Bulgarian law to ban all foreign preachers

August 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

church-stateThe Patriotic Front, a newly established political formation in Bulgaria, filed changes to the 2002 Religious Dominations Act last Thursday. The new measure bans all foreign citizens from preaching on the territory of Bulgaria, as well as preaching in any other language than Bulgarian.

The draft amendments also foresee banning foreign organizations, companies and citizens from providing funding or donating to Bulgarian religious denominations. All the religious denominations in Bulgaria will be obliged to perform their sermons, rituals and statements only in Bulgaria. One year’s time will be given to translate religious books into Bulgarian.

Financially, the draft laws would ban not only foreign physical and legal entities from funding Bulgarian religious institutions, but also companies with foreign ownership that are legally registered in Bulgaria. Using state funding for “illegal activities” by religious denominations will be sanctioned with prison terms of three to six years. With these sanctions in mind, the new legal measure embodies the following rationale:

  1. Churches and ministers must declare all foreign currency money flow and foreign bank accounts
  2. Participation of foreign persons in the administration of any denomination is strictly forbidden
  3. Foreign parsons shall not be allowed to speak at religious meetings in any way shape or form especially religious sermons
  4. Anonymous donations and donorship to religious organization is not permitted
  5. Bulgarian flag shall be present in every temple of worship
  6. The new measure will block all foreign interference in the faith confessions and denominations in Bulgaria

New Law in Bulgaria Bans Women from Wearing Veils

October 10, 2016 by  
Filed under Featured, News

Protesters oppose the Socialist-led government in SofiaSOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Bulgaria’s Parliament has approved a law banning women from wearing veils that cover their faces in public.

Bulgaria, a Balkan country of 7.2 million people, has a Muslim minority of about 10 percent. Similar bans have been approved in other EU countries such as France, Netherlands and Belgium.

The law was pushed by the nationalist Patriotic Front coalition citing security reasons for it, saying “the burqa is more a uniform than a religious symbol.” The law was opposed by the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the third-largest party in Parliament, which has a substantial Muslim electorate. In protest, the group walked out of Parliament. Women who violate the ban face fines of up to 770 euros ($860), as well as a suspension of social benefits.

New Russia Law on Religious Missions Explained

October 5, 2016 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

new-russia-law-on-religious-missions-explained

Bulgarian Law on Religions: Problematic Law Out of Step with OSCE Commitments

August 15, 2004 by  
Filed under News

religious-law-and-abortion1As Bulgaria prepares to assume the Chairmanship of the 55-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), its Law on Religions is a concern, as several provisions are out of step with Bulgaria’s religious freedom commitments as an OSCE participating State. Reports of problems with the new law are already arising. The Sofia City Court, which is mandated to handle all registration applications, has reportedly stalled on the re-registration of some groups, as the new registration scheme includes additional elements not previously required. For instance, since visas are contingent on re-registration, the Missionary Sisters of Charity and the Salesians have reportedly been denied visas. Unfortunately, in the rush to approve the legislation in December 2002, some religious communities were reportedly not consulted during the drafting process, and the government’s promise to have the draft critiqued again by the Council of Europe went unfulfilled. Also, on July 15, 2003, the law was reviewed by the Bulgarian Constitutional Court, in response to a complaint brought by 50 Parliamentary deputies. The Court upheld the legislation, despite six judges ruling against and five in favor. Under Bulgarian law, seven of the court’s twelve judges must rule together for a law to be found unconstitutional. Notwithstanding this decision on the constitutionality of the law, the following report highlights areas in need of further evaluation and legislative refinement in light of Bulgaria’s OSCE commitments on religious freedom. Concerns exist with how the Bulgarian Orthodox Church is favored over the alternative Orthodox synod and other religious groups. In addition, the new registration scheme appears open to manipulation and arbitrary decisions, thereby jeopardizing property holdings and the ability to manifest religious beliefs, as both depend on official registration. The sanctions available under the Law on Religions are also ambiguous yet far-reaching, potentially restricting a variety of religious freedom rights. It is therefore hoped the Government of Bulgaria will demonstrate a good faith effort to ensure the religion law is in conformity with its OSCE commitments. This report outlines a number of suggested changes. The government could also submit the Law on Religions for technical review to the OSCE Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or the Council of Europe. Either of these bodies could highlight deficiencies addressable through amendments.

