Kulturkampf (German: [kʊlˈtuːɐ̯kampf] (listen), "culture struggle") is a German term referring to the conflict between the government of the Kingdom of Prussia and the Roman Catholic Church from about 1872 to 1878, predominantly over the control of educational and ecclesiastical appointments. What made the Kulturkampf unique in Germany compared to struggles between state and Church in other states was its anti-Polish aspect. More rarely, the term is used by extension to refer to the power struggles between emerging constitutional democratic nation states and the Roman Catholic Church over the place and role of religion in modern polity, usually in connection with secularization campaigns.
The term Kulturkampf entered many languages, e.g.: French: le Kulturkampf, Spanish: el Kulturkampf, Italian: il Kulturkampf. It first appeared c. 1840 in an anonymous review of a publication by Swiss-German liberal Ludwig Snell on "The Importance of the Struggle of Liberal Catholic Switzerland with the Roman Curia". But it only gained wider currency after liberal member of the Prussian parliament, Rudolph Virchow, used it in 1873.
In contemporary socio-political discussion, the term Kulturkampf (see also culture war) is often used to describe any conflict between secular and religious authorities or deeply opposing values, beliefs between sizable factions within a nation, community, or other group.
Under the influence of ascending new philosophies and ideologies such as the enlightenment, realism, positivism, materialism, nationalism, secularism and liberalism, the role of religion in society and the relationship between society and church underwent profound changes in the 18th and 19th centuries. Many countries endeavoured to strip the church of worldly powers, reduce the duties of the church to spiritual affairs by secularising the public sphere and by separation of church and state and to assert the supremacy of the state, especially in education. Róisín Healy argues that across Europe, the Kulturkampf operated mainly on the state level and was found "especially in strongholds of liberalism, anti-clericalism, and anti-Catholicism."
The Catholic Church resisted this development which it portrayed as an attack on religion and sought to maintain and even strengthen its strong role in the state and society. With the growing influence of enlightenment and after having lost much of its wealth, power and influence in the mediatisation and secularization of the early 19th century the church had been in a state of decline. The papacy at this time was at a weak point in its history, having just lost all its territories to Italy, with the pope a "prisoner" in the Vatican. The church strove to revert its waning influence and to keep sway in such matters as e. g. marriage, family and education and initiated a Catholic revival by founding associations, papers, schools, social establishments or new orders and encouraging religious practices such as pilgrimages, mass assemblies, the devotion of Virgin Mary or the sacred heart of Jesus and the veneration of relics; the pope himself became an object of devotion. Apart from the extraordinary proliferation of religious orders, the 19th. century also witnessed the rise of countless Catholic associations and organisations, especially in Germany and in France. Catholic propaganda including the interpretation of daily events was spread through local and national Catholic newspapers prominent in all western European nations as well as through organized missions and groups dedicated to pious literature.
Under the leadership of his successor, Pope Pius IX, in
With its "Syllabus of Errors" of 1864, the Catholic Church launched an assault on the new ideologies, condemning 80 philosophical and political statements, mainly the foundations of the modern nation state, as false. It outright rejected such concepts as freedom of religion, free thought, separation of church and state, civil marriage, sovereignty of the people, democracy, liberalism and socialism, reason as the sole base of human action and in general condemned the idea of conciliation with progress. The announcements included an index of forbidden books.
A profound change was the gradual reorganization of the Catholic Church and its expansive use of the media. The popes worked to increase their control of the Church. Heavily criticized by European governments, it was centralized and streamlined with a strict hierarchy, the bishops sought direction from the Vatican and the needs and views of the international church were given priority over the local ones. Opponents of the new hierarchical church organization pejoratively called it ultramontanism.
In view of the church's opposition to enlightenment, liberal reforms and the revolutions of the 18th/19th centuries, these dogmas and the church's expressed insistence on papal primacy angered the liberal-minded all across Europe, even among some Catholics, adding fuel to the heated debates.
The dogmas represented a threat to the secularized state as they reaffirmed that the fundamental allegiance of Catholics was not to their nation-state, but to the Gospel and the Church and that the pope's teaching was absolutely authoritative and binding on all the faithful. Secular politicians even wondered whether "Catholicism and allegiance to the modern liberal state were not mutually exclusive". British Prime Minister Gladstone wrote in 1874 that the teaching on papal infallibility compromised the allegiance of faithful English Catholics. For European liberalism, the dogmas were a declaration of war against the modern state, science and spiritual freedom.
The pope's handling of dissent of the dogmas, e. g. by excommunication of critics or demanding their removal from schools and universities, was considered as "epitome of papal authoritarianism". In direct response to the Vatican's announcements, Austria passed the so-called May-Laws for Cisleithania in 1868, restricting the Concordat of 1855, and then cancelled the concordat altogether in 1870. Saxony and Bavaria withheld approval to publish the papal infallibility dogma; Hesse and Baden even denied it any legal validity. France refused to publish the doctrines altogether; Spain forbade publication of the Syllabus of Errors in 1864.
