established Church

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A religious organization is established if the State recognizes it as having a unique or superior claim to the allegiance of the population in religious matters. However, there is no precise line to be drawn between established churches and those which have some other form of special status. For example, England has an established Church, the Anglican Church, which is Protestant and Episcopalian. The Queen, as head of State, is also head of the Church; she is also a member of the Church of Scotland, which is considerably different from the Church of England theologically and she, like her predecessors, worships in the appropriate Church depending on which side of the border she is at the time. Neither Wales nor Northern Ireland now has an established Church. The Republic of Ireland has no established Church, but its constitution acknowledges a ‘special place’ for the Roman Catholic Church in the hearts and minds of its citizens. There can be no doubt that this ‘special place’ has proved far more potent than has established status in England, where the specifically Anglican influence on policy has been very little.

Most Western constitutions have followed the American model and firmly eschewed all possibility of an established Church. However, forms of the Lutheran Church are still established in Denmark, Norway, and until 2000 Sweden, even though religious observance in Scandinavia is much lower than in most of Europe. See also religion and politics.


Subjects: Politics.

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