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A Christian state is a country that recognizes a form of Christianity as its official religion and often has a state church, which is a Christian denomination that supports the government and is supported by the government.
Today, several nations officially identify themselves as Christian states or have state churches, including Argentina, Costa Rica, Denmark, England, Faroe Islands, Greece, Greenland, 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. Though many Christian states have turned secular and adopted the Separation of Church and State, church organizations still have much influence in the institutions of these nations, include hospitals and schools with government funding.
In 201 AD or earlier, under king Abgar the Great, the Kingdom of Osroene became the first Christian state. By 301 AD, the Kingdom of Armenia became the second 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.
The Federal Government supports the Roman Catholic Apostolic religion.— Section II of Constitution of Argentina
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.
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. Wasif Shadid, a full professor at Leiden University writes that:
The Lutheran established church is a department of the state. Church affairs are government by a central government ministry, and 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."
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, with an act of collective worship "of a broadly Christian character" being required daily.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church shall be the Established Church of Denmark, and, as such, it shall be supported by the State.
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.
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.
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".
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."
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 I, there was established a "rigorous constitutional clause regulating observation of the Sabbath".
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 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."
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.
|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 and the United Evangelical Protestant State Church of Baden||Catholic and united Protestant||1918|
|Bavaria||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1918|
|Bolivia||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||2009|
|Brazil[note 1]||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1890|
|Brunswick||Evangelical Lutheran State Church in Brunswick||Lutheran||1918|
|Bulgaria||Bulgarian Orthodox Church||Eastern Orthodox||1946|
|Chile||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1925|
|Colombia||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1936|
|Connecticut Colony||Congregational Church||Reformed||1818|
|Cuba||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1902|
|Cyprus||Cypriot Orthodox Church||Eastern Orthodox||1977 with the death of the Ethnarch Makarios III|
|Czechoslovakia||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1920|
|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|
|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|
|Finnish Orthodox Church||Eastern Orthodox||1917|
|France[note 2]||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1905|
|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||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[note 3]||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1946|
|Iceland||Lutheran Evangelical Church||Lutheran||Current|
|Kingdom of Ireland[note 4]||Church of Ireland||Anglican||1871|
|Republic of Ireland[note 5]||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1973|
|Italy||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1985|
|Liechtenstein||Roman Catholic Church||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||Current|
|Republic of Macedonia||Macedonian Orthodox Church||Eastern Orthodox||1921|
|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||Current|
|Netherlands||Dutch Reformed Church||Reformed||1795|
|New Brunswick||Church of England||Anglican|
|Norway||Church of Norway||Lutheran||2017|
|Nova Scotia||Church of England||Anglican||1850|
|Oldenburg||Evangelical Lutheran Church of Oldenburg||Lutheran||1918|
|Panama||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1904|
|Paraguay||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1992|
|Philippines[note 6]||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1898|
|Poland[note 7]||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1947|
|Portugal||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1910, 1976 (reestablished between 1933 and 1974)|
|Prince Edward Island||Church of England||Anglican|
|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|
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|
Prov. of Schleswig-Holstein
|Evangelical Lutheran Church of Schleswig-Holstein||Lutheran||1918|
|Quebec||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1960|
|Romania||Romanian Orthodox Church||Eastern Orthodox||1947|
|Russia||Russian Orthodox Church||Eastern Orthodox||1917|
|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||Roman 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||Roman Catholic Church||Catholic||1918 (into effect in 1919)|
|Virginia||Church of England||Anglican||1786|
|Waldeck||Evangelical State Church of Waldeck and Pyrmont||united Protestants||1918|
|Wales[note 8]||Church of England||Anglican||1920|
|West Florida||Church of England||Anglican||1783|
|Württemberg||Evangelical State Church in Württemberg||Lutheran||1918|
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.
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.
...it is only as an established institution that the Church can fully preserve and promote Christian tradition to the nation. One cannot have a Christian state without a state Church.
