World Facts

What is a Secular State?

A secular state is a country where religion does not play a part in law making.

A secular state is a country where the state is keep separate from religion, and the state does not discriminate or favor persons based on their religious beliefs. Within a secular state, the government does not interfere with religion and its activities, as long as such activities are done under the confines of the law. A secular state is not inspired by religion when formulating laws and policies. The establishment of a secular state is necessary if a country is to have true freedom of religion. Countries can become secular states upon creation (such as the United States), or after undergoing secularization where the religion (the church) is separated from the state (such as France).

Which Countries Are Secular States?

There are a total of 96 secular states in the world. Africa and Europe have the highest number of secular states in the world, with 27 and 33 secular states respectively. There are 20 secular states in Asia, while South America has seven secular states. Oceania and North America have the least number of secular states, with only 4 (Australia, New Zealand, Micronesia, and Fiji) in Oceania and 5 (The United States, Mexico, Cuba, Canada, and Honduras) in North America. However, many secular states exhibit tendencies seen in religious states. For instance, the UK is a recognized secular state, but its constitution requires the head of state to swear to protect the Church of England through taking the Coronation Oath. This oath which was enacted in the late 17th century is characteristic to religious states, and not secular states. Another point of concern is seen in the UK’s House of Lords that features clergymen drawn from the Church of England.

Former Secular Countries

Some countries were initially secular states but later changed their laws, establishing state religions and turning into religious states in reverse progression. There are only two examples of such countries in the world; Iran and Iraq. Iran had established itself as a secular state in 1925 and held that definition until the 1979 Islamic Revolution that resulted in the institution of Islam as the state religion in Iran. Another Middle East country that is a former secular country is Iraq, which became a secular state after gaining independence in 1925. However, the country adopted a new constitution in 2005 which saw the recognition of Islam as the state religion, turning Iraq into a religious state.

Ambiguous Countries

There are countries in the world that define themselves as secular states but have instituted policies and laws that are against secularism. Such countries are termed as ambiguous states in the context of secularism. Armenia is a perfect example of an ambiguous country, as its constitution defines it as a secular state but surprisingly also establishes the national church to be the Armenian Apostolic Church. Another example is Norway, whose constitution provides for the separation of religion and the state but requires the King of Norway to be a member of the Church of Norway. Other such countries include Finland, Argentina, Georgia, Romania, El Salvador, Nauru, Israel, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Lebanon, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

List of Secular States By Continent

RankCountryContinent
1AngolaAfrica
2BeninAfrica
3BotswanaAfrica
4Burkina FasoAfrica
5BurundiAfrica
6CameroonAfrica
7Cape VerdeAfrica
8ChadAfrica
9Cote d'IvoireAfrica
10Democratic Republic of the CongoAfrica
11Republic of the CongoAfrica
12EthiopiaAfrica
13FranceAfrica
14GabonAfrica
15GuineaAfrica
16Guinea-BissauAfrica
17LiberiaAfrica
18MadagascarAfrica
19MaliAfrica
20NamibiaAfrica
21NigerAfrica
22NigeriaAfrica
23RwandaAfrica
24SenegalAfrica
25South AfricanAfrica
26South SudanAfrica
27TanzaniaAfrica
28UgandaAfrica
29AzerbiajanAsia
30ChinaAsia
31East TimorAsia
32IndiaAsia
33JapanAsia
34KazakhstanAsia
35North KoreaAsia
36South KoreaAsia
37Kyrgyzstan Asia
38LaosAsia
39NepalAsia
40PhilippinesAsia
41SingaporeAsia
42Sri LankaAsia
43TaiwanAsia
44TajikistanAsia
45TurkeyAsia
46TurkmenistanAsia
47UzbekistanAsia
48VietnamAsia
49AlbaniaEurope
50AustriaEurope
51BelarusEurope
52BelgiumEurope
53Bosnia and HerzegovinaEurope
54BulgariaEurope
55CroatiaEurope
56CyprusEurope
57Czech RepublicEurope
58EstoniaEurope
59FranceEurope
60GermanyEurope
61HungaryEurope
62IrelandEurope
63ItalyEurope
64KosovoEurope
65LatviaEurope
66MacedoniaEurope
67NetherlandsEurope
68Northern CyprusEurope
69NorwayEurope
70PolandEurope
71Portugal Europe
72RussiaEurope
73SerbiaEurope
74SlovakiaEurope
75SloeveniaEurope
76SpainEurope
77SwedenEurope
78TurkeyEurope
79UkraineEurope
80CanadaNorth America
81CubaNorth America
82HondurasNorth America
83MexicoNorth America
84United States North America
85AustraliaOceania
86FijiOceania
87Federated States of MicronesiaOceania
88New ZealandOceania
89BrazilSouth America
90ChileSouth America
91ColombiaSouth America
92EcuadorSouth America
93PeruSouth America
94UruguaySouth America
95Venezuela South America

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