Religious Freedom and State Religion in an Interational Panel


August 2004


Gwin, Carl R.
North, Charles Mark, 1964-

Access rights

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This paper explores the determinants and implications of church-state relationships. A theoretical model of a government’s decision to establish, or disestablish, a state church is developed and then tested with data from a 65-year panel of 31 countries. We also examine the effects of state religion and legal protection of religious freedom on religious attendance and religious pluralism. We show that, due to economies of scale in the provision of religious services, governments are most likely to establish a state religion in countries with homogeneous populations. We further show that heterogeneity of religious preferences reduces the likelihood of a state religion, that state religions undermine the overall religiosity of the population in religiously pluralistic countries, and that religious freedom protection increases religious attendance and spurs increases in religious pluralism. The overall implication of our model and empirical findings is that state religion is inherently self-destructive when religious freedom is guaranteed.



Economics of Religions, Church State Relations, Constitutional Law, JEL Classification: Z12, JEL Classification: K10