I'm not familiar with all the tags or tagging conventions, but it seems to me that the and tags have a lot of overlap and ought to be combined, especially since posts like this one already have five tags but ought to have at least one more.

Personally I'd prefer to be the tag that is kept, as it is more precise. The term government can also include church elder boards, corporate boards of directors, home owner associations, and even parents in families, but to me these would not be understood to be civil authorities.


If some see a distinction between and , perhaps they can be merged into a new tag that is broad enough to include both. Some possibilities I see are , , , , , or , though all these have downsides.

However, I'd still argue that the distinction between and will be lost on most people: not just the ones posting questions, but also the ones using tags to explore the questions on this site. It seems to me that keeping them separate and making an effort to maintain the distinction will produce more confusion than navigation.


2 Answers 2


Before I get into this, let me just say that I 100% agree with your post. But since this hasn't been resolved yet (and since I'd like to address a couple other tags too), here's my formalized proposal, which can be met with up- or down-votes to reflect a community consensus:

, , , should all be eradicated and united under one new tag: civil-government. All questions with these tags are about either 1) how Christians should relate to those in power, or 2) what Christianity teaches about what civil government should do.

Why give it a new name?

None of those tags do it justice yet. and are overly specific, is ambiguous, and is not likely to be found by someone looking for a general "government" tag.

Alternatively, I'd be fine with using and having civil-government be a synonym. That's a minor point, and people can weigh in on that in the comments here.

Why are these tags closely related enough to warrant one tag?

Firstly, I'd like to repeat that I 100% agree with you:

I'd still argue that the distinction between and will be lost on most people: not just the ones posting questions, but also the ones using tags to explore the questions on this site. It seems to me that keeping them separate and making an effort to maintain the distinction will produce more confusion than navigation.

People using the tags for navigation will be looking for questions about how Christians relate to the "governing authorities": police, judges, elected officials, etc. Being overly specific will just be confusing. People asking the questions will be very unlikely to keep a distinction in mind either, and we'll have to keep a close eye on tag maintenance. A bit of a bother.

If questions are about the separation of , then they're about both uses of the proposed civil-government tag that I mentioned above. If they're specifically about the United States, then they could use the civil-government and tag; no need for a dedicated tag.

If questions are about , then they are no doubt about one or the other (or both) of the uses of the tag mentioned above. No need for a dedicated tag. Most questions about the government are about laws anyway, and all questions about laws would also be about the government. This is a classic "tag synonym" candidate.

  • +1. I agree that civil-government is more intuitive, and I like the example of using civil-government in combination with united-states in the event of something particular to US law or US church/state relations. Aug 11, 2015 at 21:07
  • 1
    Yeah, I can hop on board with this. Those four tags total less than 100 questions, so further bisecting of the topic is not needed at this point.
    – user3961
    Aug 12, 2015 at 0:04
  • 2
    But if we do this, then we need to make it clear in the except that the tag is meant to cover these kinds of questions.
    – user3961
    Aug 12, 2015 at 0:05
  • I just switched church-and-state to civil-government on a question I was editing anyway... I agree a 4-way merge is a good plan. Naturally, merge proposals should be made for the general cases, rather than bumping all the questions, but this edit should allow the ball to get rolling.
    – ThaddeusB
    Aug 12, 2015 at 3:03
  • @ThaddeusB In my opinion, 4 upvotes is not a consensus. I used to say +6 for guidelines and +8 for policy, but considering our community has grown since then, I feel more like +8 and +10. Also, this was only posted 7 hours before you made those two edits (the other on judging-others where there is only +4 on the corresponding meta post. Now, to be fair, tagging and everything that goes with it is only explored by the most engaged community members, so naturally, these posts get less attention. But I would wait at least a day or two and for +6 score before doing any further edits.
    – user3961
    Aug 12, 2015 at 4:35
  • 1
    @fredsbend I only made the "civil-government" edit because I was editing the post anyway, like I said. I certainly wouldn't normally wouldn't decide something after 8 hours. :) However, at the very least it is a useful synonym.... Since it only takes 4 2500+ votes to make a tag a synonym, I think it would be silly to say a meta post needs +6 or +8 to make a synonym. As for the judging tag, both suggestions offered agree with adding a "judging-others" tag and generally you don't need any meta support to create a new tag anyway.
    – ThaddeusB
    Aug 12, 2015 at 13:05
  • @ThaddeusB But you also need to have a sufficient score in the target tag to vote on synonyms, which means in practice they're very hard to make. If a proposal gets several upvotes and no down votes you're in a good position to ask a mod to do the synonyms for you though.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Aug 14, 2015 at 12:09
  • 1
    Done. And thanks to everyone who took the time to analyze these questions and reason through the best way to categorize them. My apologies for the official button pushing to make it happen taking so long after apparent consensus was reached.
    – Caleb
    Sep 27, 2015 at 5:59

I'm not sure they are synonyms. I'm American so maybe "civil authority" means something different to me.

