Over 25 countries in the world do not have state religions including USA, Canada, China, South Africa, New Zealand, Singapore, Romania, Colombia, and East Timor. A secular state is one in which the government is neutral on religion matters. Such countries do not discriminate citizens on the basis of religion and therefore promote equality. State religion on the other hand is where the government officially recognizes a particular religion. In such a case other religions may feel discriminated.
Countries Without A State Religion
In as much as most people in New Zealand are Christians, there is no state religion as per the constitution. This is attributed to the “Treaty of Waitangi” which was signed in 1840. The dominant religions in the country are Christianity and Hinduism. However, there is also a large group of about 42% who do not subscribe to any religion. The freedom of religion is enjoyed by all New Zealanders. Even among the Christians, there are several denominations which include Catholics, Anglicans, and Presbyterians.
In Singapore, residents are assured of the freedom of religion and guaranteed to have this freedom by the constitution. However, the Singapore government is keen on ensuring that no religion mis-uses this freedom to cause divisions. It is upon this basis that it restricts the operations of some religions. In the past, the government is known to have deregistered the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” and “Unification Church.”Although the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” are currently allowed their freedom of worship, their activities are restricted. Singapore encourages religion that unifies its citizens rather than divides them.
The Constitution of Romania which was made law in 1991 allows the Romanians the freedom of religion. In fact, it is illegal to ask an individual to state their religious affiliation in Romania. However, 91% of Romanians are Christians with most of them being members of the Romanian Orthodox Church. There are many other Christian denominations such as Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists, Unitarian, and Pentecostal among others. Other religions in Romania are Islam (0.3%), Judaism (0.02%), and Old Believers (0.16%). Romania is a secular state as it recognizes the equality of all religions.
South Africans are guaranteed freedom of religion by their Constitution. Consequently, the country is a secular state. Even so, the country is dominated by the Christian religion which is professed by about 80% of the people in South Africa. The Christian religion was passed on to the South Africans by the Dutch and British who colonized the country. The nation still recognizes the African Traditional Religion but only a few of its citizens practice it.
Which Is Better-Secular Or State Religion?
A state religion means that the religion recognized by the state influences its governance. It goes as far as only allowing those affiliated to the stated religion to be elected and nominated to be rulers in the land. This practice leads to discrimination of other citizens who may have the same qualifications except for their religion. Hence a secular state gives equal opportunities in leadership and grants the freedom of religion. A secular state is preferred to state religion.