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US State Department Slams Bulgaria Religious Intolerance

Date: 02.11.2009

The US State Department has stated that “there are ongoing reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation” in Bulgaria in their 2009 Religious Freedom report.

The 2009 Report on International Religious Freedom section on Bulgaria stated; “The Constitution provides for freedom of religion and prohibits religious discrimination but designates Eastern Orthodox Christianity as the "traditional" religion. Laws executing these provisions are ambiguous, giving scope to arbitrary decisions with respect to public practice of religion by unregistered groups.”

The report added; “The Government generally respected the religious freedom of registered religious groups. There were some concerns regarding government registration of religious groups and interference with religious disputes. There were also continuing reports of intolerance from local authorities during the reporting period.”

The main criticism in the introduction of the report read; “There were ongoing reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Discrimination, harassment, and general public intolerance, particularly in the media, of some religious groups remained an intermittent problem.”

The report also gave many examples of discrimination in Bulgaria including; “On March 3, 2009, three Molotov cocktails were thrown at the mosque in Varna that had been vandalized with graffiti in May 2008,” and “On February 26, 2009, the Orthodox bishop of Veliko Tarnovo led a protest march and presented a petition to the mayor of Gabrovo signed by 5 000 city residents opposing the construction of a Jehovah's Witnesses prayer house in Gabrovo.”

Elsewhere in the report, North Korea and Iran were said to be the world's worst offenders in abusing religious freedom, the US State Department confirmed.

"It is our hope that the will encourage existing religious freedom movements around the world and promote dialogue among governments and within societies on how best to accommodate religious communities and protect each individual's right to believe or not believe as that individual sees fit," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton concluded, while introducing the report to the press.

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