The Kulturkampf in Prussia is usually framed by the years 1871 and 1878 with the Catholic Church officially announcing its end in 1880 but the struggle in Germany had been an ongoing matter without definite beginning and the years 1871 to 1878 only mark its culmination in Prussia. In the wake of other European countries, most German states had taken first steps of secularisation well before unification. Predominantly Catholic Baden was at the forefront curbing the power of the Catholic Church (1852–1854 Baden Church Dispute) and (1864–1876 Kulturkampf Baden, see de:Badischer Kulturkampf). Other examples are Prussia (1830s, 1850, 1859 and 1969), Württemberg (1859/1862), Bavaria (1867, see de:Bayerischer Kulturkampf), Hesse-Nassau or Hesse-Darmstadt.
In the 1837 Kölner Wirren (Cologne Confusion; article in German) of legal and policy issues regarding the children of mixed Protestant-Catholic marriages, Prussia's final settlement was considered a defeat for the state as it had given in to demands of the Catholic Church. In 1850, Prussia again had a dispute with the church about civil marriage and primary schools and in 1852, it issued decrees against the Jesuits. As in many European countries, Jesuits were being banned or heavily restricted in many of the German states e. g. in Saxony (1831) and even in Catholic ones such as Bavaria (1851), Baden (1860) or Württemberg (1862).
Not to be left out, the German areas to the west of the Rhine had already gone through a process of separation of church and state in line with a radical secularization after annexation by revolutionary and Napoleonic France in 1794. After their return to Germany in 1814, many if not most of the changes were kept in place.
In the Vormärz-years, Catholic publications usually portrayed revolutions as negative and dangerous to the existing order as well as to the interests of the Catholic Church. Most of them considered a viable Catholicism to be necessary for the very health of society and state and to be the only true and effective protection against the scourge of revolution. The unsuccessful German revolutions of 1848–49, which the Catholic Church had opposed, produced no democratic reforms and attempts to radically disentangle state-church relationships failed. In the revolutionary parliament, many prominent representatives of political Catholicism took the side of the extreme right-wingers. In the years following the revolution, Catholicism became increasingly politicised due to the massive anti-modernist and anti-liberal policies of the Vatican.
In the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and Franco-Prussian War of 1870 the Catholic Church sided against Prussia and it was an outspoken opponent of German unification under Prussia (as well as of Italy's unification).
The Catholic dogmas and doctrines announced in 1854, 1864 and 1870 were perceived in Germany as direct attacks on the modern nation state. Thus, Bismarck, the Liberals and the Conservatives representing orthodox Protestants found the Centre Party's support of the pope highly provocative. Many Catholics shared these sentiments, especially against the pope's declared infallibility and the majority of Catholic German bishops deemed the definition of the dogma as "'unpropitious' in light of the situation in Germany". While most Catholics eventually reconciled themselves to the doctrine, some founded the small breakaway Old Catholic Church.
According to the Bavarian head of government, Hohenlohe, the dogma of infallibility compromised the Catholic's loyalty to the state. He sent a circular to all the diplomatic representatives of the Bavarian Kingdom saying, "The only dogmatic thesis which Rome desires to have decided by the Council, and which the Jesuits in Italy and Germany are now agitating, is the question of the Infallibility of the Pope. This pretension once become a dogma, will have a wider scope than the purely spiritual spheres, and will become evidently a political question: for it will raise the power of the Sovereign Pontiff, even in temporal matters, above all the princes and peoples of Christendom."
The liberal majorities in the Imperial Diet and the Prussian parliament as well as liberals in general regarded the Church as backward, a hotbed for reactionaries, enemies of progress and cast monastic life as the epitome of a backward Catholic medievalism. They were alarmed by the dramatic rise in the numbers of monasteries, convents and clerical religious groups in an era of widespread religious revival. The Diocese of Cologne, for example, saw a tenfold increase of monks and nuns between 1850 and 1872. Prussian authorities were particularly suspicious of the spread of monastic life among the Polish and French minorities. The Church, in turn, saw the National-Liberals its worst enemy, accusing them of spearheading the war against Christianity and the Catholic Church.
At unification in 1871, the new German Empire included 25.5 million Protestants (62% of the population) and 15 million Catholics (36.5% of the population). Although a minority in the empire, Catholics were the majority in the states of Bavaria, Baden, and Alsace-Lorraine as well as in the four Prussian Provinces of West Prussia, Posen, Rhineland, Westphalia and in the Prussian region of Upper Silesia. Since the Thirty Years' War the population was generally segregated along religious lines and rural areas or towns were overwhelmingly if not entirely of the same religion. Education was also separate and usually in the hands of the churches. There was little mutual tolerance, interaction or intermarriage. Protestants in general were deeply distrustful of the Catholic Church.
