Bulgarian Law on Religions (Law on the Religious Confessions)

April 25, 2004 by  
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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;


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.


§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.”

Mississippi Triumph Churches

April 20, 2004 by  
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The Mississippi Triumph Churches have chosen Cup & Cross ministry’s training materials for the development of their ministers and congregations. Our ministry has offered a series of training materials including 20 Ways to Kill Your Church30 Ways to Kill Your Youth Ministry, etc.

Easter Report

April 15, 2004 by  
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crossThe following message is a report of the Easter 2004 ministry activities of Cup & Cross Ministries International in the area of Yambol, Bulgaria.

This year Easter in Bulgaria was on the same date as in the United States. Our team spent three weeks in organizing the events for the Easter week of April 4-11, 2004.

The week began with special services on Palm Sunday in eight of the churches. They were followed by a three-day fast (Monday through Wednesday) along with the regular weekly program of traveling and ministry on these days.

On Thursday, April 8, the congregations gathered in the Kamenetz church. A special lunch was given for the 70 children who are a part of the Sunday School program of the churches. Our team held a prayer service between 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm. At 5:00 pm everyone participated in a special ceremony of lighting newly installed neon cross on the front wall of the church.

The evening service began at 6:00 pm with an Easter play and lasted over four hours. Several worship teams from the churches in Yambol (approximately 15 people) traveled to Kamenetz to help in the music program that followed. The music program turned into a spontaneous worship service where people were singing, crying and kneeling on the floor in prayer. Several of the ministers preached about Christ’s sacrifice. The sermons were followed by a Communion service in which both Protestant and Eastern Orthodox believers participated. The service ended with reciting of Psalms, testimonies, singing and payer for the sick.

On Easter Sunday the congregations joined all protestant churches in Yambol. The meeting was held in the city cinema as approximately 800 were present.

The Bulgarian Easter

April 10, 2004 by  
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Bulgaria became a Christian country in 864 AD. under the reign of Kniaz Boris I. However, in the middle of the 19th century, Bulgaria was under Ottoman oppression and under the influence of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchy which dictated the religious expression of the Bulgarian church.

On April 3, 1860, during Easter Sunday service in Constantinople, the Bulgarian bishop Illusion of Makariopol expressed the will of the whole Bulgarian people by solemnly proclaiming the separation of the Bulgarian church from the patriarchal in Constantinople. The day commemorating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ coincided with the resuscitation of the Bulgarian people. However, the struggle continued for another ten years when Russia forced Turkey to legally recognize the independence of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. In 1870 a firman of the sultan decreed the establishment of an autonomous Bulgarian church institution – the Bulgarian exarchate.

Easter in Bulgaria

April 5, 2004 by  
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This year Easter in Bulgaria is the same date as Easter in the United States. Our team has been working hard for the past several weeks to organize an Easter celebration with the participation of 15 churches we provide with pastoral care. The first celebration service was on Palm Sunday in the village of Kamenetz where we have one of the strongest Pentecostal churches in the area. There were three simultaneous Palm Sunday services including Sunday school, youth rally and adult service. The people from three village churches gathered separately for the Easter preparation which will continue through Wednesday. Two lamp stands have been made for the special communion service on Thursday. They will be burning day and night until the Resurrection morning service. Protestant as well as Orthodox believers are expected to attend the Communion service. Such event of common gathering of Protestant and Orthodox congregations is unprecedented for Bulgaria. All congregations, including the Orthodox ones, are in a common fast until Easter. There will also be a special service where church members who have learned Psalms through the year will recite them for mutual edification of the congregation. Of course, there will be a testimony service as well. As we have reported, in the past several years Cup & Cross Ministries has held a variety of services in the Eastern Orthodox temples. After their unprecedented success and prayerful consideration this year we were led to hold a common service for all present churches and denominations. Please join us in prayer for a successful Easter week of ministry.

Cup & Cross in Bulgaria

April 1, 2004 by  
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