GOVERNMENT RECOGNITION OF A “TRADITIONAL” CHURCH
Article 11 was crafted to force a resolution to the longstanding church dispute between the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and an alternative Orthodox synod, which split after the fall of communism. Article 11 enumerated detailed characteristics of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, thereby establishing the synod of Patriarch Maxim above the other Orthodox synod and all other religious communities. In short, Article 11(1) attempted to settle the church dispute through legislative fiat by establishing the Bulgarian Orthodox Church as the “traditional religion,” a politically expedient decision which is inconsistent with Bulgaria’s OSCE commitments.

While Article 11(2) automatically registers the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, the other Orthodox synod is faced with going through the complete registration process. Registration is critical, as the law ties property ownership rights to legal personality. However, the process is open to manipulation where the government could deny registration to select religious groups. Considering the animosity between the Orthodox synods over property, this appears to place the unrecognized Orthodox synod at a great disadvantage. Article 11(3) does state: “Paragraph 1 and 2 cannot be the basis to grant privileges or any advantages [to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church] over other denominations by a law or sub-law.” However, while this claims no special benefits accrue, Article 11(2) is contradictory as it automatically gives the Bulgarian Orthodox Church legal personality, an “advantage” no other church or religious group receives through the law. Favoritism of this kind also creates internal conflicts within the religion law, as Article 3(1) prohibits limitations or privileges based on “affiliation or rejection of affiliation to a religion,” and Article 4(4) states “no religiously based discrimination shall be allowed.”

Considering the problematic nature of these provisions, removing Article 11(1) through amendment would allow these two religious Orthodox communities to reconcile their differences independently without government involvement. The appropriate venue for the handling of these types of disputes is the court system, not the Parliament . In addition, amending Article 11(2) either to allow automatic registration of all previously registered churches or omit entirely this provision would lessen the discriminatory effect of the law.

REGISTRATION
It is positive that the law does not require registration, nor does it establish temporal or numerical thresholds for religious communities to meet. Yet, the proper administration of the registration process has increased in importance, since many rights and powers of organizations and their communities appear tied to registration status and other avenues for legal personality have been closed. For example, Article 29(2) provides that nonprofit organizations do not have “the right to accomplish activities which represent practice of religion in public.” As a result, if a group does not obtain official registration as a “religious community,” no other options exist to provide some type of legal personality. The Law on Religions does provide guidelines for the registration process. Article 16 requires that all religious groups wishing to register must do so before the Sofia City Court. This is problematic, as it adds an unnecessary burden for groups existing outside the capital. Improvements to the law should allow the submission of national registration requests in every provincial capital court or other designated government office.

For local branches to form officially, Article 21 requires the organization to first register at the national level and then re-register at the local level through a mayor’s office. While the drafters intended this to be a perfunctory requirement, it is problematic, as it creates yet another unneeded bureaucratic hurdle to overcome. Additionally, the involvement of mayors in the registration of religious groups should be avoided, as in the past registration through mayoral offices were plagued by arbitrary and non-transparent decisions. Revisions should remove registration requirements obligating groups already registered to re-register at the local level. If local re-registration must occur, amendments should permit re-registration at a local court or other designated government office. The Article 19(2) requirement that a “short statement of religious beliefs” be included in an application, which can be reviewed by the Directorate of Religions for an “expert opinion” (Article 18), is highly problematic. This places the government in the subjective position of evaluating the beliefs of a religious community to determine if they “qualify” as a religion. Therefore, the removal of the Article 19(2) requirement is recommended, so that the Directorate of Religion cannot base recommendation for registration eligibility on the religious beliefs of an applicant group.

There are at least two instances in the Law on Religions that demonstrate the critical nature of registration. Article 5(3) appears to allow only registered religious organizations to engage in the public manifestation of religion. “The religious belief is expressed in private when it is accomplished from a specified member of the religious community or in the presence of persons belonging to the community, and in public, when its expression can as well become accessible for people not belonging to the respective religious community.” How the government will apply this article is unclear, as it attempts to distinguish the public versus the private practice of religion. If only registered religious organizations can publicly manifest their beliefs, this is inconsistent with OSCE commitments that protect the right to practice religion with or without legal entity status. It should consequently be made explicit through refining amendments that unregistered religious groups and their members have the right to engage in the public manifestation of their religious beliefs.

