Speech at the Conference “The Future of Central Europe,” Prague, Oct. 13-15, 2023

Delivered on October 14, 2023
by Viktor Kostov


Honorable guests of this conference,

Dear hosts of this important event,

It is an honor and a privilege to be invited to share at this timely gathering.


Freedom for All, or “Svoboda za vseki,” is our organization with 20 years of experience in defending human rights and debating theological issues and church and state relations. We started this work in Bulgaria to restore human freedom and dignity after the collapse of the totalitarian regimes in Eastern Europe.

We believe that the realm of human rights, in relation to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, is a good approach to engage in the Great Commission. Part of fulfilling the commandment to teach the nations Christ’s teachings is to oppose the tyranny of godlessness and the hatred of our neighbor. In law and politics, the defense of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and other fundamental human rights is a system of values that reflects love for our fellow man. The protection of the right to family privacy is one of these foundational and recognized human rights.

In this presentation I will submit that the traditional family is under ideological attack. I will also propose that our duty before God to defend the rights of parents and children, as well as defending human freedom and dignity, can be unifying factors for Central Europe.

We, at Freedom for All, have taken cases and presented briefs and legal opinions before the local and Supreme Courts of Bulgaria, as well as taken cases to the European Court of Human Rights. This year we won a case against the Bulgarian government for viciously slandering evangelical Christians in the coastal city of Burgas back in 2008. The case lasted 14 years. In 2018 Bulgaria rejected the signing of the infamous Istanbul Convention whose goal is to redefine man, woman, and sexuality. This was a victory which was won in part because of our previous work against the draft of the Child Law of 2012 and similar “progressive” initiatives.

In 2021 we filed a brief with the Bulgarian Constitutional Court in defense of the Constitution’s definition of man and woman as a biological reality, not a social construct. A few weeks ago, we filed a brief with the Bulgarian parliament, along with over 20 other churches and organizations, against the attempt to introduce censorship by banning the so-called “hate speech.” We have defended parental and family rights while creating a network with churches, and with established and emerging organizations, locally and internationally. The freedom to believe, speak and assemble are freedoms any tyrant hates. For our work of pushing back on the normalization of sexual perversion and turning it into a novel “human right” we were recently labeled, along with others, an “extremist group” by an extremist anti-family and anti-Christian website.[1]  

Today, if you defend the family, common sense, and the traditional notion of human rights you are labeled an “extremist.” Tertullian, the church father of the 3rd and 4th centuries, rightly noted that the first reaction to truth is hatred.

Human rights originate in the church and the Christian faith. The apostles in Acts established freedom of religion and freedom of speech as the fundamental freedoms, naturally stemming from the liberation of the human being in Jesus Christ. Later, in the time of the Enlightenment, humanism adopted the idea of human rights and largely separated them from the faith. Yet classic human rights remain, mainly, a legal tool for defending justice.

The family is the institution, which was created first, long before the civil government or the total state. Yet, undoubtedly, we are currently witnessing a neo-Trotskyite, Marxist, Bolshevik, and Jacobin progressive agenda implemented in the West. This agenda is pushed by the globalist so-called “elite” and “stakeholders” to control sovereign nations. It includes a vicious fight to redefine man’s sexuality and the nuclear family and to turn those into a parody of their natural design. There seems to be a goal to deprive people of fundamental human rights and freedoms. This is clearly seen in current political trends and events.

It is no secret that the European Union promotes the politicization of human sexuality among European nations. The abandonment of Christianity and the introduction of new “human rights” in defiance of common sense, tradition, and human obligation is posing the question if the Union can live up to its own democratic values.

Looking into the Future of Central Europe

The reasons for Central European cooperation are found in history, in language, and in culture, but above all in the Christian faith. The common major historical challenges our nations have had to face in history are those of the Ottoman Empire and communism. These are political systems opposed vehemently to the values of Christianity. Also, the history of Europe is marked by the missionary work of many, among whom are the brothers Cyril and Methodius. In the 9th century they created an alphabet to translate the Bible into the Slavic languages. During roughly that period another missionary, St. Adalbert, worked to bring the Gospel to the people in Central Europe. The many years of Ottoman oppression, and atheist communist totalitarianism, were not able to eradicate Christianity from Bulgaria, nor from any other country in Central Europe.

It is only the Gospel which can affect individuals and society as a whole in order to bring them back from a place of hatred and darkness to freedom and respect for human dignity. What God did for us in Jesus Christ, we cannot do for ourselves. Therefore, all the expressions in society of that helplessness to fight our own nature must be enlightened by our strife to love God and love our neighbor, the greatest commandments in the Christian faith.