Under the established church approach, the government will assist the state church and likewise the church will assist the government. Religious education is mandated by law to be taught in all schools, public or private.
But while Persia fiercely repelled Christianity from its frontier, upon that frontier arose a Christian state. Armenia was the first country which embraced Christianity as the religion of the King, the nobles, and the people.
In the 4th century, King Ezana converted to Christianity and declared Aksum a Christian state—the first Christian state in the history of the world.
Kartli became a Christian state under King Mirian in 337.
In the Edict of Thessalonica (380) he expressed the imperial "desire" that all Roman citizens should become Christians, the emperor adjudging all other madmen and ordering them to be designated as heretics,...condemned as such...to suffer divine punishment, and, therewith, the vengeance of that power, which we, by celestial authority, have assumed. There was thus created the "Christian State."
In contrast, the emperor Justinian (527-565) refashioned the eastern part of the Roman Empire into a strong and dynamic Byzantine Empire, which claimed Bosnia-Hercegovina, among other provinces. The Byzantine Empire became the world's predominant Christian state, based on Roman law, Greek culture, and the Greek language.
Thus the Constitution of Costa Rica, which is considered a model of stable democracy in Latin America, states in Article 75: The Roman Catholic and Apostolic Religion is the religion of the State, which contributes to its maintenance, without preventing the free exercise in the Republic of other forms of worship that are not opposed to universal morality or good customs.
Denmark has declared the Evangelical Lutheran church to be that national church (par. 4 of the Constitution), which corresponds the fact that 91.5% of the population are registered members of this church. This declaration implies that the Danish State does not take a neutral stand in religious matters. Nevertheless, freedom of religion has been incorporated in the Constitution. Nielsen (1992, 77) gives a short description of the position of the minority religious communities in comparison to that of the State Church: The Lutheran established church is a department of the state. Church affairs are government by a central government ministry, and 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. The other small religious communities, viz. Roman Catholics, Methodists, Baptists and Jews, have the constitutional status of 'recognised communities of faith'. ... Contrary to the minority religious communities, the Lutheran Church is fully financed by the Danish State.
The features of the state affect the essence of the state, but the key term is that of historical identity, hence this chapter concentrates on historical identity as the essence of the state, though at times some of the other features will also be referred to. For instance, ancient Greece has now become an Orthodox Christian state. Ancient Persia (Iran) has now become a Muslim state, and the ancient Buddhist states of the Silk Route have also become Islamic states.
Liechtenstein's constitution designates the Catholic Church as the state Church and guarantees religious freedom. Article 38 provides protection for the property rights of all religious institutions and states that "the administration of church property in the parishes shall be regulated by a specific law; the agreement of church authorities shall be sought before the law is enacted." Article 16 states that religious instruction in public schools "shall be given by church authorities."
As King George I of Tonga, Tupou created the "modern" Christian state with the Cross dominating its flag, and with the rigorous constitutional clause regulating observation of the Sabbath.
The Constitution of Tuvalu in a similar vein constitutes Tuvalu as "an independent State based on Christian principles...and Tuvaluan custom and tradition"; and also the Constitution of Vanuatu proclaims in its Preamble: "[we] HEREBY proclaim the establishment of the united and free Republic of Vanuatu founded on traditional Melanesian values, faith in God, and Christian principles..."
The Roman Catholic State of Vatican City is, of course, the best contemporary example of a Christian state. The State of Vatican City, originally established by the Lateran Pacts of 1929, approximates most faithfully the ideal-typical conception of theocratic Roman Catholic state. 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. Practically all acts and policies of the Vatican City revolve around the interests of the Holy See and, apart from the members of the Pontifical Swiss Guard, virtually all inhabitants of the Vatican City are members of the clergy.
Yet what is intriguing about this argument is that this modern secular state arises from, or is the simultaneous realisation and negation of, the Christian state.
Indeed, it is not the so-called Christian state, that one that recognizes Christianity as its basis, as the state religion, and thus adopts an exclusive attitude to other religions, that is the perfected Christian state, but rather the atheist state, the ...
