New Revision of Religion Bill Voted in Bulgaria

The new Religion Bill (aka Denominations Acts) was voted in on the last working day of 2018 by the Bulgarian Parliament. At the beginning of the parliamentarian season, on January 31, 2019 Parliament considered several new corrections to the just voted-in bill as follows. Those new corrections were all voted in on Friday and allowed for:

  • Between $15-40 million in stipends for the Eastern Orthodox in the form of salaries
  • Some $400,000 will be provided to the Muslim confession
  • Additional $5 million were allocated for the so called “Religion” Directorate – a government agency that will oversee all religious activities, sermons, visitors, finances and otherwise religious business in the country

Additionally, a one time tax amnesty would be given to various confessions at $ 5.2 million, as $ 5.1 million of this amount goes to the Muslim confession. Some sources cite that with interest of years past, the Muslim confession actually owes the state over $10 million and European Union organisations have been summoned to intervene to this “tax amnesty” as being illegal to the current code.

One reason for this is some $20 million in annual income the Muslim confession collects annual from renting properties, which should be sufficient to pay their tax. Just for comparison, at one time our building in Sofia owed $90,000 in waste tax, but was quickly summoned to pay it. But this is not the scary part just yet!

This rather large government stipend of roughly $50 million annually is designated in the government budget as “Orthodox and Muslim confession” (singular). Such in Bulgaria does not exist, except if administrative merge of those religions is meant by the government with the current legislation. There has been lot of talk that the great tax exemption toward the Muslim confession has been done in order to secure ethnic peace on the Balkans and to some extent, Muslim religious leader are confirming this in recent days. Additionally, after meeting with the Eastern Orthodox patriarch and the Muslim chief mufti this week, the Bulgarian Prime Minister stated that:

“The Bulgarian state should pay for its Bulgarian churches/confessions … in order to prevent foreign intelligence from dividing our nation.”

Such rhetoric seems to have been taken directly from the historical archives and brings the painful memory of the 1949 Pastoral Process when 15 Protestant pastors were sentences by the Communist Regime as “spies of foreign intelligence centers.” Perhaps for this reason, Bulgaria was promptly noted as one of the most intolerant countries in the Europe Union in a study by the University of Nevada, which collected survey data covering a total of 450,000 people in 100 countries.