Furthermore, it is unclear if individual members of a religious community can own property in their personal capacity for use by the corporate body, as only registered communities can hold property under Article 24(1). The article states: “Religions and their branches, which have acquired status of a legal person, according to the procedures of this law shall have right to their own property.” This reenforces the importance of ensuring the registration process is timely and transparent. Amendments should make explicit that individual members of a religious community may own private property for use by the corporate body.

LIMITATION CLAUSE
Article 7(1) of the religion law provides: “Freedom of religions shall not be directed against national security, public order, people’s health and the morals or the rights and freedoms of persons under the jurisdiction of the republic of Bulgaria or other states.” This language is similar to other limitation clauses, but its structure is problematic, as it enunciates standards not found under Article 17 of the Vienna Concluding Document of the OSCE or Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. For example, the Vienna Concluding Document in Article 17 declared, “The participating States recognize that the exercise of the above-mentioned rights relating to the freedom of religion or belief may be subject only to such limitations as are provided by law and consistent with their obligations under international law and with their international commitments.” The next sentence is also an important qualifier, declaring States “will ensure in their laws and regulations and in their application the full and effective exercise of the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief.” Article 18(3) of the ICCPR stated: “Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.”

It is well settled that restrictions on manifestations of belief must be consistent with the rule of law and must be necessary in a democratic society— directly related and proportionate to the specific need on which the limitation is predicated. For example, it is not enough to justify burdensome limitations by merely arguing they are key to maintaining public order. Only when limitations further a legitimate government objective and are genuinely “necessary” can negating a religious freedom be justified. To be sure, this test is not easily met. In addition, international custom has not established “national security” as a legitimate reason for limiting religious rights, so amendments to the law should correct Article 7 to reflect the abovementioned international standards.

SANCTIONS
Article 9 of the Law on Religions allows courts to impose sanctions against groups if they determine
that an Article 7 violation has occurred. The six available sanctions available under Article 9 include:
(1) Prohibiting dissemination of certain printed publications;
(2) Prohibiting publishing activity;
(3) Restricting public manifestations;
(4) Depriving registration of educational, health or social enterprises;
(5) Cancelling activities for a period of up to six months;
(6) Nullifying registration of the legal entity of the religion.

The Article 9 restrictions are vague yet extensive in their scope, potentially curtailing a variety of fundamental freedoms. Accordingly, the use of the Article 9 sanctions list must be predicated on a finding of abuse under the Article 7 limitations clause. However, the situations enumerated in Article 7 are for exceptional situations. As these sanctions touch upon fundamental rights, use of Article 9 and the denial of these rights should not occur for mere infractions of administrative regulations. As previously discussed, international commitments make clear that limitations on the manifestation of religion are permissible only in narrowly defined situations.

A distinction must also be made between the actions of individuals and punitive sanctions on the entire religious community. It is individuals, not whole religious groups, who may be involved in criminal activities, so penalties should not punish the entire community for the actions of individuals. However, provision (3) empowers courts to restrict the public manifestation of religious views for an entire religious community, in effect restricting an individual member’s right to practice his or her faith. Provision (6) is also a concern; if a court can remove a religious group’s registration status, it is unclear who would hold their property, potentially exposing their holdings to seizure.

Concerns exist that the Article 9 sanctions list will be employed in situations not meeting international standards, thereby allowing the restriction of the freedom of speech, the freedom to the religious education of children in conformity with the parent’s convictions, and the freedom to profess and practice, alone or in community with others, religion or belief. Therefore, removal through amendment of the Article 9 sanctions list would be positive, as it potentially allows overly burdensome restrictions on basic human rights. Further concerns over potential sanctions exist in other areas of the religion law. Later in Article 37(8), the law also gives the Directorate of Religion the unchecked and potentially arbitrary powers to take complaints from citizens concerning violations of Article 7, and when deemed appropriate, forward the complaints to the public prosecutor. Allowing the Directorate to function in this manner opens the opportunity for the politicization of religious freedom issues, potentially exposing the Directorate to pressures to act arbitrarily against certain minority religious communities. Consequently, legislators are encouraged to eliminate the ability of the Directorate of Religion to forward complaints to the public prosecutor, as this role is better left with law enforcement agencies.

