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Bulgarian Evangelical Pastors Win Discrimination Case

By Evangelical Focus
bulgarian pastors
Evangelical pastors Zhivko Tonchev and Radoslav Kiryakov. (Photo Courtesy of ADF International.)

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled against the government of Bulgaria for violating the right to religious freedom of evangelical Christians in the country.

In 2008, the City Council of Burgas, Bulgaria, warned all school administrators in the city that evangelicals were “carrying out a massive campaign of agitation, tricking new members, and disuniting the Bulgarian nation.”

They also said that attending Protestant church services could bring “mental aberrations and disorders,” and asked students to report if they had ever met someone from an evangelical group.

Pastors Zhivko Tonchev and Radoslav Kiryakov brought judicial proceedings against the municipal authority and the Interior Ministry before the Administrative Court, but the case was rejected and the government never retracted. 

The next step they took, with the support of Christian human rights organisation ADF International, was to appeal to the European Court.

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The ECHR stated in a Dec. 13 ruling that “the authorities had interfered disproportionately with the applicants’ right to freedom of religion, overstepping their margin of appreciation,” with “a pejorative and hostile language.”

Religious freedom

Tonchev said after the ruling that they were “thrilled that the ECHR has recognised our fundamental right to religious freedom just in time for Christmas. Government officials had no right to malign our Christian faith, just because we are distinct from the majority religious practice in Bulgaria.”

“As pastors dedicated to the teachings of Jesus Christ, we rejoice that our rights, and the rights of all who believe, have been recognised,” added the pastor.

“Justice for all people of faith in Bulgaria”

Robert Clarke, ADF International director of advocacy and co-counsel in the case, added that “the fundamental right to religious freedom belongs to every person. The ECHR has affirmed that the government of Bulgaria was wrong to target those Christians with an alarmist campaign designed to suppress the freedom to live out their beliefs.”

He added: “This sends a clear message that government efforts to stamp out religious freedom are unacceptable and fundamentally incompatible with democracy.”

Allied lawyer Viktor Kostov stressed that “with this ruling, justice has been served for all people of faith in Bulgaria,” after 14 years since Bulgarian authorities “sought to scare families from encountering Jesus Christ through these ministries by way of a scaremongering campaign targeting children.”

This article originally appeared at Evangelical Focus.



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2 thoughts on “Bulgarian Evangelical Pastors Win Discrimination Case”

  1. Wow….I have a feeling the same chilling reactions to Christians is on the way in much greater frequency in the US. And, people in the US, identifying as Christian but not actively trying to mirror themselves after Jesus, will respond with hatred further reinforcing beliefs that Christians are to be loathed.

  2. Neil Cameron (One Salient Oversight)

    So a sovereign nation was told by a higher authority (European Union) that it should respect religious expression?

    Sounds like Globalism is a good idea.

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