The separation of church and state is a concept defining the distance in the relationship between organized religion and the nation state. It may refer to creating a secular state, with or without explicit reference to such separation, or to changing an existing relationship of church involvement in a state (disestablishment).
Although the concept of separation has been adopted in a number of countries, there are varying degrees of separation depending on the applicable legal structures and prevalent views toward the proper relationship between religion and politics. While a country's policy may be to have a definite distinction between church and state bodies, there may be an "arm's length distance" relationship in which the two entities interact as independent organizations.
A similar but typically stricter principle of laïcité has been applied in France and Turkey, while some socially secularized countries such as Denmark and the United Kingdom have maintained constitutional recognition of an official state religion. The concept parallels various other international social and political ideas, including secularism, disestablishmentarianism, religious liberty, and religious pluralism. Whitman (2009) observes that in many European countries, the state has, over the centuries, taken over the social roles of the church, leading to a generally secularized public sphere.