Article 38 has established monetary penalties for “any person carrying out religious activity in the name of a religion without representational authority.” The provision appears crafted to penalize the unrecognized Orthodox synod for using what it considers to be its name, and could easily be misused against religious communities deemed by authorities as unpopular or out of favor.

property.” This reenforces the importance of ensuring the registration process is timely and transparent. Amendments should make explicit that individual members of a religious community may own private property for use by the corporate body.

LIMITATION CLAUSE
Article 7(1) of the religion law provides: “Freedom of religions shall not be directed against national security, public order, people’s health and the morals or the rights and freedoms of persons under the jurisdiction of the republic of Bulgaria or other states.” This language is similar to other limitation clauses, but its structure is problematic, as it enunciates standards not found under Article 17 of the Vienna Concluding Document of the OSCE or Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. For example, the Vienna Concluding Document in Article 17 declared, “The participating States recognize that the exercise of the above-mentioned rights relating to the freedom of religion or belief may be subject only to such limitations as are provided by law and consistent with their obligations under international law and with their international commitments.” The next sentence is also an important qualifier, declaring States “will ensure in their laws and regulations and in their application the full and effective exercise of the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief.” Article 18(3) of the ICCPR stated: “Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.”

It is well settled that restrictions on manifestations of belief must be consistent with the rule of law and must be necessary in a democratic society— directly related and proportionate to the specific need on which the limitation is predicated. For example, it is not enough to justify burdensome limitations by merely arguing they are key to maintaining public order. Only when limitations further a legitimate government objective and are genuinely “necessary” can negating a religious freedom be justified. To be sure, this test is not easily met. In addition, international custom has not established “national security” as a legitimate reason for limiting religious rights, so amendments to the law should correct Article 7 to reflect the abovementioned international standards.

SANCTIONS
Article 9 of the Law on Religions allows courts to impose sanctions against groups if they determine
that an Article 7 violation has occurred. The six available sanctions available under Article 9 include:
(1) Prohibiting dissemination of certain printed publications;
(2) Prohibiting publishing activity;
(3) Restricting public manifestations;
(4) Depriving registration of educational, health or social enterprises;
(5) Cancelling activities for a period of up to six months;
(6) Nullifying registration of the legal entity of the religion.

The Article 9 restrictions are vague yet extensive in their scope, potentially curtailing a variety of fundamental freedoms. Accordingly, the use of the Article 9 sanctions list must be predicated on a finding of abuse under the Article 7 limitations clause. However, the situations enumerated in Article 7 are for exceptional situations. As these sanctions touch upon fundamental rights, use of Article 9 and the denial of these rights should not occur for mere infractions of administrative regulations. As previously discussed, international commitments make clear that limitations on the manifestation of religion are permissible only in narrowly defined situations.

A distinction must also be made between the actions of individuals and punitive sanctions on the entire religious community. It is individuals, not whole religious groups, who may be involved in criminal activities, so penalties should not punish the entire community for the actions of individuals. However, provision (3) empowers courts to restrict the public manifestation of religious views for an entire religious community, in effect restricting an individual member’s right to practice his or her faith. Provision (6) is also a concern; if a court can remove a religious group’s registration status, it is unclear who would hold their property, potentially exposing their holdings to seizure.

Concerns exist that the Article 9 sanctions list will be employed in situations not meeting international standards, thereby allowing the restriction of the freedom of speech, the freedom to the religious education of children in conformity with the parent’s convictions, and the freedom to profess and practice, alone or in community with others, religion or belief. Therefore, removal through amendment of the Article 9 sanctions list would be positive, as it potentially allows overly burdensome restrictions on basic human rights. Further concerns over potential sanctions exist in other areas of the religion law. Later in Article 37(8), the law also gives the Directorate of Religion the unchecked and potentially arbitrary powers to take complaints from citizens concerning violations of Article 7, and when deemed appropriate, forward the complaints to the public prosecutor. Allowing the Directorate to function in this manner opens the opportunity for the politicization of religious freedom issues, potentially exposing the Directorate to pressures to act arbitrarily against certain minority religious communities. Consequently, legislators are encouraged to eliminate the ability of the Directorate of Religion to forward complaints to the public prosecutor, as this role is better left with law enforcement agencies.

