent of all funerals. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Iceland is a member of the Lutheran World Federation and the World Council of Churches.

All public schools have mandatory education in Christianity, although an exemption may be considered by the Minister of Education.

Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein’s constitution designates the Catholic Church as being the state Church of that country. In public schools, per article 16 of the Constitution of Liechtenstein, religious education is given by Church authorities.

Malta

Section Two of the Constitution of Malta specifies the state’s religion as being the Roman Catholic Apostolic Religion. It holds that the “authorities of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church have the duty to teach which principles are right and which are wrong” and that “religious teaching of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Faith shall be provided in all State schools as part of compulsory education”.

Monaco

Article 9 of the Constitution of Monaco describes “La religion catholique, apostolique et romaine [the catholic, apostolic and Roman religion]” as the religion of the state.

Norway

Cole Durham and Tore Sam Lindholm, writing in 2013, stated that “For a period of one thousand years Norway has been a kingdom with a Christian state church” and that a decree went out in 1739 ordering that “Elementary schooling for all Norwegian children became mandatory, so that all Norwegians should be able to read the Bible and the Lutheran Catechism firsthand.” The modern Constitution of Norway stipulates that “The Church of Norway, an Evangelical-Lutheran church, will remain the Established Church of Norway and will as such be supported by the State.” As such, the “Norwegian constitution decrees that Lutheranism is the official religion of the State and that the King is the supreme temporal head of the Church.” The administration of the Church “is shared between the Ministry for Church, Education and Research centrally and municipal authorities locally”, and the Church of Norway “depends on state and local taxes”. The Church of Norway is responsible for the “maintenance of church buildings and cemeteries”. John T. Flint writes that “Over 90 percent of the population are married by state church clergymen, have their children baptized and confirmed, and finally are buried with a church service.”

Samoa

Samoa became a Christian state in 2017. Article 1 of the Samoan Constitution states that “Samoa is a Christian nation founded of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”.

Tonga

Tonga became a Christian state under George Tupou I in the 19th century, with the Free Wesleyan Church, a member of the World Methodist Council, being established as the country’s state Church. Under the rule of George Tupou I, there was established a “rigorous constitutional clause regulating observation of the Sabbath”.

Tuvalu

The Church of Tuvalu, a Reformed Church in the Congregationalist tradition, is the state church of Tuvalu and was established as such in 1991. The Constitution of Tuvalu identifies Tuvalu as “an independent State based on Christian principles”.

Vatican City

Vatican City is a Christian state, in which the “Pope is ex officio simultaneously leader of the Roman Catholic Church as well as Head of State and Head of the Government of the State of the Vatican City; he also possesses (de jure) absolute authority over the legislative, executive and judicial branches.”

Zambia

Jeroen Temperman, a professor of international law at Erasmus University Rotterdam writes that:

Zambia is officially a Christian state as well, though the legal ramifications clearly do not compare to the latter state. The Preamble of the Constitution of Zambia establishes Zambia as a Christian state without specifying “Christian” denominationally. It simply proclaims: “We, the people of Zambia…declare the Republic a Christian nation…” As far as state practice is concerned, it may be pointed out that the Government maintains relations with the Zambian Council of Churches and requires Christianity to be taught in the public school curriculum.

After “Zambia declared itself a Christian nation in 1991”, “the nation’s vice president urged citizens to ‘have a Christian orientation in all fields, at all levels’.”

