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February 8, 2012

Bulgaria a Battlefield for Anti-Family Social Engineering

In a significant reversal, Minister Totyou Mladenov of the Bulgarian Ministry of Labor and Social Policy now “welcomes public debate” over a proposed new Child Act that would install the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as law in Bulgaria. The bill, sponsored by the European Union (EU) as part of a package of laws to be adopted by the Bulgarian government, was proposed last fall with scant public discussion and was scheduled to pass parliament by the end of 2011. Homeschool and family rights advocates have fiercely protested the bill’s adoption, however, which has resulted in considerable media attention. Now government officials declared they would slow the process to allow for public debate.

Alliance Defense Fund allied attorney Viktor Kostov of Bulgaria explained that the proposed bill is radical and unnecessary.

“The Child Act places excessive authority for children into the hands of the state in the name of ‘children’s rights,’ replacing the traditional role of the family in the raising of children and violating provisions in numerous international treaties. In fact, the draft law completely ignores the vast arena of important and foundational international documents that already address parental and children’s rights. This is an agenda-driven bill to which there is an emerging and strong public opposition from the Bulgarian people,” he said. A Youtube video of Viktor on a national news program can be seen online (the video is in Bulgarian).

Dr. Kostov and his team at Freedom For All, an advocacy center for religious freedom based in Bulgaria, have circulated legal opinions in opposition to the draft law from organizations such as the Alliance Defense Fund and the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). Together with the Union of the Democratic Forces, a minority faction in the Bulgarian parliament, and other pro-family organizations, they have worked to coordinate press conferences as well as the recent round table discussion to increase public awareness of the bill and to work against its adoption as law.

Family advocates including the Bulgarian Homeschool Association are calling on the government to protect the traditional family and parental rights, including the right to choose alternative education options such as homeschooling. Homeschooling is currently not permitted in Bulgaria and families are routinely threatened by government officials. Less than 100 families currently homeschool in this hostile environment. Homeschool leaders see the opposition to the Child Act as a chance to call for educational freedom and an end to the state monopoly on education.

Authors and supporters of the draft law continue to insist that it must be passed to protect children from “psychological violence”—an ambiguous term that ignores traditional legal definitions as well as Bulgaria’s current family code that already addresses the issue of child abuse—and to conform to international treaties, such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

Michael Donnelly, director of international relations at HSLDA, notes that existing international law protects the prior right of parents to make decisions regarding their children.

“The UNCRC does indeed state that children have a ‘right to an education,’ but it does not specify that education must be in a government school. By persecuting homeschooling parents Bulgaria joins Germany and Sweden in repressing educational freedom and acting against the fundamental human right parents have to choose the kind of education their children receive. The work by family advocates in Bulgaria to slow down the Child Act is a good first step away from totalitarianism towards freedom,” he said.