Unification had been achieved through many obstacles with strong opponents. These were the European powers of France and Austria, both Catholic nations, and the Catholic Church itself, the three of which Bismarck perceived as "Coalition of Catholic Revenge". For Bismarck, the empire was very fragile and its consolidation was an important issue. Biographer Otto Pflanze emphasizes, "Bismarck's belief in the existence of a widespread Catholic conspiracy that posed a threat to both his German and European policies."
In a Protestant empire, the Catholic Church was to lose its good standing which it had enjoyed for centuries in the Catholic-dominated Holy Roman Empire and which it would have continued to enjoy in a German empire united under Austrian auspices. Thus, in 1870, on the eve of unification, the Center Party was explicitly founded to defend the position of the church in the new empire.
Bismarck was highly concerned that many major members and supporters of this new party were not in sympathy with the new empire: the House of Hanover, the ethnic minority of the Poles, the southern German states. In 1871, the predominantly Catholic states of Southern Germany had only reluctantly joined the empire, increasing the overall share of the Catholic population to 36.5%. Among this Catholic share was Germany's largest ethnic minority, well over 2 million Poles in the east of Prussia, who under Prussia and Germany suffered discrimination and oppression. Bismarck regarded the new Centre Party not only as an illegal mixup of politics and religion and the church's "long arm" but also as a unifying force for Catholic Germans and Poles and thus a threat to the consolidation of the empire. He feared that the Centre Party would frustrate his broader political agendas and he accused the Catholic priests of fostering Polish nationalism as had been done openly in the provinces of Posen and Upper Silesia.
The Liberals regarded the Catholic Church as a powerful force of reaction and anti-modernity, especially after the proclamation of papal infallibility in 1870 and the tightening control of the Vatican over the local bishops. The renewed vitality of Catholicism in Germany with its mass gatherings also attracted Protestants – even the heir to the Prussian throne, with the king's approval, attended one. Antiliberalism, anticlericalism and anti-Catholicism became powerful intellectual forces of the time and the antagonism between Liberals and Protestants on one side and the Catholic Church on the other was fought out through mud-slinging in the press. A wave of anti-Catholic, anticlerical and antimonastic pamphleteering in the liberal press was answered by antiliberal preaching and propaganda in Catholic newspapers and vice versa.
For these reasons, the government sought to wean the Catholic masses away from the hierarchy and the Centre Party and the liberal's demands to curb the power of the churches meshed well with Bismarck's main political objective to crush the Centre Party. According to historian Anthony J. Steinhoff, "Bismarck's plan to disarm political Catholicism delighted liberal politicians, who provided the parliamentary backing for the crusade. Yet, the phrase the left-liberal Rudolf Virchow coined for this struggle, the Kulturkampf, suggests that the liberals wanted to do more than prevent Catholicism from becoming a political force. They wanted victory over Catholicism itself, the long-delayed conclusion of the Reformation".
At least since 1847 and in line with the Liberals, Bismarck had also been of the professed opinion, that state and church should be completely separated and "the sphere of the state had to be made secure against the incursions by the church", although his ideas were not as far-reaching as in the United States or in Great Britain. He had in mind the traditional position of the Protestant church in Prussia and provoked considerable resistance from conservative Protestants. This became clear in a heated debate with Prussian culture minister von Mühler in 1871 when Bismarck said: "Since you stopped my plans in the Protestant church, I have to go via Rome". In August 1871 at Bad Ems, Bismarck revealed his intention to fight against the Centre Party, to separate state and church, to transfer school inspection to laymen, to abolish religious instruction from schools and to transfer religious affairs to the minister of justice.
On 22 January 1872, liberal Adalbert Falk replaced conservative Heinrich von Mühler as Prussian minister for religion, education and health. In Bismarck's mind, Falk was "to re-establish the rights of the state in relation to the church". Yet, unlike Bismarck, whose main motivation for the Kulturkampf was the political power struggle with the Centre Party, Falk, a lawyer, was a strong proponent of state authority having in mind the legal aspects of state-church relationships. Falk became the driving force behind the Kulturkampf laws. Although Bismarck publicly supported Falk, he doubted the success of his laws and was unhappy with his lack of political tact and sensitivity. The differences in their attitudes concerning the Kulturkampf eventually put the two politicians at odds with each other.
With this background and the determination of church and state, the Kulturkampf in Germany acquired an additional edge as it gathered in intensity and bitterness.
