Cuius regio, eius religio

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Cuius regio, eius religio is a Latin phrase meaning, "Whose region, his religion."

It was coined by jurists in the Holy Roman Empire, which occupied a huge chunk of Central Europe, to describe the compromise between Lutherans and Catholics in the Peace of Augsburg (1555), whereby each prince in the empire could decide whether his subjects would be Lutheran or Catholic, without the Pope, the Emperor, or any other outside power being able to interfere. It was obviously too much to ask that individual subjects in the Empire could choose their own religion. The principle was extended to Calvinism by the Peace of Westphalia (1648). Notably, this excluded other, less mainstream branches of Christianity like Anabaptism, and, given that the Empire was composed of over one thousand semi-sovereign states, the official religion could change a dozen times in a ten-mile stretch of land.

The principle of cuius regio, eius religio is an early statement of the essential principle of Westphalian sovereignty in international relations, which is to say, that a sovereign state's domestic affairs are not subject to interference by outside powers. In other words, Country A cannot attack Country B simply because it does not like the way it is handling some purely internal matter—like what religion it will follow. This ultimately gave local princes much freer hands to do what they wanted outside the religious sphere.

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