Wednesday

21st Feb 2024

Church and state connected in most European countries

Religion and politics are far from being so strictly separated in the European states as the political debate might lead one to believe, writes Danish paper Kristeligt Dagblad on presenting the findings of an extended research into the constitutions of 25 European countries.

The research shows that the state is entwined with the religious life in the vast majority of the 25 EU countries – the fifteen EU member states plus the ten acceding countries.

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The constitutions of five countries (Ireland, Greece, Poland, Germany and Slovakia) point to Christianity as the foundation on which ideas and values are built, and the Christian cultural heritage is mentioned in the preambles.

Six other countries (Denmark, Finland, Spain, Austria, Portugal and Great Britain) have constitutions establishing a more or less formal marriage between state and church by giving one particular church a special position.

Great Britain, which has no constitution, has a set of laws prescribing that the country has two state churches: The Anglican Church of England and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

Malta is the only European country in whose constitution a state religion is established: Roman Catholicism.

In France, Luxembourg and The Netherlands, church and state are formally separated. In Sweden state and church were separated by law in 2000 - but the state still pays for the maintenance of the church buildings.

In both Hungary and Slovenia, a proper separation of church and state is written into their constitutions.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania all have religious freedom written into their constitutions, but they favour certain churches and religious communities.

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