From 1871 to 1876, the Prussian state parliament and the federal legislature (Reichstag), both with liberal majorities, enacted 22 laws in the context of the Kulturkampf. They were mainly directed against clerics: bishops, priests and religious orders (anti-clerical) and enforced the supremacy of the state over the church. While several laws were specific to the Catholic Church (Jesuits, congregations etc.) the general laws affected both Catholic and Protestant churches. In an attempt to overcome increasing resistance by the Catholic Church and its defiance of the laws, new regulations increasingly went beyond state matters referring to the purely internal affairs of the church. Even many liberals saw them as an encroachment on civil liberties, compromising their own credo.
Constitutionally, education and regulation of religious affairs were vested in the federal states and the leading actor of the Kulturkampf was Prussia, Germany's largest state. But some of the laws were also passed by the Reichstag and applied to all of Germany. In general, the laws did not affect the press and associations including Catholic ones.
The major Kulturkampf laws were:
The last two laws passed in 1876 were of no practical importance.
The political situation in Europe was very volatile. Initially perceived as a possible enemy hostile to German unification under Prussian leadership, Austria and Germany very quickly became friends and formed the Dual Alliance in 1879. The possibility of a war with France or Russia also became more remote. Therefore, social and economic problems moved to the fore and Bismarck's attention gradually turned to other topics he deemed more threatening such as the increasing popularity of the socialists or more important such as questions of import duties. In these matters, he could either not rely on the support of the liberals to pursue his goals or they were not sufficient to form a majority. Bismarck had not been comfortable with the increasing ferocity of the Kulturkampf. Concerning the rise of the Centre Party, the laws had proven to be greatly ineffective and even counterproductive. He soon realized that they were of no help battling the Centre Party and as far as separation of state and church was concerned, he had achieved more than he wanted.
In order to garner support for his Anti-Socialist Laws and protective trade tariffs, Bismarck turned his back on the liberals in search of new alliances. The death of Pius IX on 7 February 1878 opened the door for a settlement with the Catholic Church. The new pope, Leo XIII was pragmatic and conciliatory and expressed his wish for peace in a letter to the Prussian king on the very day of his election followed by a second letter in a similar vein that same year.
Bismarck and the Pope entered into direct negotiations without the participation of the Church or the Reichstag, yet initially without much success. It came to pass that Falk, vehemently resented by Catholics, resigned on 14 July 1879, which could be read as a peace offering to the Vatican. A decisive boost only came in February 1880, when the Vatican unexpectedly agreed to the civic registry of clerics. As the Kulturkampf slowly wound down the talks lead to a number of so-called mitigation and peace laws which were passed until 1887.
On 29 September 1885, as another sign of peace, Bismarck proposed the Pope as arbiter in a dispute with Spain about the Caroline Islands and accepted his verdict in favour of Spain. In gratitude but to the great horror of Catholics, the Pope awarded Bismarck the Supreme Order of Christ, the highest order of chivalry to be granted by the Holy See. Bismarck was the only Protestant ever to receive this award.
After further negotiations between Prussia and the Vatican, the Prussian parliament passed 2 additional laws amending some of the Kulturkampf laws.
On 23 May 1887, the Pope declared "The struggle which damaged the church and was of no good to the state is now over". The Mitigation and Peace Laws restored the inner autonomy of the Catholic church while leaving key regulations and the laws concerning separation of church and state in place (civic marriage, civic registry, religious disaffiliation, government school supervision, civic registry of clerics, ban of Jesuits, pulpit law, state supervision of church assets, constitutional amendments and the Catholic section in the Ministry of Culture was not reintroduced).
The respective opposing parties in the Reichstag harshly criticized the concessions made by the Vatican and the Prussian government. Windthorst and the Centre Party were dismayed at being sidelined and not being consulted about the concessions the pope made, e. g. about the ban on Jesuits or the civil registry of clerics. None of the party's major demands were met. Instead, the pope even sided with Bismarck on non-religious issues and pressured the Centre Party to support Bismarck or at least abstain, e. g. in the matter of the hotly debated Septennat 1887 (7-year military budget). Many Liberals, especially Falk, objected to the concessions Bismarck made to the Church.
The growth of the Centre Party has been considered a major setback for Bismarck although never publicly conceded. Yet, in spite of strong Catholic representation in the Reichstag, the political power and influence of the Church in the public sphere and its political power was greatly reduced.
Although Germany and the Vatican were officially at peace after 1878, religious conflicts and tensions continued. At the turn of the century, Pope Pius X announced the encyclical Pascendi dominici gregis, mounting new attacks on historical criticism of biblical texts and any accommodation of Catholicism to modern philosophy, sociology or literature. As of 1910, clerics had to take an oath against all forms of modernism, a requirement later extended to teachers of Catholic religion at schools and professors of Catholic theology resulting in intense political and public debates and new conflicts with the state.
The abolishment of the Catholic section of the Prussian Ministry of ecclesiastical and educational affairs deprived Catholics of their voice at the highest level. The system of strict government supervision of schools was applied only in Catholic areas; the Protestant schools were left alone. The school politics also alienated Protestant conservatives and churchmen.
