Secular state

Secular state

A secular state is a concept of secularism, whereby a state or country purports to be officially neutral in matters of religion, supporting neither religion nor irreligion.[1] A secular state also claims to treat all its citizens equally regardless of religion, and claims to avoid preferential treatment for a citizen from a particular religion/nonreligion over other religions/nonreligion. Secular states do not have a state religion or equivalent, although the absence of a state religion does not guarantee that a state is secular. In addition, secular states are not necessarily communist nations that do enforce state atheism on the population.


Secular states become secular either upon establishment of the state (e.g. The United States of America) or upon secularization of the state (e.g. France). Movements for laïcité in France and for the separation of church and state in the United States defined modern concepts of secularism. Historically, the process of secularising states typically involves granting religious freedom, disestablishing state religions, stopping public funds to be used for a religion, freeing the legal system from religious control, freeing up the education system, tolerating citizens who change religion or abstain from religion, and allowing political leadership to come to power regardless of religious beliefs.[2]

Not all legally secular states are completely secular in practice.

  • In France for example, many Christian holy days are official holidays for the public administration, and teachers in Catholic schools are salaried by the state.[3] In many western European states where secularism has led to a situation that the church depends on the state for its (financial) resources to organise religious worship, the church itself is responsible for providing the "religious content", and educated clergy and lay-persons to exercise their functions. To that effect the church has established a number of secular organisations that manage the finances of the church. Any religious group, and also atheist organisations can apply for the same treatment to the government and receive subsidies usually based on the number of their followers.
  • In India, the government gives subsidy in airfare for Muslims going on Haj pilgrimage(See Haj subsidy). In 2007, the government had to spend Rs. 47,454 per passenger.[4]After considerable pressure from Muslim groups and the Ministry of Minority Affairs, the Congress government in 2010 decided to begin phasing out the Haj subsidy that had been in operation since 1993. The Central Haj Committee of India will work through the Ministry of External Affairs to restructure the Air fares so that the richer Hajis will pay a premium for the poorer pilgirms. The entire restructuring is expected to take about seven years and be completed by 2017[5].

Many states that nowadays are secular in practice may have legal vestiges of an earlier established religion. Secularism also has various guises which may coincide with some degree of official religiosity. Thus, in the Commonwealth Realms, the head of state is required to take the Coronation Oath[6] swearing to uphold the Protestant faith. The United Kingdom also maintains positions in its upper house for 26 senior clergymen of the established Church of England known as the Lords Spiritual (spiritual peers).[7] While Scotland is part of the United Kingdom the Scottish Parliament declared Scotland a secular state but maintains the religious monarch.[8] The reverse progression can also occur, a state can go from being secular to a religious state as in the case of Iran where the secularized state of the Pahlavi dynasts was replaced by the Islamic Republic (list below). Over the last 250 years, there has been a trend towards secularism.[9][10][11]

List of secular countries by continent

  States with no state religions
  States with state religions
  Ambiguous or without data






Former secular states

Ambiguous states

  •  United Kingdom - The Church of England is the established state religion of England - though not Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales - with members holding seats in the House of Lords as the Lords Spiritual. Traditionally they do not vote, though the potential is there for direct church involvement in law-making decisions over the entire United Kingdom. Parliament is opened with prayers, in the Lords usually led by one of the Lords Spiritual and in the Commons by the Speaker's chaplain.[79] The full term for the expression of the Crown's sovereignty via legislation is the Crown-in-Parliament-under-God. The Church of Scotland is the established church in Scotland although it takes no part in matters of state, the Queen is an ex officio member of the Church. At the coronation, The King or Queen is anointed with consecrated oil by the Archbishop of Canterbury in a service at Westminster Abbey and must swear to maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel, maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law and to maintain and preserve inviolable the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England. Thus though the Church of Ireland is no longer established and the Church of England has been disestablished in Wales to the Church in Wales, the Crown is still bound to protect Protestantism in general in the whole of the United Kingdom by the Coronation Oath and the Bill of Rights, and to protect the Church of Scotland by the Act of Union.[80]
  •  Indonesia - The first principle of Pancasila, national ideology of Indonesia, stated "belief in the one and only God" (in Indonesian: Ketuhanan yang Maha Esa). A number of different religions are practiced in the country, and their collective influence on the country's political, economical and cultural life is significant.[81] The Constitution of Indonesia guarantees freedom of religion among Indonesians. However, the government only recognizes six official religions, namely Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.[82][83] Other religious groups are called kepercayaan (Indonesian: faith), including several indigenous beliefs. Religious studies are compulsory for students from elementary school to high school. Places of worship are prevalent at school and offices. Minister of Religious Affairs responsible for administering and managing government affairs related to religion.[84]

