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State church

A state church (also called an established church) is a religious body officially endorsed by the state. Sometimes the term state religion is used instead, particularly in the context of non-Christian religions (the term 'church' is most closely associated with Christianity, although it is sometimes used in the context of other faiths as well.) Closely related to state churches are what sociologists call ecclesiae, though the two are slightly different.

The degree of state endorsement of a state church varies, from mere endorsement and financial support, with freedom for other faiths to practice, to prohibiting any competing church from operating and persecuting the followers of other churches.

Sociologists refer to mainstream non-state churches as denominations. State churches tend to admit a larger variety of opinion within them than denominations. Denominations encountering major differences of opinion within themselves are likely to split; this option is not open for most state churches, so they tend to try to integrate differing opinions within themselves. An exception to this is the Church of Scotland which has split several times in the past for doctrinal reasons. Its largest surviving offshoots are the Free Church of Scotland[?] and the United Free Church of Scotland[?]. These offshoots have lost the established status of their parent.

State churches tend to enjoy the allegiance of the majority of their country; however much of this support is little more than nominal, with many members of the church rarely attending it. But the population's allegiance towards the state church is often strong enough to prevent them from joining competing religious groups. Sociologists put this forward as an explanation for the religious differences between the United States and Europe: many sociologists theorise that the continuing vitality of religion in American life, compared to many European countries, is due to the lack of a strong state church (or indeed, any state church at all) during much of American history.

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States explicitly bans the Federal government from setting up a state church. Until the mid-19th century this amendment was understood as allowing for state governments to create established churches and a number of states did so. With the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, the prohibition on established churches was interpreted as a general prohibition on state support of religion. The exact boundaries of this prohibition are still disputed and are a frequent source of cases before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Increasingly, sociologists of religion are using the concept of monopolies in economics as an analogy for state churches.

State Churches & Former State Churches in Europe

CountryChurchDenomination
AndorraRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic
AnhaltEvangelical Church of AnhaltLutheran
ArmeniaArmenian Orthodox ChurchOriental Orthodox
AustriaRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic
BadenRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic
BavariaRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic
BelarusRussian Orthodox ChurchEastern Orthodox
BelgiumRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic
Bosnia and HerzegovinaRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic
BrunswickEvangelical Church of BrunswickLutheran
BulgariaBulgarian Orthodox Church[?]Eastern Orthodox
CroatiaRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic
CyprusCypriot Orthodox ChurchEastern Orthodox
Czech RepublicRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic
DenmarkChurch of Denmark[?]Lutheran
EnglandChurch of EnglandAnglican
EstoniaChurch of Estonia[?]Lutheran
Finland [1]Church of Finland/Finnish Orthodox ChurchLutheran/Eastern Orthodox
FranceRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic
GeorgiaGeorgian Orthodox Church[?]Eastern Orthodox
GreeceGreek Orthodox ChurchEastern Orthodox
HesseEvangelical Church of Hesse and NassauLutheran
HungaryRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic
IcelandChurch of Iceland[?]Lutheran
IrelandChurch of IrelandAnglican
ItalyRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic
LatviaRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic
LiechtensteinRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic
LippeChurch of LippeReformed
LithuaniaRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic
LübeckNorth Elbian Evangelical ChurchLutheran
LuxemburgRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic
Republic of MacedoniaSerb Orthodox Church[?]Eastern Orthodox
MaltaRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic
MecklenburgEvangelical Church of MecklenburgLutheran
MoldovaRomanian Orthodox Church[?]Eastern Orthodox
MonacoRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic
MontenegroSerb Orthodox Church[?]Eastern Orthodox
NetherlandsDutch Reformed ChurchReformed
NorwayChurch of NorwayLutheran
OldenburgEvangelical Church of OldenburgLutheran
PolandRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic
PortugalRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic
Prussia13 provincial churchesLutheran
RomaniaRomanian Orthodox Church[?]Eastern Orthodox
RussiaRussian Orthodox ChurchEastern Orthodox
Saxon DuchiesEvangelical Church in ThuringiaLutheran
SaxonyEvangelical Church of SaxonyLutheran
Schaumburg-LippeEvangelical Church of Schaumburg-LippeLutheran
ScotlandChurch of ScotlandReformed
SerbiaSerb Orthodox Church[?]Eastern Orthodox
SlovakiaRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic
SloveniaRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic
SpainRoman Catholic ChurchCatholic
SwedenChurch of SwedenLutheran
UkraineUkrainan Orthodox Church[?]Eastern Orthodox
WaldeckEvangelical Church of the Hesse Electorate and WaldeckLutheran
WalesChurch in Wales[?]Anglican
WürttembergEvangelical Church of WürttembergLutheran
[1] Finland's State Church was the Church of Sweden until 1809, and the Russian Orthodox Church from 1809 to 1917. After independence in 1917 Finland gave State Church status to both the Church of Finland (successor to the Church of Sweden in Finland) and the Finnish Orthodox Church (successor to the Russian Orthodox Church in Finland).

Former State Churches in British North America

ColonyDenomination
ConnecticutCongregational
Delawarenone
GeorgiaAnglican
Lower Canadanone
MarylandAnglican
MassachusettsCongregational
New BrunswickAnglican
New HampshireCongregational
New Jerseynone
New YorkAnglican/Dutch Reformed
Newfoundlandnone
North CarolinaAnglican
Nova ScotiaAnglican
Pennsylvanianone
Prince Edward IslandAnglican
Rhode Islandnone
South CarolinaAnglican
Upper CanadaAnglican
VirginiaAnglican



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