The British ambassador Odo Russell reported to London in October 1872 how Bismarck's plans were backfiring by strengthening the ultramontane (pro-papal) position inside German Catholicism:
Nearly all German bishops, clergy and laymen rejected the legality of the new laws and were defiantly facing the increasingly heavy penalties, trials and imprisonments. As of 1878, only three of eight Prussian dioceses still had bishops, some 1,125 of 4,600 parishes were vacant, and nearly 1,800 priests ended up in jail or in exile, nearly half the monks and nuns had left Prussia, a third of the monasteries and convents were closed. Between 1872 and 1878, numerous Catholic newspapers were confiscated, Catholic associations and assemblies were dissolved, and Catholic civil servants were dismissed merely on the pretence of having Ultramontane sympathies. Thousands of laypeople were imprisoned for assisting priests to evade the punitive new laws.
The general ideological enthusiasm among the liberals for the Kulturkampf was in contrast to Bismarck's pragmatic attitude towards the measures and growing disquiet from the Conservatives. Apart from the outspoken criticism of the Kulturkampf Laws by the Catholic Church and the Centre Party, there were also a number of Liberals and Protestants who voiced concern at least at the so-called "Kampfgesetze" (battle laws). "Unease concerning the effects of his programme continued to spread among all but the most bigoted priest-haters and the most doctrinaire liberals". Such noted critics outside the Catholic camp were Friedrich Heinrich Geffcken, Emil Albert Friedberg or Julius von Kirchmann. Although they were proponents of state superiority, they regarded some of the laws as either ineffective or as interference in internal church affairs and not consistent with liberal values. Geffcken wrote that "with the intention to emancipate the laity from the hierarchy, the main body of the Catholics was brought in phalanx into the hands of leaders from which it was to be wrested. But the state cannot fight at length against a third of the population, it has no means to break such a passive resistance supported and organized by religious fanaticism. If a statesman desists from the correctness of a measure it only matters that he has the power to enforce it." Even Bismarck – who initially saw a variety of tactical political advantages in these measures, e. g. for his suppressive policies against the Polish population – took pains to distance himself from the rigors of their enforcement."
The Kulturkampf law considered the harshest and with no equivalent in Europe was the Expatriation Law. Passed by a liberal majority in parliament, it stipulated banishment as a punishment that all civilized peoples considered the harshest beyond the death penalty.
As to the Centre Party, these measures did not have the effect that Bismarck had in mind. In the state elections of November 1873, it grew from 50 to 90 seats and in the Reichstag elections from 63 to 91. The number of Catholic periodicals also increased; in 1873 there were about 120.
The Kulturkampf gave secularists and socialists an opportunity to attack all religions, an outcome that distressed the Protestant leaders and especially Bismarck himself, who was a devout pietistic Protestant.
In the face of systematic defiance, the Bismarck government increased the penalties and its attacks, and were challenged in 1875 when a papal encyclical declared that the entire ecclesiastical legislation of Prussia was invalid, and threatened to excommunicate any Catholic who obeyed. There was no violence, but the Catholics mobilized their support, set up numerous civic organizations, raised money to pay fines and rallied behind their church and the Center Party.
To Bismarck's surprise, the Conservative Party especially the Junkers from his own landowning class in East Prussia sided with the Catholics. They were Protestants and did not like the Pope, but they had much in common with the Center Party. The Conservatives controlled their local schools and did not want bureaucrats from Berlin to take them over. They were hostile to the liberals, being fearful of free trade that would put them in competition with the United States and other grain exporters, and disliking their secular views. In the Prussian legislature, they sided with the Center Party on the school issue. Bismarck was livid, and he resigned the premiership of Prussia (while remaining Chancellor of the German Empire), telling an ally, "in domestic affairs I have lost the ground that is for me acceptable through the unpatriotic treason of the Conservative Party in the Catholic question." Indeed, many of Bismarck's conservative friends were in opposition. So too was Kaiser William I, who was King of Prussia; he was strongly opposed to the civil marriage component of the Kulturkampf.