See also


  1. ^ Madeley, John T. S. and Zsolt Enyedi, Church and state in contemporary Europe: the chimera of neutrality, p. , 2003 Routledge
  2. ^ Jean Baubérot The secular principle[dead link]
  3. ^ Richard Teese, Private Schools in France: Evolution of a System, Comparative Education Review, Vol. 30, No. 2 (May, 1986), pp. 247-259 (English)
  4. ^ Haj subsidy has Air India fuming
  5. ^
  6. ^ Coronation Oath[dead link]
  7. ^ Different types of Lords
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ Harris Interactive News Room - Religious views and beliefs vary greatly by country, according to the latest Financial Times/Harris poll
  10. ^ Summary of Findings: A Portrait of "Generation Next"
  11. ^ Secularization and Secularism - History and nature of secularization and secularism till 1914
  12. ^ Article 8 of Constitution
  13. ^ Article 2 of Constitution
  14. ^ Botswana - International Religious Freedom Report 2007
  15. ^ Leaders say Botswana is a secular state
  16. ^ Article 31 of Constitution[dead link]
  17. ^ Article 1 of Constitution
  18. ^ Preamble of Constitution
  19. ^ Article 48 of Constitution
  20. ^ Article 1 of Constitution[dead link]
  21. ^ Article 1 of Constitution
  22. ^ Article 1 of Constitution
  23. ^ Article 11 of Constitution
  24. ^ Article 2 of Constitution[dead link]
  25. ^ Article 1 of Constitution[dead link]
  26. ^ Article 1 of Constitution[dead link]
  27. ^ Article 1 of Constitution[dead link]
  28. ^ Article 14 of Constitution
  29. ^ Preamble of Constitution[dead link]
  30. ^ Articles 10, 14, 19 and 21 of Constitution
  31. ^ Senegal - International Religious Freedom Report 2007
  32. ^ South Africa - International Religious Freedom Report 2007
  33. ^ Article 19 of Constitution
  34. ^ Section Two of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
  35. ^ Since 1925 by the Chilean Constitution of 1925 (article 10)]], and 1980 Constitution Article 19, Section 6º
  36. ^ Article 8 of Constitution
  37. ^ Article 77 of the Constitution
  38. ^ Summary Honduras Constitutions (English)
  39. ^ Article 130 of Constitution
  40. ^ Article II of Constitution Sección 3
  41. ^ Amendment I of the Constitution
  42. ^ Article 36 of Constitution
  43. ^ Section 45 of Constitution
  44. ^ Preamble of Constitution
  45. ^ Article 20 of Constitution
  46. ^ Article 1 of Constitution[dead link]
  47. ^ Article 20 of Constitution
  48. ^ Article 1 of Constitution
  49. ^ Religious Intelligence - News - Nepal moves to become a secular republic[dead link]
  50. ^ Article 2, Section 6 of Constitution[dead link]
  51. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica 2009 Student & Home Electronic Edition
  52. ^ The Constitution of Sri Lanka: Chapter III - Fundamental Rights
  53. ^ "Secular Syria's veil ban – CNN Belief Blog". CNN. 
  54. ^ Section 38 of Constitution
  55. ^ Статья 11[dead link]
  56. ^ Article 11 of the Constitution
  57. ^ Article 70 of Constitution
  58. ^ Articles 7 and 14 of Constitution
  59. ^ Article 7 of Constitution
  60. ^ Article 7.1 of Constitution
  61. ^ Article 20 of Constitution
  62. ^ [2]
  63. ^ Article 13(2) of Constitution
  64. ^ Article 2 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Basic Freedoms
  65. ^ Article 40 of Constitution
  66. ^ Article 2 of Constitution
  67. ^ Article 140 of Constitution[dead link]
  68. ^ Article 60 of Constitution
  69. ^ Article 44.2.2º of Constitution
  70. ^ Article 99 of Constitution
  71. ^ Article 29 of the Constitution, Article 9(1) of Law 489/2006 on Religious Freedom
  72. ^ Article 14 of Constitution
  73. ^ Article 11 of the Constitution
  74. ^ a b Article 1 of Constitution
  75. ^ The Swedish head of state must according to the Swedish Act of Succession adhere to the Augsburg Confession
  76. ^ Article 2 of Constitution
  77. ^ Section 116 of Constitution
  78. ^ Section IV Article 2 of Constitution
  79. ^
  80. ^
  81. ^ "Instant Indonesia: Religion of Indonesia". Swipa. Retrieved 2006-10-02. 
  82. ^ Yang, Heriyanto (2005). "The History and Legal Position of Confucianism in Post Independence Indonesia" (PDF). Religion 10 (1). Retrieved 2006-10-02. 
  83. ^ Hosen, N (2005-09-08). "Religion and the Indonesian Constitution: A Recent Debate" (PDF). Journal of Southeast Asian Studies (Cambridge University Press) 36: 419. doi:10.1017/S0022463405000238. Retrieved 2006-10-26. 
  84. ^

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