The Secular State is a form of political organization that guarantees the religious freedom of all its citizens.
In this way, the Secular State is not against religion, but guarantees that all beliefs can coexist without the preponderance of a single creed.
Origin of the Term
The word secular comes from the Greek expression laos which designated the people in a universal sense. The term laos , therefore, referred to the population, the whole people, without any exception.
Passing through Latin, the same Greek expression, also derived, the Portuguese word layman with the meaning of non-cleric.
The idea of a secular state arose with the Illuminist ideas and the French Revolution when the revolutionaries proposed the total separation of the Church and the State.
To fill the void created by the lack of religion, they created a parallel Catholic church and instituted a series of civic ceremonies and national festivals.
It was not yet a modern secular state, as Catholics and Protestants were harshly persecuted during this period.
In America, most states that emerged with independence adopted the republican regime, which provided for the separation of the state and the church.
Brazil, following the monarchical regime, instituted Catholicism as an official religion. However, all religions were tolerated as long as public services were not held. Only with the republican coup of 1889 was there a separation of State and Church.
Read more: Constitution of 1891
Objective of the Secular State
The Secular State aims to build a society where no social group can impose itself on the other elements that comprise it.
To achieve this goal, the secular state must declare itself neutral and not interfere in any matter related to religion . For their part, no religious, political or ethnic group would have the right to meddle in political issues.
Thus, religion would be a particular option for the individuals who make up society. The State only recognizes them and grants them the right to free association and protects its members from possible aggression.
Public power, in the Secular State, has neither the capacity to favor nor to harm religious practice. In other words, it is a pact between people of any religion and with people who have no religion to live with each other.
However, no religion could meddle in creating the rules that govern this state.
In this sense, instead of justifying that certain laws should not be made in the name of a certain book or a certain god, the laws should be based on principles that are reasonable for anyone.
Secular State vs. Atheist State
Currently, confusion between the Secular State and the Atheist State is common.
The word “atheist” means to deny god – any god. In this way, an Atheist State would not allow the existence of any religion within its borders and would persecute its members.
This is contrary to the principle of the Secular State, where different religions can coexist within the same space.
Secular State vs. Official Religion
Another very common confusion is between the secular state and states that have an official religion.
Countries like Iran adopt Islam as their official religion. This means that any other religion cannot exist within its borders, its members will be persecuted and any public manifestation of any belief other than Islam is prohibited.
In Iran, too, laws are inspired by the Muslim holy book and are applied to all citizens living within its borders, even if they do not follow this belief.