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Disestablishmentarianism refers to campaigns to sever links between church and state, particularly in relation to the Church of England as an established church.

It was initially a movement in the United Kingdom in the 18th century. The established churches in Wales and Ireland could not count on even nominal adherence by a majority of the population of those countries. In Ireland, the predominantly Roman Catholic population campaigned against the position of the established Anglican Church of Ireland - eventually disestablished in Ireland from 1 January 1871.

In England there was a campaign by Liberals, dissenters and nonconformists to disestablish the Church of England in the 19th century. The campaigners were called "Liberationists" (the "Liberation Society" was founded by Edward Miall in 1844). This campaign failed, but nearly all of the legal disabilities of nonconformists were gradually dismantled. The campaign for disestablishment was revived in the 20th century when Parliament rejected the 1929 revision of the Book of Common Prayer, leading to calls for separation of Church and State to prevent political interference in matters of worship. In the late 20th century, reform of the House of Lords also brought into question the position of the Lords Spiritual.

Nick Clegg, the former Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said in April 2014 that he thought the Church of England and the British state should be separated "in the long run".[1] Prime Minister David Cameron, responding to Clegg's comments, said that disestablishmentarianism is "a long-term Liberal idea, but it is not a Conservative one" and that he believed having an established church works well.[1]

The Church of England was disestablished in Wales in 1920, becoming the Church in Wales.

An Act of the British Parliament enabling the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland was passed in 1869, coming into effect on 1 January 1871.

The Church of Scotland was disestablished in 1929 but remains the largest church in Scotland.

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  1. ^ a b "Nick Clegg advocates separation of Church and state". BBC News. BBC. 25 April 2014. Retrieved 25 April 2014.