Article 38 has established monetary penalties for “any person carrying out religious activity in the name of a religion without representational authority.” The provision appears crafted to penalize the unrecognized Orthodox synod for using what it considers to be its name, and could easily be misused against religious communities deemed by authorities as unpopular or out of favor.

Bulgarian Law on Religions (Law on the Religious Confessions)

April 25, 2004 by  
Filed under News

Chapter One: General Provisions

Art. 1 This law provides for the right of religion of all persons under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Bulgaria and its protection, and the legal status of the religious communities and institutions as well, and their relations with the state.

Art. 2 (1) The right of religion is fundamental, absolute, subjective, personal and inviolable.
(2) The right of religion shall include everybody’s right freely to form his/her religious persuasions and to choose, change and worship (practice) freely his/her religion – individually or in collective, in public or in private, by worship, teaching, rites and rituals.

Art. 3 (1) Nobody shall be persecuted or limited in his rights because of his religious beliefs. No limitations or privileges based on affiliation or rejection of affiliation to a religion are allowed.
(2) Religious convictions shall not be basis for a refusal to fulfill obligations established by the Constitution.

Art. 4 (1) The religions are free and equal in rights. Religious institutions are separate from the state.
(2)No state interference in the internal organization of the self-administered religious institutions shall be allowed.
(3) The state shall provide conditions for free and unhindered exercise of the rights of religion assisting with maintenance of tolerance and respect between the believers from the different religions and between believers and non-believers.
(4) No religiously based discrimination shall be allowed.

Chapter Two: Right of Religion

Art. 5 (1) The right of religion shall be exercised through forming and manifestation of religious belief, establishment or participation in a religious community, organization of a community’s institutions, accomplishment of religious training and education through dissemination of the respective belief orally, in print, by the use of electronic media, in the form of lectures, seminars, courses, programs, etc.
(2) Religious belief may be manifested through carrying out of the respective religious beliefs through worship, rituals, and customs.
(3) The religious belief is expressed in private when it is accomplished from a specified member of the religious community or in the presence of persons belonging to the community, and in public, when its expression can as well become accessible for people not belonging to the respective religious community.

Art. 6 (1) The right of religion shall include the following rights as well:
a) establishment and maintenance of religious organizations with structure and ways of representation which are suitable according to the free understanding of its members;
b) establishment and maintenance of places of worship or religious meetings;
c) establishment and maintenance of proper charitable or humanitarian institutions;
d) production, acquisition and use to the extent necessary for the rites and the customs of a religion or belief according to a related with the worship aims;
e) writing, publishing and dissemination of religious publications;
f) delivery and reception of religious training in a language according to one’s own choice;
g) preaching and training of religion or belief in places proper for this purpose according to the community’s and institutions, and creation and maintenance of educational establishments that are appropriate according to the communities and institutions, following the requirements of the law;
h) collection and reception of voluntary financial and other support and donations from persons and institutions;
i) observance of the days of rest and respecting religious holidays;
j) establishment and maintenance of relations in the country and abroad with persons and communities on religion and belief issues.
(2) Parents and guardians shall have the right to ensure religious training to their children according to their own convictions.

Art. 7 (1) Freedom of religions shall not be directed against national security, public order, people’s health and the morals or the rights and freedoms of persons under the jurisdiction of the republic of Bulgaria or other states. Other grounds for limitations of the right of religion, different from the enumerated, shall not be introduced.
(2) Religious communities and institutions and religious beliefs cannot be used for political purposes.
(3) Rights and freedoms of persons who are members of a religious community shall not be limited by the internal rules, rituals and rites of this community or institution.
(4) Religious communities and institutions shall not attract children and minors under 18 years of age when there is an express refusal of their parents or guardians.

Art. 8 (1) The right of religion shall be limited only with a court decision under the terms of adversary proceedings, if the requirements of Art. 7 are being abused.
(2) The competent court of the first instance in this case shall be Sofia City Court.

