Civil authority (also known as civil government) is that apparatus of the state other than its military units that enforces law and order. It is also used to distinguish between religious authority (for example Canon law) and secular authority. In a religious context it is "synonymous with human government, in contradistinction to a government by God, or the divine government."
Among the first modern experiments in civil government took place in 1636 when Roger Williams, a Christian minister, founded the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. He sought to create a "wall of separation" between church and state to prevent corruption of the church and maintain civil order as expounded upon in his 1644 book, Bloudy Tenent of Persecution.
Thus three forms of authority may be seen in States:
- Civil authority
- Military authority
- Religious authority (certain constitutions exclude the state having any religious authority)
It can also mean the moral power of command, supported (when need be) by physical coercion, which the State exercises over its members. In this view, because man can not live in isolation without being deprived of what makes him fully human, and because authority is necessary for a society to hold together, the authority has not only the power but the right to command. It is natural to man to live in society, to submit to authority, and to be governed by that custom of society which crystallizes into law, and the obedience that is required is paid to the powers that be, to the authority actually in possession. The extent of its authority is bound by the ends it has in view, and the extent to which it actually provides for the government of society.
In modern states enforcement of law and order is typically a role of the police although the line between military and civil units may be hard to distinguish; especially when militias and volunteers, such as yeomanry, act in pursuance of non-military, domestic objectives.
- Religious persecution
- Religious uniformity
- Religious police
- Military operations other than war
- Operation Garden Plot
- Public administration
- D. LIPSCOMB, CIVIL GOVERNMENT:Its Origin, Mission, and Destiny, AND THE Christian's Relation To It. (NASHVILLE, TENN.:McQUIDDY PRINTING CO.,1913). INDIAN POLICE SERVICE(IPS) is the highest civilian Authority in INDIA 
- Roger Williams, James Calvin Davis (editor), On religious liberty: selections from the works of Roger Williams, (Harvard University Press, 2008), ISBN 0-674-02685-3, ISBN 9780674026858 (accessed July 11, 2009 on Google Books)
- James Emanuel Ernst, Roger Williams, New England Firebrand (Macmillan Co., Rhode Island, 1932), pg. 246