[Tagging] Denominations vs religions organisations

Joseph Eisenberg joseph.eisenberg at gmail.com
Sun Jan 17 00:35:35 UTC 2021

The tag "denomination=" is mostly used to tag large categories within a
particular religion. However, some mappers use this tag to put the specific
name of a particular church organisation. I believe that is not the best
idea, and that operator=* should be used for that instead.


There is a mix of how denomination=* tag is used:

1) Most commonly, it is used for the sub-category ('denomination') of a
religion. The top 20 tags are all like this.

E.G>. the top religion=christian denominiations are: *catholic*,
*roman_catholic*, *baptist*, *orthodox*, *lutheran*, *anglican*,
*protestant*, *methodist*, *russian_orthodox*, *greek_orthodox*,
*evangelical*, *presbyterian*, *pentecostal*, *jehovahs_witness*, *mormon*,
*seventh_day_adventist*, *reformed*, etc.

Only 4 of these are mostly one large organisation (Roman Catholic, Russian
Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Jehovah's Witnesses) and even then there are a
few separate organisations in each of those big categories: there are
several Greek Orthodox churches in the USA which are self-governing, for

The others are all protestant or marginal categories, not individual

The top religion=islam denominations are: *sunni*, *shia * which are very
large categories - the other options are quite rare.

The top religion=buddhist denominations are: *tibetan* and *theravada* -
again large categories, not particular organisations.

The large "denomination" tags above have 1000 or more uses, with the top 10
over 10,000 uses.

2) However, if you look down the list to the rare values, there are some
uses of denomination=* to tag individual church organisations, e.g.:
"free_church_of_scotland" (
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Church_of_Scotland_(since_1900)) with 48
uses, instead of the larger denomination "presbyterian", and "foursquare"
(68 uses) for the Foursquare Church instead of "pentecostal", and
"presbyterian_church_usa" instead of "presbyterian". Only about 5% or 10%
of tags are used in this more specific way.

I would instead recommend using the tag operator
<https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Key:operator>=* for the name of the
church organisation, and keep denomination
<https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Key:denomination>=* for the larger,
commonly-used category like "sunni", "presbyterian", "pentecostal",
"mormon", etc.

-- Joseph Eisenberg
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