Government is the system by which a state or community is controlled.

Civil authority the mechanism that enforces law and order. It is also used to distinguish between religious authority (for example Canon law) and secular authority.

Government is a broader term that encompasses Civil Authority.

Government questions should be about, for example:

  • democracy
  • monarchy
  • mechanisms of government, such as voting.

Civil-authority question should be about, for example:

  • kings, emperors, caesars, popes, bishops, etc., and their role as authority figures in Christianity.
  • obedience to the law, king, etc.
  • Laws, decrees, proclamations, etc. by leaders and the authority they have over Christianity and Christians individually.

Now let's examine how each tag is currently being used, rather than how we'd like them to be used:

Civil Authority tag


  • No excerpt
  • 8 questions
  • 2 closed questions
  • Most recent usage: July 7, 2015


At first glance all the open questions seem to be about specifically a civil authority or civil authority matters and not the broader government that it operates within. Only one question may be more about government than civil authority, but it could probably contain both tags.

2 tags are commonly used with the civil-authority tag.

No questions tagged civil-authority are also tagged government.

Government tag


  • Excerpt: "Relationship between Church/Churches/Christians and the government."
  • 14 questions
  • 2 closed questions
  • Most recent usage: June 27, 2015


At first glance, about half of the open questions seem to be about a civil authority or could be appropriately tagged civil authority with or rather than government. Four such questions were found.

  1. Hierarchy of Catholicism, government, and papal teaching
  2. What is the basis for ascribing any fiscal policy to Jesus?
  3. How does the relationship of the Church of Scotland to the state differ from that of the Church of England?
  4. What is the basis for Theonomy?
  5. Did Lactantius ever say why it was good for Christians to be ruled by a Christian emperor?
  6. What is an overview of how Christian commentators have explained rulers to be a terror to bad conduct?

3 tags are commonly used with the government tag:

No questions tagged government are also tagged civil-authority.


  1. Keep both tags.
  2. Give both tags an excerpt that define the terms and note when to use them, according to the definitions above.
  3. Retag any questions that need it.
  4. Tag consistently going forward.

Evidence for this recommendation

  • The definitions are different, though it can seem subtle.
  • Some of the government tagged questions are about government and civil-authority. Though they are not tagged with both, they could be and the question would be better for it.
  • Both are in regular usage and are used correctly for the most part.

Evidence against this recommendation

  • Only one civil-authority question might use the government tag. That could be in indication that in users' minds they are the same thing, when referring to civil authority.
  • The civil-authority tag on this site is ambiguous. There is no excerpt.

A peculiar note:

There is one question tagged .

Perhaps that tag should be in use more. It does seem applicable and does not seem to be a synonym of "government" or "civil-authority".

  • 1
    Thanks for laying all this out! I'm still not seeing a clean dividing line between the two (and I'm an American too!); I'll see if I can formulate something. Jul 8, 2015 at 2:15
  • At first glance, about half of the open questions seem to be about a civil authority or could be appropriately tagged civil authority with or rather than government. I'm not seeing the distinction. Jul 8, 2015 at 3:25
  • @Mr.Beatitude Look closely at the provided definitions. government is about the system that keeps society organized and controlled. Civil authority is the mechanism that enforces it. In the US, the government is democracy, and the civil authority is the the people through the president and congress.
    – user3961
    Jul 8, 2015 at 4:21
  • @fredsbend I don't understand your distinction either. Democracy is a system for electing a parliament. It is neither a government nor a civil authority.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Jul 8, 2015 at 5:37
  • @curiousdannii What then is a government? In the definition, 'system' is the primary word.
    – user3961
    Jul 8, 2015 at 7:14
  • @fredsbend I don't think that's the best definition, or it's an alternate sense perhaps. But the normal sense would be that the government is the governing entity, and in western democracies, that makes it equivalent to a civil authority. It's not equivalent in absolute monarchies or theocracies though.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Jul 8, 2015 at 7:31
  • Wikipedia lists four different definitions in the first paragraph :P
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Jul 8, 2015 at 7:31
  • @curiousdannii You should perhaps make up an answer, because I do not see them as the same thing. Further, I do not think that vernacular usage of a technical term should be the metric for deciding tag synonyms.
    – user3961
    Jul 8, 2015 at 17:08
  • @fredsbend I think they're all equally vernacular, but I must be thinking of a different one as prominent compared to the others. In this case it would be best to make the tags much more specific to resolve any ambiguity. We could have government-system for example.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Jul 8, 2015 at 21:54

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