Art. 9 Limitation of the right of religion may include:
(1) Prohibition of dissemination of a certain printed publications;
(2) Prohibition of the total publishing activity;
(3) Restriction on public manifestations;
(4) deprivation of registration of educational, health or social enterprises
(5) Cancellation of activities for a period of up to six months;
(6) nullifying of the registration of the legal entity of the religion.

Art. 10 The specific religions are characterized among themselves with their name, religious beliefs and the natural persons composing their religious communities.

Art. 11, paragraph 1. The traditional religion in the Republic of Bulgaria is the Eastern Orthodox. It plays a historic role in Bulgarian statehood and has actual meaning in the state’s life. Its voice and representative is the autocephalous Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which under the name Patriarchy, is the successor of the Bulgarian Exarchate and is a member of the United, Holy, Congregational and Apostolic Church. It is led by the Holy Synod and is represented by the Bulgarian Patriarch who is Metropolitan of Sofia.
Paragraph 2. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church is a legal person. Its structure and management are established by its bylaws.
Paragraph 3. Paragraph 1 and 2 cannot be the basis to grant privileges or any advantages [to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church] over other denominations by a law or sub-law [normative administrative act].

Art. 12. (1) The relations of the religious institutions with the government and the connected documentation are carried out in the official Bulgarian language.
(2) During performance of religious rituals and during worship another language can be used according to the choice of the religious community and according to the tradition of its practice.

Art. 13 (1) Religions can establish for their needs ritual, houses of prayer or worship for public religious rites and services in facilities owned or rented by the religious institution or local branch. Buildings of the religions are built observing the Law on Land Use of the Territory and the respective sub-laws [administrative normative acts, taking account [religious needs].
(2) Religions may organize public activities outside of houses of worship as well.

Art. 14. The secret of confession is inviolable. No cleric shall be forced to testify or to deliver information about facts and circumstances which he came to know during confession.

Chapter Three

Art. 15. Religious communities shall acquire status of a legal person on the conditions and according to the procedures of this law.

Art. 16. Registration of religious communities as a legal person shall be accomplished by the Sofia City Court.

Art. 17. Legal procedures for registration shall be carried out following the procedures of Chapter 46 of Civil Procedure Code.

Art. 18. The Sofia City Court may require expert opinion in relation to the registration of religious communities from the Directorate of Religions.

Art. 19. The statute of a religion must include:
(1) name and headquarters of the religion;
(2) short statement of the religious beliefs;
(3) structure and bodies of the religion;
(4) the manner of specifying of ruling authorities and the period of their mandate;
(5) persons who have the right to represent the religion, the manner of their appointment, their change or replacement and the period of their mandate;
(6) manners of taking decisions and procedures for summoning of sittings of the [supervisory] bodies of the religion;
(7) internal property relations [within the religion];
(8) manners of termination and liquidation.

Art. 20. The Sofia City Court shall manage a public register of religions with the status of legal persons, in which are listed :
1. legal resolution for registration by the Court ;
2. name and headquarters;
3. ruling bodies and representation;
4. names of the persons, which are representatives of the religious institution.

Art. 21. (1) Religions can have local branches according to their statute.
(2) Local branches shall be registered by the mayors of the municipalities, according to the place of the [mayor’s] headquarters, under the conditions of notification regime, within a 7-days term, on the basis of an application by the central leadership of the religion or authorised by it person according to the statute.
(3) The application, according to paragraph. 2, shall include:
1. The court decision of the Sofia City Court for the registration of the religion and its central leadership, together with the respective power of attorney to the [local] person authorized by the central leadership.
2. A certificate from the central leadership for persons, who shall represent the central leadership in the respective Municipality, the seat and the address of the local subsection.
(4) The mayor shall inform the Directorate of Religions of the performed entry within 3 days after the entry in the [local] register is completed.
(5) The Municipality administration shall maintain a register of local branches of religions.

Art. 23. If it is possible according to the statute of a respective religion, local branches shall register as legal persons in a regional court, within the jurisdiction of the municipality where its headquarters are located.

