The constitution and laws protect religious freedom.
The law allows private religious exercise only if members of the religious community are the only persons present, and public religious observances only if they also are open to persons who do not belong to the sponsoring group.
The constitution stipulates that Eastern Orthodox Christianity, represented by the BOC, is the traditional religion. The law designates the Metropolitan of Sofia as the BOC’s patriarch and establishes the BOC as a legal entity, exempting it from court registration mandatory for all other religious groups that wish to acquire national legal recognition. The state budget allocated 3 million levs ($1.98 million) for registered religious groups. Of the total, 2.3 million levs ($1.52 million) was allocated for the BOC, 180,000 levs ($119,126) for the Muslim community, 40,000 levs ($26,472) for the Armenian Apostolic Church, 30,000 levs ($19,854) for the Jewish community, and 40,000 levs ($26,472) for other registered denominations.
To receive national legal recognition, denominations must apply for official court registration, and generally it is granted. The Council of Ministers’ Religious Confessions Directorate, formerly responsible for the registration of religious groups, provides “expert opinions” on registration matters upon request of the court. All applicants have the right to appeal negative registration decisions to the court of appeals. The law does not require the formal registration of local denominations, but in the past some municipalities insisted that branches register locally. Some concerns remained that the act does not adequately specify the consequences of failure to register.
The constitution prohibits the formation of political parties along religious lines, but there were concerns that some parties exploited religious problems for political purposes.
The law allows the publication of religious media and the distribution of religious literature. However, some municipal ordinances require local permits for distribution of literature in public places.
Public schools at all levels offer an optional religious education course that covers Christianity and Islam. The course examines the historical, philosophical, and cultural aspects of religion and introduces students to the moral values of different religious groups. All officially registered religious groups can request that their religious beliefs be included in the course’s curriculum.
The government does not permit religious headdresses in official photos for national identity documents.
The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Orthodox Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter. In addition, the government respects the holidays of non-Orthodox religious groups, including Muslim, Catholic, Jewish, evangelical Christian, and Baha’i, and grants their members leave upon request.