The Kulturkampf made Catholics more resolute; they responded not with violence but with votes, and as the newly formed Center Party became a major force in the Imperial Parliament, it gained support from non-Catholic minorities who felt threatened by Bismarck's centralization of power. In the long run, the most significant result was the mobilization of the Catholic voters through the Center Party, and their insistence on protecting their church. Historian Margaret Anderson says:
After the Center party had doubled its popular vote in the elections of 1874, it became the second largest party in the national parliament, and remained a powerful force for the next 60 years. It became difficult for Bismarck to form a government without their support. From the decades-long experience in battling against the Kulturkampf, the Catholics of Germany, says Professor Margaret Anderson, learned democracy. She states that the clergy:
Studies that analyze the nationalist aspect of Kulturkampf, point out its anti-Polish character and Bismarcks attempt to Germanize Polish provinces in German Empire The Poles had already suffered from discrimination and numerous oppressive measures in Germany long before unification. These measures were intensified after the German Empire was formed and Bismarck was known to be particularly hostile towards the Poles. Christopher Clark argues that Prussian policy changed radically in the 1870s in the face of highly visible Polish support for France in the Franco-Prussian war. Polish demonstrations made clear the Polish nationalist feeling, and calls were also made for Polish recruits to desert from the Prussian Army – though these went unheeded. Bismarck was outraged, telling the Prussian cabinet in 1871: From the Russian border to the Adriatic Sea we are confronted with the combined propaganda of Slavs, ultramontanes, and reactionaries, and it is necessary openly to defend our national interests and our language against such hostile actions. Therefore, in the Province of Posen the Kulturkampf took on a much more nationalistic character than in other parts of Germany. Not an adamant supporter of the Liberal's general Kulturkampf goals, Bismarck did recognize the potential in some of them for subduing Polish national aspirations and readily made use of it. While the Liberals main objective was the separation of state and church as essential for a democratic and liberal society, Bismarck saw its use in separating the Polish population from the only supporter and guardian of its national identity. Prussian authorities imprisoned 185 priests and forced hundreds of others into exile. Among the imprisoned was the Primate of Poland Archbishop Mieczysław Ledóchowski. A large part of the remaining Catholic priests had to continue their service in hiding from the authorities. Although most of the 185 imprisoned were finally set free by the end of the decade, those who were released emigrated. The anti-Polish aspects of Kulturkampf remained in place in Polish provices of German Empire until First World War
Around the same time as in Germany, a Kulturkampf was also raging in Switzerland with roots dating back to the 1830 and well beyond to the era of enlightenment and the Helvetic Republic. In fact, it was in the Swiss context that the term "Kulturkampf" first appeared in a publication. The 1830s were years of liberal regeneration and 12 cantons with liberal majorities enacted new constitutions with radical changes in the relationship between state and churches, especially putting education under government control.
These changes mainly affected the Catholic Church and its clerics resisted the new regulations. On 2 January 1834, at a meeting in Baden, the cantons of Lucerne, Bern, Zug, Solothurn, Basel-Landschaft, St. Gall, Aargau and Thurgau passed the "Resolution of Baden" (see de:Badener Artikel) to assert the demands of the state. A conservative backlash 1839 in Zurich (Züriputsch) and 1841 in Lucerne (in connection with the Aargau monastery dispute), the violent repression of the liberals in Valais by the Ultramontanes and the appointment of Jesuits to secondary schools in Lucerne led to the establishment of Freischar (rebel) forces in various liberal cantons. This in turn prompted the conservative cantons, initially secret, to form the "Sonderbund" (Special Union) in December 1845. In July 1847 the Federal Diet voted to dissolve the Sonderbund, amend the constitution and to expel the Jesuits which led to protests not only by the Vatican but also from the big conservative European powers of France, Russia, pre-revolutionary Prussia and Austria. The liberals had the undisguised support of England. The Sonderbund War broke out on 3. November 1847 and lasted until the surrender of the last conservative canton, Valais, on 29. November. Liberal constitutions were installed in all cantons. With revolutions breaking out in France and Germany threats by these powers remained empty.
The years from 1830 to the end of the Sonderbundwar are considered the first phase of the Swiss Kulturkampf. A second phase started with various disputes and conflicts in the 1870s.
Walter Munzinger, unhappy with the dogma of papal infallibility, organized the first Swiss convention of Catholics in Solothurn on 18 September 1871 for like-minded Catholics. This convention is considered the beginning of the Christian Catholic Church of Switzerland, a member church of the Union of Utrecht of Old Catholic Churches.
One of the disputes was about the town priest of Geneva, Gaspar Mermillod, who assumed the powers of the bishop for the local Catholics without the approval of the government. Despite the protest of the state council Mermillod continued to execute these powers; as a result, he was deposed on 20 September 1872. On 16 January, the Roman Curia appointed Mermillod as vicar apostolic for the Canton of Geneva. In response, the Swiss Federal Council expelled him. After pope Pius IX called these proceedings by the Swiss authorities "disgraceful" in an encyclical of 20 November 1873, the Federal Council broke off diplomatic relations with the Vatican on 12 December 1873.