In a strange way the recent totalitarian Soviet empire’s grip on the countries of Central and Eastern Europe somehow made the connection between the Central European peoples vital and necessary. Communist statism produced a paradox – it became more desirable to speak in English and to people from the free world than to our own neighbors.

We were bound by “internationalist socialist ideals.” Yet we were more interested in the US democratic principles and culture, than in our Romanian neighbors, living under the oppressive regime of Ceausescu. Our peoples were “united” by the same evil and godless regimes, treating men as only a corporate biological mass for the fulfillment of some utopian future while living in a hellish dystopia.

Besides offering salvation and life through the God of the Bible, Christianity has been fundamental to the formation of European civilization. There are, certainly, differences in the Christian practices influencing the various Central European countries. Some are influenced by Roman Catholicism, others by Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and there is a strong Protestant-evangelical presence in many of these nations. These differences are tied to possibly differing political views and practices. However, the Biblical practice of Christianity is based on eternal fundamentals recorded in the Scriptures. It does not distinguish based on politics but based on good and evil, righteousness and wickedness, forgiveness and revenge, truth and deception, on the moral and immoral, on the sacred and profane, on the temporary and eternal. From that higher ground we esteem politics, law, economics, art, and culture. If we do not have the ties of preference for eternal values of good v. evil, we will be swayed by utilitarian uses of the elements of material life and world. And that is the danger that we are facing again.

In that picture, the protection of the traditional family, as well as human sexuality, as created and ordained by God, is paramount for the survival of our nations and civilization at large. The current attacks on the family come not only through the extreme ideology of politicization of sexuality which is pushed transnationally. The destruction of national sovereignty, under the guise of striving for international unity, is the door to the destruction of the country, the family and hence – the person. Traditional human rights, worked out in a more sane, less radical era, when the generations were not the victims of imagined suffering and want, are now being exchanged for the new radical social engineering rights of sexual orientation, transgenderism, the abandonment of biological and normal family and a movement toward transhumanism.

The old dream of the tower of Babel seems to have possessed those institutions that promised a brotherhood of nations. How ironic and how predictable. History repeats itself.

Communism violently convinces people that there is no God, that man is just a better developed animal, that conscience is imaginary and the concepts of right and wrong always change, as the masters of the everlasting party change. What should unite the nations of Central Europe toward a common future is not only the memories and the trauma of the morally corrupt regimes of atheist communism, but also the danger of sleepwalking into new forms of assault against freedom and human dignity.

The family and personal privacy are protected as a fundamental human right under the European Convention. However, lately certain decisions of the European Court of Human Rights have put into question the very capacity of the court, or at least part of it, to judge the facts and the law properly. Bulgaria has been the subject of intense political pressure to recognize that sex[2] is a social construct, based on sexual orientation, or sexual preference. Recently, a lesbian couple who had concluded a “marriage” outside of Bulgaria obtained a decision from the European Court of Human Rights to have their illegal marriage recognized by Bulgarian institutions and society.[3] Activists are using cases like this to eventually impose same-sex marriage on nations whose constitution and traditions reject it.

We have a common history, we have similar languages, we have suffered under totalitarianism, and we are neighbors. The Christian command of “love your neighbor as yourself” applies to individuals but also to nations.

The future of Central Europe is impossible without the establishment of human rights as a tool to defend human dignity and the family. We cannot go back to the dark corners of totalitarian abuse of justice and secular power. However, man’s dignity and freedom must be re-established in the light of the Christian Gospel – give to Caesar what is his and to God what is God’s. The state and centralized governance must give way to the voice and the will of the people, who on their behalf, have not only rights but duty to God and their fellow man. If the state can redefine and control marriage, the family, and even gender, the state has decided to stand in the place of God.

The right to family privacy and protection from sexually politicized social engineering is a big step to the restoration of common sense. And for that we must trust and build each other through observing the greatest commandments in personal life and in our nations – love God and love your neighbor as yourself.

The family stands in opposition to social engineering as the smallest sovereign social unit. Jacques Ellul has said that the foundational inhibitor of tyranny is the family structure.[4] I am not referring to just any concept of “family” but the one that was established by the Creator from the beginning of creation (Genesis 1:27). “Male and female, He created them” are also the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, quoting the law of Moses.

The strongest connection we can have as Central Europeans is the defense of our essence as humans, created in God’s image. We must stand in defense of the traditional family between man and woman and the right of parents to raise their children.

In Conclusion

Spiritual Freedom. The communist regimes did attempt to create a semblance of international relations, but these were forced and never produced the true brotherhood that they claimed. You cannot truly love your neighbor if you deny the existence of God. Relational freedom is built on trust. We have a heritage given to us by missionaries like Cyril and Methodius and St. Adalbert, whose mission was to spread the Gospel.