The religious group is confronted by a pagan state, a Jewish state, a Christian state, an Islamic state, or a secular state.
Just as Christian just war theory justified the actions of the Christian state, Islamic jihad theory began with the founding of the Islamic state.
Theodosius did so through the 380 CE 'Edict of Thessalonica,' which established Nicene Christianity as the state church of the Roman Empire, with the Bishop of Rome as Pope.
The Byzantine Empire was both a Greek and a Christian state. Increasingly, Latin fell into disuse as Greek became both the common and the official language of the empire. The Byzantine Empire was also built on a faith in Jesus that was shared by almost all of its citizens. An enormous amount of artistic talent was poured into the construction of churches, church ceremonies, and church decoration. Spiritual principles deeply permeated Byzantine art.
The Byzantine Empire, stripped of Syria, Egypt, and North Africa, became a compact Orthodox Christian state, upholding its claim to Roman universalism and constructing an Orthodox Christian commonwealth among the Slavs of the Balkans and Russia.
Then, in the early 4th century, Ezana, Aksum's ruler, converted to Christianity and proclaimed Aksum a Christian state.
The government as a whole treats religion well and allows missionaries to freely enter and move around the country. Only the Catholic holy days are recognized as holidays, but the state generally allows people time to celebrate their holy days if they are of another religion. The public schools provide religious education, but parents can opt their children out if they choose.
Sweyn brought about Denmark's transition from a tribal civilisation to an early Christian state and furthermore modernised the organisation of the Christian church.
The state church of Denmark is Lutheran and a member of the Lutheran World Federation.
A majority of Danes, 82.1% (as of January 2008), are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark—by Section 4 of the constitution, the state church, officially headed by the queen of Denmark. Pastors in the Church of Denmark are civil servants employed by the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs, which also constitutes the head of administration. 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.
The Carolingian Renaissance heightened appreciation within England of the role of king and church in a Christian state.
In the UK, the state church is the Church of England, a Protestant church. Under the established church approach, the government will assist the state church and likewise the church will assist the government. Religious education is mandated by law to be taught in all schools, public or private.
The requirement that the collective worship be of a broadly Christian character is satisfied '...if it reflects the broad traditions of Christian belief without being distinctive of any particular Christian denomination.' Furthermore, it is expressly provided that not every act of collective worship be of a broadly Christian character: the requirement is satisfied provided that, taking any school term as a whole, the majority of acts of collective worship are broadly Christian in character.
Greece is the only Orthodox country in the EU.
Greece therefore is today the only country where the Orthodox Church remains a state church and plays a dominant role in the life of the country.
In becoming a Christian state, then, Iceland had avoided the chaos that was threatened by the secession of the Christian party from Althing and had cemented her friendship with the mother-country of Norway.
All public schools have mandatory education in Christianity. Formally, only the Minister of Education has the power to exempt students from this but individual schools usually grant informal exemptions.
According to Section 2 of the Maltese Constitution from the year 1964, amended in 1994 and 1996, the state church of Malta is the Roman Catholic Church. According to the same section it is endowed with a legal right to determine moral rights and wrongs and is privileged in public education: 1. The religion of Malta is the Roman Catholic Apostolic Religion. 2. The authorities of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church have the duty to teach which principles are right and which are wrong. Religious teaching of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Faith shall be provided in all State schools as part of compulsory education.
Tonga, according to its mission friends, exemplified how grace and selfless devotion to the task could transform a feuding array of heathen communities into a unified Christian state.
Nearly all Tongans are Christian, and about 30 percent belong to the Free Wesleyan Church, the official state church.
Recent trends have moved in opposite directions: while the parliament of Tuvalu in 1991 approved legislation establishing the (Congregationalist) Church of Tuvalu as the State Church, at the end of 2007 Nepal's provisional parliamentary assembly voted to abolish the monarchy whose kings were popularly held to be reincarnations of the Hindu god Vishnu.