After the Council of 1870, bishop Eugène Lachat of the Diocese of Basel proclaimed the dogma of papal infallibility in his diocese even though the respective cantons (Solothurn, Lucerne, Zug, Bern, Aargau, Thurgau and Basel-Landschaft) had expressly forbidden him to do so. Two priests in Lucerne and Starrkirch did not acknowledge the new dogma. Lachat deposed and excommunicated them. Thereupon, the cantons Solothurn, Bern, Aargau, Thurgau and Basel-Landschaft deposed the bishop on 29 January 1873 and when the cathedral chapter refused to appoint an interim bishop, on 21 December 1874 they dissolved the diocese of Basel and liquidated Lachat's assets. Lachat moved his office from Solothurn to Lucerne. 97 clerics in the predominantly Catholic part of the canton Berne (today canton Jura) protested against the deposition of the bishop and the dissolution of the diocese. They proclaimed Lachat to be their rightful bishop at which the Federal Council deposed them. Rioting in several villages of the Jura region was quelled by force and military occupation; the 97 clerics were expelled in January 1874. The federal government rescinded this ordinance in 1875 but supremacy over the church by the canton of Berne was confirmed in a plebiscite.
In 1874, Switzerland enacted the second federal constitution which was accepted in a plebiscite. Except for the following restrictions, for the first time, this constitution allowed complete freedom of religion.
In December 1874, the University of Bern established a faculty for Catholic theology with the aim to train liberal-minded Catholic priests for the Jura region.
The Kulturkampf in Austria has roots dating back to the 18th century. Emperor Joseph II launched a religious policy (later called "Josephinism") that advocated the supremacy of the state in religious matters. This resulted in far-reaching state control over the Catholic Church, including the reorganization of dioceses, the regulation of the number of masses, the transfer of many schools into government hands, state-controlled seminaries, and the limitation of the number of clerics and dissolving numerous monasteries. Protests of Pope Pius VI, and even his visit to Vienna in 1782, were to no avail. In the concordat of 1855, which was the culmination of Catholic influence in Austria, many of the Catholic Church's previous rights that were taken away under Joseph II were restored (marriage, partial control of censorship, elementary and secondary education, full control of the clergy and religious funds).
In 1886 and 1869, after sanctioning from the December constitution, emperor Francis Joseph's newly appointment cabinet undid parts of the concordat with several liberal reforms. These reforms are referred to as the May Laws. After strong protests from the Catholic Church, the laws of May 25, 1868 and May 14, 1869 restored civil marriage, passed primary and secondary education into government hands, installed interconfessional schools, and regulated interconfessional relations (for example, mixed marriages and children's rights to chose their faith).
In a secret consistory, Pope Pius IX condemned the constitution of 1867 and the May Laws as "leges abominabiles." In a pastoral letter dated September 7, 1868, bishop Franz-Josef Rudigier called for resistance to these May Laws. However, the letter was confiscated, and Rudigier had to appear before court on June 5, 1869. This event lead to the first-ever public demonstrations by the Catholic population. On July 12, 1869, the bishop was sentenced to a jail term of two weeks, but he was later pardoned by the emperor.
The May Laws provoked a serious conflict between state and church. After the promulgation of papal infallibility in 1870, Austria abrogated the concordat of 1855 and abolished it entirely in 1874. In May 1874, the Religious Act was officially recognized.
The Kulturkampf in Italy is a very early example of the struggles between states and the Catholic Church; Italian liberals and democrats contributed substantially to the secularist project of modernity and had a strong effect on its own history.
Piedmont had a similar role in the unification of Italy as Prussia in Germany and it had been at the forefront in the struggle against the Catholic Church as far back as the 17th century under Victor Amadeus. The Church rejected an edict of 1694 tolerating the Waldensians. In the ensuing dispute, Amadeus prohibited the publication of the pope's decree and many dioceses remained vacant. Amadeus demanded secular approval of clerical postings (bishops, priests, monasteries) and for ecclesiastical acts. Repeated negotiations brought no results, all the while the Vatican pronounced excommunications on secular officials and Amadeus countered with severe measures against clerics. The acquisition of Sardinia in 1720 added more issues about Church rights on the island. It was only under the following pope, Benedict XIII that negotiations were taken up again and an agreement was found in 1727 in which the Church relinquished some its previous rights. Under Amadeus’ successor, Charles Emmanuel, the Kingdom of Sardinia continued to press the Church hard for further concessions concerning ecclesiastical jurisdiction and taxation up to 1750.
As a result of the revolutions of 1848, King Charles Albert granted the Kingdom a constitution, summoned a liberal cabinet and assumed the leadership for the unification of Italy. That same year the Jesuits were banned, as in most Italian states, and a liberal school law was enacted. In 1849, the archbishops of Turin and Sassari were imprisoned. In 1850, ecclesiastical immunities were lifted and ecclesiastical jurisdiction further restricted. 1851 saw the introduction of regulated theological instruction, 1852 the introduction of civil marriage. In 1853 the office of the Apostolic royal steward was secularized. Laws of 1854 banned monasteries, of 1855 the Ecclesiastical Academy of Superga and as of 1856, regulations followed concerning priests and parish administration and the confiscation of Church lands. As of 1852, these policies were enacted under the liberal prime minister of the kingdom, Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour who pursued Italian unification with the aim of Rome as the capital. 
