Religions and the State in Term Paper

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This led him to start the second major religion in Germany -Protestantism. This makes it clear that there were views of religion being also something other than pure belief in a path to reach God even in those days.

The strength of the Protestants increased in North Baden and northeast Bavaria, and was not at a very high level till Germany was unified under Prussian leadership in 1871. The leaders of Germany at that time were under Otto von Bismarck and he was seeking a method to weaken the leadership of Roman Catholics and their influence. This led to the start of Kulturkampf in the early 1870s. Other direct steps were also taken like prohibiting the Jesuit order in Germany and expelling the members of Jesuits from Germany. The entire procedure was outlined in Prussia under the "Falk laws" which were named after Adalbert Falk who was the minister of culture under Bismarck. This fixed various laws for all clergymen and that included compulsory German citizenship and attendance at German universities for clergymen, state inspection of schools and state confirmation of all parish and Episcopal appointments. Thus one can see that in this case in Germany, the state was enforcing changes on religion. Of course the changes were not in terms of religious practices and ethics, but direct action against some specific religion so that the development of the religion is made difficult. There is a distinct difference from the situation in Austria as the rulers there had a belief in a different religion from the rulers in Germany.

Going ahead in time, the relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the German State improved through negotiations between the state and Vatican, yet the actions taken under Kuturkampf had developed a hate among Roman Catholics for this group of states and specific enmity towards Prussia. This is also reflected in the population break up of Prussia where two thirds of the population was Protestant and the balance was Catholics. This continued up to World War II. Among the provinces of this country, Bavaria was a stronghold of Roman Catholics and there were a large number of Roman Catholics in Baden-Wurttemberg, Saarland and most parts of Rhineland. In most other parts of Germany, it is the Protestants who were in a majority.

This is almost the opposite of the situation in Austria. When political changes in the country took place under Hitler, the established churches did not contest the supremacy of the state, except some individual churches. A Nazi, Ludwig Muller was installed as the Lutheran bishop in Berlin. Hitler was raised as a Roman Catholic, but respected only the power and organization that the church showed, and did not practice its religion. One of the first diplomatic successes of Nazis was concluding a concordat with the Vatican in July 1933, and this shows, that the church also acted like a state. Through this agreement, the Vatican collected the right to maintain its schools all over the nation, but assured the Nazis that the clergy would not participate in political activity. The government was also given a right of having a say in who would be appointed as Bishops. The changes of areas of diocesans would also be subject to government approval.

The interesting point to note is that the church is agreeing to the state in having a say in its religious operations. However, the Nazis did not obey the terms of the concordat and over a period of time, all schools of Catholics had been wound up. After this period, the situation of Germany became with two parts coming up and the communists taking over in East Germany. Thus one can see that the interference from Germany was direct and often with direct effects, whereas in Austria, the effects were through the religious beliefs of the political leaders. The two states also clearly believed in two separate religions though culturally the two states are quite close.

Extension of the experience of Germany and Austria to other countries:

The most important part of the experience is that both the countries, with different religions as part of their core beliefs had a relationship between the church and the state. Whether the relationships succeeded or not, the answer is that the relationships took place as both states felt the church to be an important source of depository for public beliefs and trusts. At the same time, it is often thought that the state has to be ideally neutral in all dealings with its entire people, and not choose between religions. This is viewed as the rule of neutrality for the states. This belief supposes that it is possible for the states to always act without taking any notice of religion in any form, or even of the specific religious beliefs of that group of people. Let us take a case in United States where this is the general view as it is felt that this will lead to better service to the people.

There was a famous case in 1988 called Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association where the Supreme Court ruled that three Indian tribes in California could not stop the Forest Service from permitting road building and logging on their sacred lands. One assumes that the judges thought that they were acting neutrally and were not really concerned with the religious feelings of the Indians involved. However even the judges admitted that the tribes would be devastated due to the action of the government. This would not happen to a religious symbol of a strong religious group. In other words when religion remains a strong source of belief among citizens, there will always be an influence of religion on the people and the strength of the supporters of the religion on the government whether that is officially accepted or not.

Thus in any religious society, there will always be an influence of the state over religion, and the other way. Some experts say that church should not involve itself in politics or not influence the political process. Some even go to the extent of saying that the church should ignore the government, and in terms of philosophy this can be viewed as a separation of spheres. Can this happen as the individuals who will participate in the government are also members of the church? Theoretically there may be a separation between the two sources of power, but individuals who would like to gather power would like to influence both areas. That is the reason why in both Austria and Germany there were linkages between the Church and the State.

Theoretically it is fine to say that the church should not get close to the state, but in many areas of social welfare there are many links that are required between the government funding agencies and the service providers. Many of the service providers are related to the church as social service is an important objective of religion. Apart from this, it has been seen many times that private groups can provide service to the needy much more quickly, cheaply and in a more humane manner than government agencies. They have much greater sensitivity to the interests, backgrounds and beliefs of the people to whom the service is to be provided. This leads to emergency shelters and feeding programs being conducted by different religious organizations though the government also helps by providing the food, blankets and other requirement. Internationally this also happens in areas like disaster relief, orphanages, family planning, refugee settlement, adoption services, hospitals and the like.

Thus it is clear that there has to be a relationship between religion and the State and the problem comes when the interference leads to changes in either. The quantum of change expected or demanded depends on the person wanting the change. When the person in power has a desire to gain great power, then all areas will be combined for getting greater power. The situation of Austria and Germany is today repeated in many countries which are being ruled by dictators. The photographs of dictators will be dominant at all places where the general public has a chance to see them. It is somewhat like placing an image of God at all places of worship.


The definition of democracy has been given a long time ago as being a rule of the people, for the people and by the people. Probably the definition was a utopian concept as it is still not practiced anywhere. Probably the case of our thesis is the same and one does not know when it will become a part of reality. One can leave the leadership to the child as the child will not talk with the experience of frustration.


Barrett, Lois. (25 October, 1996) "Thinking Theologically about Church and State" Annual

Restorative Justice Conference. Retrieved at on 6 August, 2005

Carter, Stephen. L. (October 11, 2000) "Beyond Neutrality" The Christian Century. pp. 996-

1001. Retrieved…

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