A "free church" is a Christian denomination that is intrinsically separated from government (as opposed to a theocracy, or an "established" or state church). A free church does not define government policy, nor have governments define church policy or theology, nor seeks or receives government endorsement or funding for its general mission. The term is especially relevant in countries with established state churches.
The free church is a pattern that evolved in the Americas, while much of Europe maintains some government involvement in religion and churches via taxation to support them and by appointing ministers and bishops etc., although free churches have been founded in Europe outside of the state system 
Protestant historians would typically argue that this is historically what the Christian church was before the Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity (see Early Christianity) and before the later setting up of the state church of the Roman Empire, and did not appear again until the appearance, within the Protestant Reformation, of groups such as the Calvinists and radical movements such as the Anabaptists. However some Calvinist churches were also state churches, such as the Dutch Reformed Church in the Netherlands. This is also a somewhat Eurocentric perspective, as there were many thriving Christian communities in the Far East (India and China) during medieval times, yet none of these communities ever wielded control of a state.
A number of churches in Scotland and Northern Ireland, mainly of the presbyterian tradition, have used the name 'Free Church'. The most important of these to persist at the present time is the Free Church of Scotland.
Within present-day China the largest free churches are the "underground" element of the Catholic Church (see Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association#CPCA and the Catholic Church), the true Jesus Church, local churches and the Born Again Movement. Possibly several millions of people in China belong to isolated radio churches.
In Sweden, the term Free Church (Swedish: frikyrka) often means any Christian Protestant denomination that is not part of the Church of Sweden. This includes Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodists etc.
In the United States, because of the First Amendment forbidding the government establishment of religion "all" churches are by definition free churches. However some denominations in the United States still use the phrase "free church" in their names, though they may not be truly a "free church". Most churches in the United States have filed for a tax exemption called a 501c3. The recognition of the church by the state for tax exempt status nullifies the separation of church and state clause in the United States Constitution. This recognition allows the state to impose restrictions on the churches freedom of speech. A 501c3 recognized church is not allowed to involve itself in any political action or speech, thus giving up its right to freedom of speech found in the same amendment the First Amendment. A true free church in the United States does not have a 501c3 tax exempt status, but under the United States Internal Revenue's own rules a 501c3 is not required for a church in the United States to be tax exempt. The 501c3 gives certain tax exemptions to the Pastors of churches that have obtained this status. Simply a 501c3 church in the United States is no longer a " free church" as it has given up its right to freedom of speech for special privileges to its Pastor.
Free Methodist Church
Among the Methodist Churches, calling a church "free" does not indicate any particular relation to a government. Rather the Free Methodist Church is so called because of three possibly four reasons, depending on the source referenced. The word "Free" was suggested and adopted because the new church was to be an anti-slavery church (slavery was an issue in those days), because pews in the churches were to be free to all rather than sold or rented (as was common), and because the new church hoped for the freedom of the Holy Spirit in the services rather than a stifling formality. However, according to World Book Encyclopedia, the third principle was "freedom" from secret and oathbound societies (in particular the Freemasons).
- Constantine I and Christianity
- Free Church Federation
- Separation of church and state
- Church covenant
- in Europe
- in England
- in Germany
- Evangelical Lutheran Free Church (Germany)
- Independent Evangelical-Lutheran Church
- Union of Evangelical Free Church Congregations in Germany
- Altapostolische Kirche (see Old Apostolic Church)
- in Iceland
- in Northern Ireland
- in Norway
- in Scotland
- Free Church of Scotland (1843–1900)
- Free Church of Scotland (post-1900)
- Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland (post-1893)
- Free Church of Scotland (Continuing)
- in South Africa
- in the United States
- Lutheran Free Church, 1897 to 1963
- Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, 1962–Present
- Evangelical Free Church of America
- http://anglicanhistory.org/misc/freechurch/ Project Canterbury: The Free Church Movement
- http://anglicanhistory.org/usa/jhhbrown/free1857.html What "Free Church" means and Why Churches should be Free. (1857)
- Where did Separation of Church and State originate?
- The Free Church of Christ - Home Page
- The Free Church of England - Home Page