In 1860, the Kingdom of Sardinia annexed all the Church territories (Romagna, Marche and Umbria) except the Patrimonium Petri and Rome itself, which was protected by French troops. The pope excommunicated the "thieves of Church state." Victor Emmanuel proclaimed the Kingdom of Italy and became its first king. Cavour made an offer to the pope, to guarantee the Church's sovereignty and far-reaching privileges in turn for the Church to give up the city of Rome. Pius IX declined. In 1861, Cavour submitted another offer, adding a regular payment to the pope and the king giving up his right to appoint bishops. Again, the pope declined.
When the French pulled their troops out of Rome due to the Franco-Prussian war, Italy, encouraged by the German envoy von Arnim, seized the remaining Church territory and the city on 20 September 1870 after which Rome became the Italian capital. The Vatican resisted any recognition of the Italian state until 1929. Through the years, the anti-church laws of Piedmont and Sardinia were extended to every expansion and eventually taken over by the new Italian state.
In 1887, under prime minister Crispi, Italy added the abolishment of church tithes; in 1888 it passed a law making access to primary school religious instruction more difficult, in 1889 the pulpit law was added to the criminal code and the law on the "opere pie", putting control of a vast network of endowments and trust funds financing both religious and charitable works into public authority.
The struggle reached a pivotal point under the liberal government of Walthère Frère-Orban (see nl:Regering-Frère-Orban II). From 1879 to 1884 there was a political crisis over state control of education and religious courses in public (see First School War). On 1 June 1879, Frère-Orban passed an Education Act secularizing primary education. The new law imposed recognized diplomas for teachers, stipulated state supervision of all schools and stripped Catholicism of its status as the basis of education. Religious instruction in schools was possible outside the curriculum on request of parents. Municipalities were required to supply at least one neutral school and founding or subsidising private schools were banned. A new law on secondary schools was in the same vein. It was to guarantee parents the freedom of choice between religious and neutral schools. By 1883, 3,885 secular schools had opened across the country.
To the Catholic Church, this was a declaration of all-out war. It called for a boycott of these new schools and it managed to mobilise almost the entire Catholic camp. Staff and supporters of public schools and parents who sent their children were denied communion and in effect excommunicated. The government cut diplomatic relations with the Vatican and measures against rebellious civil servants and clergy added fire to the heat. The Church required priests to establish Catholic schools in every parish and attendance of Catholic schools rose from 13 percent to over 60 percent.
In part due to this conflict, the liberals lost the elections in 1884. The Catholic government under Jules Malou amended the Education Law providing public support for religious schools as well and, in 1895, religious education became compulsory in all schools. From then on, with changing majorities in parliament, regulations were made either more in favour of the Church or more in favour of the Liberals, each time to the dissatisfaction of the opposition. The struggle resulted in the development of two opposing school systems: the so-called religious "free schools" and the government schools. The dispute remained unsolved and broke out again in the 1950s (Second School War).
In the late 19th century, cultural wars arose over issues of prohibition and education in the United States. The Bennett Law was a highly controversial state law passed in Wisconsin in 1889 that required the use of English to teach major subjects in all public and private elementary and high schools. Because Wisconsin German Catholics and Lutherans each operated large numbers of parochial schools where German was used in the classroom, it was bitterly resented by German-American (and some Norwegian) communities. Although the law was ultimately repealed, there were significant political repercussions, with the Republicans losing the governorship and the legislature, and the election of Democrats to the Senate and House of Representatives.
In the United States, the terms "culture war" and "culture wars" refer to conflict in the late 20th and early 21st centuries between religious social conservatives and secular social liberals. This theme of "culture war" was the basis of Patrick Buchanan's keynote speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention. The term "culture war" by 2004 was in common use in the United States by both liberals and conservatives.
Throughout the 1980s, there were battles in Congress and the media regarding federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities that amounted to a war over high culture between neoconservatives and paleoconservatives. Justice Antonin Scalia referenced the term in the Supreme Court case Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996), saying "The Court has mistaken a Kulturkampf for a fit of spite." The case concerned an amendment to the Colorado state constitution that prohibited any subdepartment from acting to protect individuals on the basis of sexual orientation. Scalia believed that the amendment was a valid move on the part of citizens who sought "recourse to a more general and hence more difficult level of political decision making than others." The majority disagreed, holding that the amendment violated the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The term, translated to Hebrew, (Milhemet Tarbut, מלחמת תרבות) is also frequently used, with similar connotations, in the political debates of Israel—having been introduced by Jews who fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s.
It was the distinguished liberal politician and scientist, Professor Rudolph Virchow, who first called it the Kulturkampf, or struggle for civilization.