ADF International


Holy Synod of The Bulgarian Orthodox Church And Others v. Bulgaria

Date of most recent action: 25 Jan 2011

Bulgarian churches overrun by the government, 100 churches confiscated

What’s at Stake

The right for churches to exist freely without government control


One evening in 2004, the Bulgarian Government issued a devastating warrant. It stripped 100 churches in the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church of their property, including buildings and farmland. It wasn’t long before police then took control of the properties. Almost overnight, the churches were left without their meeting places.

The warrant was based on a new law regarding religion. Eventually, the government decided to give the properties to a different, state-approved synod, the Synod of Maxim. Nothing was returned to the original owners.

ADF International allied attorney, Latcho Popov, together with senior counsel Roger Kiska, took the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). They argued that the Bulgarian Government had violated the European Convention on Human Rights in its treatment of the synod. The ECHR agreed, awarding six church leaders of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church €50,000 in punitive damages, plus legal costs. It also required the government to legally register the synod.

“The church should remain free of government coercion and control,” said Roger Kiska. “The Bulgarian government vastly overstepped its bounds in stripping the synod of its legal identity, seizing its property, and handing it over to a synod of which the government approves. We are pleased with the Court’s latest judgment, which respects the alternative synod’s freedom and independence while compensating it for the extreme financial hardships it was forced to endure.”

Our Role in the Case

Together with Roger Kiska, ADF International allied attorney, Latcho Popov, took the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Legal Documents

Decision – 06 May 2009

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