|BULGARIA TO RECOGNIZE JEHOVAH’S
WITNESSES AS A RELIGION; EUROPEAN COMMISSION OF HUMAN RIGHTS ACCEPTS AMICABLE
Editor's Note: In March 1998, the European Commission of Human Rights accepted the amicable agreement between the Christian Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the government of Bulgaria (Khristiansko Sdruzhenie "Svideteli na Jehova" v. Bulgaria [Application No. 28626/95]). Jehovah’s Witnesses will now be legally recognized as a religion. They have not changed their religious doctrine regarding blood transfusions. A press release issued by the European Commission caused some confusion concerning this issue. Health care professionals who use this site are familiar with the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses with regard to their position on blood transfusions. Therefore, we contacted the Public Affairs Office of the Watchtower Society for clarification. They were happy to provide the following press release:
Bible & Tract Society Public Affairs Office / via NoBlood.com
-- April 27, 1998
Bulgaria has agreed to grant the Christian Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses recognition as a religion. Bulgaria also agreed to create without delay a bill that will allow alternative civilian service for those whose conscience will not allow them to engage in military service. The agreement also includes an acknowledgment that each individual has the freedom to choose the type of medical treatment he receives. With the amicable settlement, the Witnesses agreed to withdraw their complaint against Bulgaria.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are pleased that, through open communication, an amicable settlement was made between the Christian Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Government of Bulgaria. The terms of the agreement do not reflect a change in the doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Rather, the agreement reflects an increased understanding of the concerns and actions of both parties.
The complaint before the Commission came because, on June 28, 1994, the Bulgarian Council of Ministers refused to renew the Association’s registration as a religion. Following this decision, “various measures were taken against the activities of [Jehovah’s Witnesses] and of its members. These included arrests, dispersal of meetings held in public and private locations and confiscation of religious materials,” according to the Commission report.
“The more than 2,000 associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses in Bulgaria feel confident that this agreement will allow them the freedom to practice their religion in Bulgaria,” said Alain Garay, one of the attorneys for the Witnesses. “Not only is this a step forward for religious freedom in Bulgaria but it sets an example for religious freedom in all states with membership in the Council of Europe.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses, an international Christian brotherhood, number some five million worldwide. Presently, over 85,000 congregations, in some 230 lands, operate in conjunction with 104 branch offices.