Four in Ten Countries Have Official State Religions or Preferred Religions

By Soko Directory Team / Published March 6, 2019 | 6:53 am





More than 80 countries favor a specific religion, either as an official, government-endorsed religion or by giving one religion preferential treatment over other faiths, as revealed by a new Pew Research Center analysis of data that covered 199 countries around the world.

Islam is the most faith endorsed by most governments, with 27 countries having officially enshrined Islam as their state religion, most of these being Middle Eastern and North African countries.

According to the research, just 13 countries of the 199 have endorsed Christianity or a particular Christian denomination as their state religion. Christian churches receive preferential treatment in more than 28 countries than any other unofficial but favored faith.

An additional 40 governments unofficially favor a particular religion and, in most cases, the preferred faith is a branch of Christianity.

Countries with State Religions

States with an official religion confer official status on a particular religion in their constitution or basic law.

As of 2015, fully one in five countries around the world (22 percent) had declared a single state religion, typically enshrined in the constitution or basic law of the country.

In Afghanistan, for example, Islam is the official state religion, stated explicitly in the constitution: “The sacred religion of Islam is the religion of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.”

The constitution also requires the president and vice president to belong to the state religion and other senior officials must swear allegiance to the principles of Islam in their oaths of office.

Countries with Preferred or Favored Religion

States with a preferred or favored religion have government policies or actions that clearly favor one or in some cases, more than one religion over others, typically with legal, financial or other kinds of practical benefits.

Across the world, a slightly smaller share of countries (20 percent) have a preferred or favored religion as compared to those with state religions.

One example of a preferred religion is Buddhism in Laos, where the constitution does not explicitly name Buddhism as an official state religion, but says: “The State respects and protects all lawful activities of Buddhists and of followers of other religions, and mobilizes and encourages Buddhist monks and novices as well as the priests of other religions to participate in activities that are beneficial to the country and people.”

The government of Laos sponsors Buddhist facilities, promotes Buddhism as an element of the country’s identity, and uses Buddhist ceremonies and rituals in state functions. For example, the government allows the printing, import, and distribution of Buddhist religious material while restricting the publication of religious materials for most other religious groups.

States with no Official or Preferred Religion

In this case, countries that fall in this category can be said to maintain a clear separation of religion and state. 53 percent of all countries analyzed in the research fell in this category, taking up the largest share.

States with no official or preferred religion seek to avoid giving tangible benefits to one religious group over others, although they may equally provide benefits to many religious groups.

For example, the U.S. government gives tax exemptions to religious organizations under rules that apply equally to all denominations.

In this case, however, it is not that these countries avoid any promotion or restriction of religious practice. France, for instance, has no official or preferred religion, but it did have a “high” level of government restrictions on religion in 2015, according to Pew Research Center’s ongoing research on global religious restrictions.

States with a Hostile Relationship Toward Religion

Countries that fall under this category exert a very high level of control over religious institutions in their countries or actively take a combative position toward religion in general.

A small share of countries (5percent) have no official state religion or preferred religion but nonetheless maintain a highly restrictive or hostile relationship with some or all major religious groups in the country, strictly regulating religious institutions and practices.

These are Azerbaijan, China, Cuba, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, North Korea, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

Islam Most Common State Religion; Christianity Most Commonly “Favored” Religion

Islam is the world’s most common official state religion. Among the 43 countries with a state religion, 27 (63 percent) name Islam in general as their official faith.

Most of the countries where Islam is the official religion (16 of 27) are in the Middle East and North Africa. 7 officially Islamic countries are in the Asia-Pacific region, including Bangladesh, Brunei, and Malaysia and there are 4 countries in sub-Saharan Africa where Islam is the state religion: Comoros, Djibouti, Mauritania, and Somalia.

No countries in Europe or the Americas have Islam as their official religion.

Christianity is the second most common official religion around the world. 13 countries (30 percent of countries with an official religion) declare Christianity, in general, or a particular Christian denomination to be their official state religion.

9 of these countries are in Europe, including the United Kingdom, Denmark, Monaco and Iceland. 2 countries in the Americas – Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic – and one in the Asia-Pacific region – Tuvalu – have Christianity as their official state religion.

Only one country in sub-Saharan Africa is officially Christian: Zambia.




About Soko Directory Team

Soko Directory is a Financial and Markets digital portal that tracks brands, listed firms on the NSE, SMEs and trend setters in the markets eco-system.Find us on Facebook: facebook.com/SokoDirectory and on Twitter: twitter.com/SokoDirectory

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