Established Churches and former state Churches

Location Church Denomination Disestablished
Anhalt Evangelical State Church of Anhalt united Protestant 1918, during the German Revolution
Armenia Armenian Apostolic Church Oriental Orthodox 1921
Austria Catholic Church Catholic 1918, under the Federal Constitutional Law
Baden Catholic Church and the United Evangelical Protestant State Church of Baden Catholic and united Protestant 1918, during the German Revolution
Bavaria Catholic Church Catholic 1918, during the German Revolution
Bolivia Catholic Church Catholic 2009, under the Constitution of Bolivia
Brazil Roman Catholic Church Catholic 1890
Brunswick Evangelical Lutheran State Church in Brunswick Lutheran 1918, during the German Revolution
Bulgaria Bulgarian Orthodox Church Eastern Orthodox 1946
Chile Catholic Church Catholic 1925
Colombia Catholic Church Catholic 1936
Connecticut Colony Congregational Church Reformed 1818, under the Constitution of Connecticut
Cuba Catholic Church Catholic 1902
Cyprus Cypriot Orthodox Church Eastern Orthodox 1977 with the death of the Ethnarch Makarios III
Czechoslovakia Catholic Church Catholic 1920, under the Czechoslovak Constitution
Denmark Church of Denmark Lutheran Current
East Florida Church of England Anglican 1783
England Church of England Anglican Current
Ethiopia Ethiopian Orthodox Church Oriental Orthodox 1974, after the formation of the Derg
Faroe Islands Church of the Faroe Islands Lutheran Current; elevated from a diocese of the Church of Denmark in 2007 (the two remain in close cooperation)
Finland Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland Lutheran 1869; however the organisation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland is regulated by the Constitution of Finland and Church Act of 1993. The state also carries out taxing for the funding of the church on its members.
Finnish Orthodox Church Eastern Orthodox 1917
France Catholic Church Catholic 1905, under the law on the Separation of the Churches and the State
Georgia Georgian Orthodox Church Eastern Orthodox 1921
Greece Greek Orthodox Church Eastern Orthodox The Church of Greece is recognized by the Greek Constitution as the “prevailing religion” in Greece. 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.
Greenland Church of Denmark Lutheran Current; 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 Catholic Church Catholic 1871
Haiti Catholic Church Catholic 1987
Hawaii Church of Hawaii Anglican 1893, after the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom
Hesse Evangelical Church in Hesse united Protestant 1918, during the German Revolution
Hungary Roman Catholic Church Catholic 1946
Iceland Lutheran Evangelical Church Lutheran Current
Kingdom of Ireland Church of Ireland Anglican 1871
Republic of Ireland Catholic Church Catholic 1973
Italy Catholic Church Catholic 1949
Liechtenstein Catholic Church Catholic Current
Lippe Church of Lippe Reformed 1918
Lithuania Catholic Church Catholic 1940
Lübeck Evangelical Lutheran Church in the State of Lübeck Lutheran 1918
Luxembourg Catholic Church Catholic Current
North Macedonia Macedonian Orthodox Church Eastern Orthodox 1921
Malta Catholic Church Catholic Current
Mecklenburg-Schwerin Evangelical Lutheran State Church of Mecklenburg-Schwerin Lutheran 1918
Mecklenburg-Strelitz Mecklenburg-Strelitz State Church Lutheran 1918
Mexico Catholic Church Catholic 1857, under the Federal Constitution (reestablished between 1864 and 1867)
Monaco Catholic Church Catholic Current
Netherlands Dutch Reformed Church Reformed 1795
New Brunswick Church of England Anglican 1850
Norway Church of Norway Lutheran 2017
Nova Scotia Church of England Anglican 1850
Oldenburg Evangelical Lutheran Church of Oldenburg Lutheran 1918
Panama Catholic Church Catholic 1904
Paraguay Catholic Church Catholic 1992
Philippines Catholic Church Catholic 1898
Poland Catholic Church Catholic 1947
Portugal Catholic Church Catholic 1910, 1976 (reestablished between 1933 and 1974)
Prince Edward Island Church of England Anglican 1850
Province of Georgia, British America Church of England Anglican 1789
Province of Maryland Church of England Anglican 1776
Province of Massachusetts Bay Congregational Church Reformed 1834
Province of New Hampshire Church of England Anglican 1877
Province of North Carolina Church of England Anglican 1776
Province of South Carolina Church of England Anglican 1790
Prussia
pre 1866 provinces
Evangelical State Church of Prussia’s older Provinces with nine ecclesiastical provinces united Protestant 1918
Prussia
Province of Hanover
Evangelical Reformed State Church of the Province of Hanover Reformed 1918
Prussia
Province of Hanover
Evangelical Lutheran State Church of Hanover Lutheran 1918
Prussia
Province of Hesse-Nassau (partially)
Evangelical State Church of Frankfurt upon Main united Protestant 1918
Prussia
Province of Hesse-Nassau (partially)
Evangelical Church of Electoral Hesse united Protestant 1918
Prussia
Province of Hesse-Nassau (partially)
Evangelical State Church in Nassau united Protestant 1918
Prussia
Prov. of Schleswig-Holstein
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Schleswig-Holstein Lutheran 1918
Quebec Catholic Church Catholic 1960, after the Quiet Revolution
Romania Romanian Orthodox Church Eastern Orthodox 1947
Russia Russian Orthodox Church Eastern Orthodox 1917, after the Russian Revolution
Thuringia church bodies in principalities which merged in Thuringia in 1920 Lutheran 1918
Saxony Evangelical Lutheran State Church of Saxony Lutheran 1918
Schaumburg-Lippe Evangelical State Church of Schaumburg-Lippe Lutheran 1918
Scotland Church of Scotland Presbyterian State control disclaimed since 1638. Formally recognised as not an established church in 1921
Serbia Serbian Orthodox Church Eastern Orthodox 1920
Spain Catholic Church Catholic 1978
Sweden Church of Sweden Lutheran 2000
Switzerland separate Cantonal Churches («Landeskirchen») Zwinglianism & Calvinism or Catholic during the 20th century
Tuvalu Church of Tuvalu Reformed Current
United Province of Canada Church of England Anglican 1854
Uruguay Catholic Church Catholic 1918 (into effect in 1919)
Virginia Church of England Anglican 1786
Waldeck Evangelical State Church of Waldeck and Pyrmont united Protestant 1918
Wales Church of England Anglican 1920
West Florida Church of England Anglican 1783
Württemberg Evangelical State Church in Württemberg Lutheran 1918

National church

A number of countries have a national church which is not Established (as the official religion of the nation), but is nonetheless recognised under civil law as being the country’s acknowledged religious denomination. Whilst these are not Christian states, the official Christian national church is likely to have certain residual state functions in relation to state occasions and ceremonial. Examples include Scotland (Church of Scotland) and Sweden (Church of Sweden). A national church typically has a monopoly on official state recognition, although unusually Finland has two national churches (the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and the Finnish Orthodox Church), both recognised under civil law as joint official churches of the nation.

See also

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia