Elgar Monographs in Constitutional and Administrative Law series
Chapter 1: The roots of a relationship: religion, the state and its power
The interaction between the state and religious institutions goes back to the emergence of the state as a distinct legal or constitutional construct. The historical roots of statehood reach down at least to the classical Greek and Roman eras, but statehood as such has been coming to fruition only over the past few centuries. The European history of church and state is where the foundations of the current global discourse on the theme were laid. That is also where our current conceptions of statehood originate. From the outset European Christianity inspired a distinction between governmental and religious authority, inevitably leading to competition for supremacy. Law is not barren of normative aspirations such as justice and ethics, much of which are or were originally motivated by religious convictions. The knot tying law to religion cannot be untied. But before we can consider the nature of this knot we need to clarify some terminology. A set of terms relating to religious matters is often used in conjunction, not always without confusion. These include ‘religion’, ‘belief’, ‘faith’, ‘cult’ and ‘worship’, words that are essential for a discussion of this nature. In all manifestations of human society, faith, religion and religious practices are ubiquitous. These are profoundly human characteristics and activities, distinguishing, according to the major religions, man from beast.