Chapter Four: Property and Finances

Art. 24.(1) Religions and their branches, which have acquired status of a legal person, according to the procedures of this law shall have right to their own property.
(2) Property of the religious organizations shall include: right of ownership over a property; limited property rights on real estate; fruits from managing of real estate, including rents; profits or dividends from participation in commercial companies or associations of commercial companies; right of ownership of movable property, including securities; Copyright Law rights; income from state subsidies, donations, testaments and others.
(3) The state and municipalities may lease to religious institutions and their local branches free of charge the right to use state or municipal real estate, as well as to support them with subsidies provided in the governmental or municipal budget.

Art. 24. Disposal of the properties of the religions shall be as provided in their statute.

Art. 25. (1) To meet their needs registered religions shall have a right to produce and sell things, connected to their religious activities, rituals, rites..
(2) Activities covered by paragraph 1 shall not be consider as commercial activity under the terms of the Law on Commerce.
(3) Prayer houses, temples, monasteries, objects and persons, connected to worship activity, shall not be used for the purpose of advertising by merchants according to the meaning of the Law on Commerce, without the express agreement of the respective religion.

Art. 26. Registered religions shall have the right to possess and maintain cemeteries at their own expense.

Art. 27. (1) The state shall support and encourage religions registered under this law for their religious, social, educational and health activity through tax, credit and interest rates, customs and other financial and economical relief under the terms and conditions specified in the respective special laws.
(2) When religions use preferences according to paragraph 1, their yearly accounting reports shall go through an obligatory independent financial audit by registered auditors. In these cases the parts of the verified annual accounting reports referring to the use preferences shall be presented at the Ministry of Finance.
(3) When infringement of the law is detected Ministry of finance informs the prosecutor’s offices and of the governmental finance control for execution of checks and activities provided in the law.

Art. 28. A religion, which has acquired of legal personality according to this law, shall be able to establish commercial law entities.

Art. 29. (1) Legal persons with a not-for-profit purpose to support the popularizing of a specific religion, which has acquired status of legal person, can be established after a preliminary consent of the referring religious institution.
(2) Legal entities with ideal purpose according to paragraph 1 have not the right to accomplish activities which represent practice of religion in public.

Art. 30. Distribution of the state subsidy for the registered religions is done under the auspices of the law on the state budget.

Art. 31. Labor relations of the clergy and the officers of the religious institution are arranged according the statute of the religious institutions [in conformity with] the labor and social laws.

Chapter Five: Hospitals, Social and Educational Establishments of Different Religions.

Art. 32. (1) Those religions registered in accordance with this law, can open up hospitals, social and educational establishments.
(2) The hospitals, social and educational establishments of these religions are established and work according to the decree of the common law and a special arrangement of the law found herein.

Art. 33. The Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Labor and Social Care, and the Ministry of Education and Science oversee the observance of the governmental requirements and fulfillment of the activities of the said hospitals, social and educational establishments of different religions.

Art. 34. Religions are not allowed to condition admission into health or social establishments on affiliation with the respective religious community.

Art. 35. (1) Religious institutions, with the approval of the Minister of Education and Science, can open ecclesiastical schools with their own ritual needs in accordance with the law of national education.
(2) The education obtained in these ecclesiastical schools must be equal to the education received in a regular school in accordance with the law of national education.
(3) High schools can be opened by the order and conditions stated in the law for national education for private schools.
(4) The prerequisites for a person younger than 18 years of age to attend an establishment of religious education, according to Art. 1., should be a written agreement of allowance from the parents or legal guardian.
(5) Establishments of religious education cannot hinder the right of receiving obligatory degrees of governmental education stated in the constitution and the law.
(6) The establishments of religious education can open universities in accordance with the order of the law of higher education.
(7) Schools of higher ecclesiastical education can be opened by a proposition from the leadership of the establishment of religious education with an approval from the Ministry Council.

Chapter Six: The Department of Ecclesiastical Matters

Art. 36 The Ministry Council must carry into effect the governmental policy in the area of the rights of religion.

