Bulgaria wants to ban foreign preachers

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Bulgaria – The Patriotic Front filed changes to the Religious Dominations Act on Thursday. According to these changes, foreign citizens will be banned from preaching in 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. Krasimir Karakachanov, one of the leaders of the Patriotic Front, said the changes are “aimed at putting an end to Turkey’s attempts to interfere in Bulgaria’s sovereign affairs through Muslim religious institutions”. He was referring to an agreement between Bulgaria and Turkey by which the Diyanet, the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs, funds Bulgaria’s Muslim religious schools.

“All the religious denominations in Bulgaria will be obliged to perform their sermons, rituals and statements only in Bulgarian,” Valeri Simeonov, the Front’s second leader, said on Thursday. Religions will be given one year to translate their 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 and registered in Bulgaria. Also, using state funding for “illegal activities” by religious denominations will be sanctioned with prison terms of three to six years.

On June 23, a majority of MPs gave a green light on a first reading to changes to the penal code criminalizing the preaching of “radical Islam”.

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