Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Bulgaria Agreement about the ban of blood

The organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses made concessions in its blood doctrine in the recognition procedure of the state of Bulgaria. According to this, its members must be allowed the life-saving measure of “blood transfusion” without punishment or consequences. According to an agreement before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), this passage had to be included in the organization’s statutes. However according to the Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves, the existing consequences were deliberately concealed and thereby the Bulgarian state and the ECHR was deceived.
We ask ourselves and you: Is this really the case?

Bulgaria – Did Jehovah’s Witnesses deliberately concealed consequences of sanctions for accepting blood for medical reasons and thereby deceiving the Bulgarian state and the ECHR?

History

One of the most well-known peculiarities of Jehovah’s Witnesses is to prohibit their members from undergoing a life-saving blood transfusion. The strict instructions and rules of the organization apply worldwide, but there seem to be exceptions.

In 1994, the registration of several religion organizations in Bulgaria was withdrawn, including the Jehovah’s Witnesses based in Sofia. However, they were not heard when they applied to the Bulgarian Council of Ministers for re-registration. In the absence of registration, measures were even taken against the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses, including imprisonment and the dissolution of meetings held in private rooms, as well as the confiscation of religious material.

The religious community’s application for re-registration went all the way to the European Court of Human Rights in order to reach an agreement.

On March 9, 1998, the appointed commission established before the European Court of Human Rights that an amicable settlement of the case had been reached on the basis of respect for the human rights of both parties  (Report of the Commission).

Agreement before the European Court of Human Rights

The following are excerpts from the Commission’s report translated by JZ Help.

The State of Bulgaria undertakes

I – Regarding the replacement of military service with alternative service, the Government of Bulgaria will undertake to introduce a bill in Parliament to establish alternative civilian service as an alternative to military service.
[Jehovah’s Witnesses had demanded to be allowed to refuse military service for reasons of conscience in order to perform alternative civilian service instead. – Note: JZ Help e.V]

The organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Bulgaria, on the other hand, undertakes to do so

II – Regarding the position of Jehovah’s Witnesses on the blood issue, the applicant undertakes to draft a statement to be attached to the Statutes of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Bulgaria in view of their registration as an essential part, which states:
2.1 Jehovah’s Witnesses as patients avail themselves of the medical system for themselves and for their children; each member has the right to avail himself/herself of this of his/her own free will, without controls and sanctions from the Applicant.
2.2 In accordance with the Bulgarian Health Law, the Christian Community of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Bulgaria undertakes to respect the application of the said law, which states:
2.2.1 – not to make an advance medical declaration that minors may not receive a blood transfusion [this would also mean that unbaptized or baptized minors are forbidden to carry a card against transfusions – Note: JZ Help e.V.].
2.2.2 – and as far as adults are concerned, it is recognized in compliance with the aforementioned right that each individual retains the freedom of choice.

Agreements and obligations

III. Regarding the recognition of the Jehovah’s Witnesses sect by the Bulgarian state as an official religion:
3.1 The Christian Community of Jehovah’s Witnesses undertakes to withdraw its petition against Bulgaria submitted to the European Commission of Human Rights;
3.2 Thereupon, after withdrawal of the petition, the Government of Bulgaria undertakes to register Jehovah’s Witnesses in Bulgaria and their worship in accordance with the law of religious confessions.
3.3 Subsequently, following the withdrawal of the petition, the Government of Bulgaria also undertakes to withdraw point 16 of Annex 2 to point 4 of the Order of the Council of Ministers No. 255 of 1994.

Conclusion

18 At its meeting on March 9, 1998, the Commission noted that the parties had reached agreement on the conditions for a settlement. With reference to Article 28, paragraph 1 (b) of the Convention, it was further considered that the amicable settlement of the case had been reached on the basis of respect for human rights as enshrined in the Convention.
For these reasons, the Commission adopted the present report.

Statement by Jehovah’s Witnesses contradicts their own religious rules

In contrast to the agreement concluded before the European Court of Human Rights, the religious community of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany points out that no changes were actually made.

“It concerned the charter of the religious community, which was officially accepted by the Bulgarian government in 1998. On the subject of “Relationship with the believers in the country”, Article 7 (1) states: “The religious community of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Bulgaria does not exercise control over the free will of the believers, but allows them to act according to their conscience in accordance with divine principles of the Bible, nor does the religious community arbitrarily impose sanctions in connection with the medical treatment that Jehovah’s Witnesses conscientiously endeavour to provide for themselves and their children. The religious community adheres to the “loving and just principles of the Word of God” in this aspect of Christian life. Thus, there is no change in the long-standing beliefs, neither in Bulgaria nor elsewhere.
(Werner Rudtke, Vice President of the Religious Community of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany, FORUM 2001, Statement of Jehovah’s Witnesses on the letter by Prof Dr R. Klose, p. 568, para. 3, translated by JZ Help)

Sanctions

Religious rules of Jehovah’s Witnesses

The internal, secret instructions in the religious rules clearly show that after a blood transfusion has been administered, a committee decides whether the person concerned is still a Jehovah’s Witness. This is practically no different from an exclusion, except that no appeal is possible.

“Willingly and Unrepentantly Accepting Blood: 
If someone willingly accepts a blood transfusion, perhaps because of being under extreme pressure, a committee (not judicial) should obtain the facts and determine the individual’s attitude […] On the other hand, if the elders on the committee determine that he is unrepentant, they should announce his disassociation.”
(Elders’ Book “Shepherd the Flock of God” sfl-E, April 2024, chapter 18, paragraph 3)

Court judgement confirms sanctions

In its ruling of 27 November 2020, the Hamburg Regional Court stated the following (translated by JZ Help):

“The acceptance of a blood transfusion leads to exclusion from the community if the person concerned does not repent it.” (1.24)

Conclusion – Jehovah’s Witnesses deceive the ECHR and Bulgaria

Based on the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ 2001 statement, they made false statements in their 1998 charter in Bulgaria, claiming that no sanctions would be taken for accepting a blood transfusion. This is in clear contradiction to their religious rules, which threatens sanctions up to exclusion and thus ostracism and loss of contact even within the family. Jehovah’s Witnesses have thus undermined the agreement before the European Court of Human Rights and deceived the ECHR as well as the Bulgarian state.

Call for support for further research

We ask Bulgarian Jehovah’s Witnesses or former members of this community, to check the charter regarding the blood ban, as well as the Bulgarian Book of Elders and to inform us.
We also ask for the names of contact persons in the Bulgarian government and the Council of Ministers involved in the negotiations.
Email: info(at)jz.help

Thank you very much for your support in bringing light into the darkness and clearing up this obvious scandal.

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