The degree and nature of state backing for denomination or creed designated as a state religion can vary. It can range from mere endorsement (with or without financial support) with freedom for other faiths to practice, to prohibiting any competing religious body from operating and to persecuting the followers of other sects. In Europe, competition between Catholic and Protestant denominations for state sponsorship in the 16th century evolved the principle Cuius regio, eius religio (states follow the religion of the ruler) embodied in the text of the treaty that marked the Peace of Augsburg, 1555. In England, Henry VIII broke with Rome in 1534, being declared the Supreme Head of the Church of England, the official religion of England continued to be "Catholicism without the Pope" until after his death in 1547, while in Scotland the Church of Scotland opposed the religion of the ruler.
In some cases, an administrative region may sponsor and fund a set of religious denominations; such is the case in Alsace-Moselle in France under its local law, following the pre-1905 French concordatory legal system and patterns in Germany.
In some communist states, notably in North Korea and Cuba, the state sponsors religious organizations, and activities outside those state-sponsored religious organizations are met with various degrees of official disapproval. In these cases, state religions are widely seen as efforts by the state to prevent alternate sources of authority.
There is also a difference between a "state church" and the broader term of "state religion".Roman Catholicism in Costa Rica, which was accepted as the state religion in the 1949 Constitution, despite the lack of a national church. In the case of a "state church", the state has absolute control over the church, but in the case of a "state religion", the church is ruled by an exterior body; in the case of Catholicism, the Vatican has control over the church. In either case, the official state religion has some influence over the ruling of the state. As of 2012, there are only five state churches left, as most countries that once featured state churches have separated the church from their government.
A "state church" is a state religion created by a state for use exclusively by that state. An example of a "state religion" that is not also a "state church" is
Disestablishment is the process of repealing a church's status as an organ of the state. In a state where an established church is in place, those opposed to such a move may be described as antidisestablishmentarians. This word is, however, most usually associated with the debate on the position of the Anglican churches in the British Isles: the Church of Ireland (disestablished in 1871), the Church of England in Wales (disestablished in 1920), and the Church of England itself (which remains established).