MINELRES: Bulgarian Religious Freedom Group: New Religious Denominations Law

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.delfi.lv
Fri Jan 10 17:15:03 2003


Original sender: Yordan Petrov <brfg@mail.bg>


Dear Sirs,

Please, find attached the 1-s issue of the "Religious Freedom Monitor",
an e-mail newsletter of the Bulgarian Religious Freedom Group.

Bulgarian Religious Freedom Group (BRFG) is an independent,
non-partisan, human rights group, established in November 2002. BRFG
main goals are:

- to foster religious tolerance and freedom of religion in Bulgaria;
- to monitor government policies and legislation affecting freedom of
religion in Bulgaria;
- to create early warning system focused on the state of religious
freedom in Bulgaria.

On behalf of BRFG,

Yordan Petrov

---------------------------------
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM MONITOR

Welcome to the first issue of the "Religious Freedom Monitor" - an
e-mail newsletter of the Bulgarian Religious Freedom Group (BRFG).

Bulgarian Religious Freedom Group (BRFG) is an independent,
non-partisan, human rights group, established in November 2002. BRFG
main goals are:

- to foster religious tolerance and freedom of religion in Bulgaria;
- to monitor government policies and legislation affecting freedom of
religion in Bulgaria; 
- to create early warning system focused on the state of religious
freedom in Bulgaria.

BREAKING NEWS

On December 20, 2002 Bulgarian Parliament adopted a new Religious
Denominations Law which entered into force on January 2, 2003. It
repealed the restrictive law adopted in 1949 during the communist rule.

The new law is a consolidated version of a three drafts entered by MPs
from the governing coalition consisting of NDSV (National Movement
Simeon Vtori) and MRF (Movement for Rights and Freedom), which is a
predominantly a party of the Turkish ethnic minority in Bulgaria.

The new law is a liberal one and guarantees the guarantees freedom of
religion and belief  as proclaimed in Bulgarian Constitution. It was
adopted after a year long debate in working groups and Standing
Parliamentary Committees which involved a large number of experts, civic
activists and human rights group. All officially recognized
denominations in Bulgaria have been invited to contribute to this
process and express opinions on the draft. Bulgarian Orthodox Church,
The Chief Mufti of Muslims in Bulgaria, The Armenian Apostolic Church,
The Catholic Church and several protestant denominations have been very
active in the debate.

A brief analyses shows that the new law:

- Guarantees autonomy of religious communities and non-interference of
the state in the internal affairs of the denominations.

- Guarantees equal treatment of all religious denominations.

- Do not require religious communities to be a subject of formal
registration in order to practice their religious activities. The law
defines the term "religious community" as a voluntary group of people
practicing any given religion, rituals and ceremonies. If such a group
wants to become a legal entity in order to bear legal rights and
obligations, to have property and to establish relations with the state
authorities and third parties as a collective body, it is required to
register in the court.

- The court registration procedure is quite simple and in some aspects
even easier than the procedure, provided for not-for-profit
organizations in the Law for Not-for-profit Legal Entities.

- Repeats Art. 13 of Bulgarian Constitution proclaiming Eastern Orthodox
Christianity (85 % of population) as a traditional religion in Bulgaria.
It is mentioned that Bulgarian Orthodox Church represented by the
Bulgarian Patriarch is the institution which represents this traditional
religion which is considered a legal entity ex lege. Bulgarian
Constitution does not provides for the Orthodox Church to be an official
state church, as the constitutions of some OSCE and EU countries do
(e.g. Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Great Britain, Malta) or a dominating
church as provided by the Constitution of Greece. In this sense, there
is a specific text in the new law according to which Bulgarian Orthodox
Church may not have any privilege in comparison with other
denominations.

- Provides for all recognized denominations not to be pre-registered
according to the new procedures.  


If you interested to receive a copy of the new Bulgarian Religious
Denominations Law in English and/or a more detailed comments on its
provisions, please feel free to contact as by e-mail: brfg@mail.bg

On behalf of BRFG,

Yordan Petrov