Art. 37. The Directorate of Religion is a specialized administration in the Council of Ministers which:
1. coordinates the relations between the executive power and the establishments of religious education;
2. helps the Ministry Council fulfill the governmental policy of sustaining tolerance and respect between the different establishments of religious education;
3. organizes and leads the work of the expert consultative committee of the establishments of religious education;
4. gives expert conclusions and point of view according to that which is contained in this law;
5. gives a point of view concerning the request of permission for foreign ministers to stay in the country who have been invited by the central leadership of the registered establishments of religious education;
6. checks on calls or complaints from citizens for disturbing their rights or the rights and freedom of their relatives by violating the establishments of religious education from the third party.
7. observes that officials do not violate the order of religious rights and freedom;
8. checks on calls or complaints of religious activity not permitted by the law in accordance with Art. 7. of this law, and when needed , informs the agency of the public prosecutor;
9. makes proposals on distribution of the governmental subsidy directed to the registered establishments of religious education;

Chapter Seven: ADMINISTRATIVE AND PENAL PROVISIONS

Art.38. (1) Any person carrying out religious activity in the name of a religion without representational authority is penalized with a fine from BGN 100 to BGN 300.
(2) When the above mentioned act is repeated, the fee is BGN 500 to BGN 1000.

Art. 39. Any person who violates a situation not included in the written law but is a stumbling block to the free organization or inhibits the expression of religious convictions will be fined BGN 100 to BGN 300.

Art. 40. (1) If the articles of this law are violated but the act is not a criminal offense, the person will be penalized with a fee of BGN 500 to BGN 1,000. If a person holding a juridical position performs the act, sanctions will be levied from BGN 500 to BGN 1,000.
(2) For the least important cases, according to /1/, there will be a fine of BGN 100 to BGN 300.

Art. 41. (1) Violation of this law will be noted with public warrants issued by the officials of the establishments of religious education.
(2) The penal orders of applying a sanction by this law will be issued by the director of the establishment of religious education.

Art. 42. Public Acts and Penal Orders, by this law, will be constituted, issued, and appealed according to the order circumspect in the law of Administrative Violations and Sanctions Act.

TRANSITIONAL AND FINAL PROVISIONS

§1. In the sense of this law:
1. Religion is a set of faith principles and convictions upon the basis of which worship rites and rituals are performed, and a religious community and religious institutions are formed.
2. A religious community is a voluntary union of natural persons for the manifestation of a certain religion, performance of worship, religious rituals and ceremonies.
3. A religious institution is a religious community registered in accordance with the Law on Religions which has the capacity of legal personality, ruling bodies, and a statute.

§ 2. (1) Registered establishments of religious education according to Act 6 from the law of the establishment of religious education (State Official Newspaper…) preserve their status of legal entities.
(2) Within a month after the execution, of the law the Directorate of Religion grants to the Sofia City Court the list of registration of the registered establishments of religious education and their regulations and also their standing orders.
(3) The court officially incorporates in the closed-door meetings registered establishments of religious education according to /1/. In this case the court could not refuse an incorporation of the entry of the registration.
(4) The registered local units of the establishments of religious education, existing prior to the validity of the law, which are legal entities are being incorporated officially by the respected district court within their headquarters in a closed-door meeting and by the request of the central leadership of establishments of religious education accompanied with a certificate of this registration of Sofia City Court. Mayors of the Municipalities, within a month of the incorporation of the law, deliver to the district court the registration of the local units of establishments of religious education.

§ 3. Persons who have seceded from the registered religious institution in violation of its By-laws, cannot use an identical name and use or operate its property.

§ 4. (1) According to the request of the registered establishments of religious education the director of the department of Ecclesiastical Matters under the ministry council issues a certificate for the right of ownership between establishments of religious education and pre-existing religious, educational religious, and social welfare legal entities before 1949.
(2) The representatives of the respective establishments of religious education introduce the claim before the Sofia City Court for establishing right of ownership by submitting the certificate to the director of the Department of Ecclesiastical Matters according to /1/.
(3) The Court states its decision, which is being incorporated in the registration according to Act 20.
(4) The decision may be appealed by other registered establishments of religious education, according to the order GPK.

§ 5. Art. 133a of the Law on the Persons and the Family is repealed.

§ 6. § 2, para. 2 of the Law on Legal Persons with Not-for-Profit Purpose is amended by replacing the wording “religious activity” with “activity, pertaining to a religion.”