I need to make a disclaimer here when I advocate for a Christian revival in Central Europe. I do not mean the resurrection of the heretical unification between the church of God and Caesar, between the spiritual message and secular ideology. We know the failures in history to envision the kingdoms of this world as the kingdoms of God, built in the name of man.

Personal and Family Freedom. Central Europeans are sensitive toward any limitation of those freedoms which were denied us for half a century – the freedom to think, to speak, to travel, to live with dignity and the freedom to believe in God. We know what a departure from reality looks like. We know how a godless ideology is able to deny the past, distort the present and steal the future. While we can be active members of the experiment called “the European Union,” we should not look to our Western partners just because of their economic prosperity and financial prowess.

I do not speak of some empty appeal to national pride, but of the ethical and spiritual value that comes with suffering. Not all is money, and not all is about competitive achievements.

We have this common sensitivity against ideologies which appear to be benevolent but have a sinister aim. We must defend the traditional family and push back against any attempt to deprive our nations of their individual sovereignty in the name of some global vision of a man created in the image of an elite class. The first task toward a closer unity of the nations of Central and Eastern Europe is defending our common freedom, including the rights of parents and the traditional family.


[1] https://globalextremism.org/bulgaria/

[2] Even the term “sex” denoting human sexuality as male or female has evolved in the English language to depict the act of copulation, or performing acts that aim to achieve sexual pleasure, as in “having sex,” while the original Medieval origin is likely derived from the Latin “sexus” also akin to “division.”

[3] ЕСПЧ се произнесе по казуса на Лилия Бабулкова и Дарина Коилова за признаване у нас на техния брак (frognews.bg)

[4] Jacques Ellul (/ɛˈluːl/; French: [ɛlyl]; January 6, 1912 – May 19, 1994) was a French philosopher, sociologist, lay theologian, and professor. Noted as a Christian anarchist, Ellul was a longtime Professor of History and the Sociology of Institutions on the Faculty of Law and Economic Sciences at the University of Bordeaux (from Wikipedia).

In September of 2023 we filed a Brief with the National Assembly of Bulgaria denouncing the propsed Declrarion against Hate Speech in Political Life. The Declaration was propsed by the leaders of the main political parties in the parliament. Seeing this document as a precursor to a more sinister attack on freedom of speech, we at Freedom for All, and 24 other Christian religious denominations and various organizations, filed the Brief asking the members of parilament to not vote the Declaration into and offically adopted document. (Here we present the text, machine translated, until proper translation becomes available.)


Opinion to the National Assembly against a draft declaration against "hate language"

In defense of freedom of speech

On September 21, 2023, "Freedom for Everyone" submitted an opinion against the project submitted by several heads of parliamentary parties . Here we provide the full text of the opinion, drafted in defense of the basic constitutional right to freedom of speech and information, supported by over twenty organizations, faiths and individuals.



September 21, 2023

TO: The Speaker of the National Assembly,
Committee on Foreign Policy,
Committee on Human Rights, Religions and Complaints of Citizens
Legal Committee
Political Parties

COPY TO: Supreme Bar Council, religious denominations, civil organizations and media

Regarding: The project for a declaration of the National Assembly
against the language of hatred in Bulgarian politics
in the sense of Art. 85, para. 1 of the Constitution
entry No. 49-354-03-6 of 29.07.2023
with importers: D. Lorer, K. Petkov, Atty. Atanasov, B. Borisov, D. Peevski and M. Karadai

Freedom is saying things that others don't want to hear.  George Orwell

Freedom of speech for us is to preach the truth about Christ, even when society claims it is against the law.  John MacArthur


Dear People's Representatives,

"Freedom for Everyone" is an organization with many years of experience in monitoring and protecting the rights and freedoms of people in Bulgarian society and on the international scene.

We note with concern the intention of the National Assembly to adopt a "declaration against the language of hate in Bulgarian politics" (entry no. 49-354-03-6 of 29.07.2023, the "declaration"). Such a declaration is totally unacceptable for a free and democratic society. "Hate speech" is an ideological and problematic category that is easily abused. The consequences of such arbitrariness are in violation of the prohibition to restrict freedom of speech and expression in the conditions of democracy and protection of human rights.

First of all, there is no legal definition of "hate speech" , which allows for speculation and the taking away of the legitimate right to freedom of expression under the pretext that it constitutes "hate speech". None of the major international human rights treaties include a definition of "hate speech," despite the push for an increasingly universal use of the term. The category of "hate speech" is also not clearly defined by the European Court of Human Rights or any other international court.

Secondly, according to the Bulgarian Constitution, the freedom of expression of opinion , of collecting and disseminating information are among the fundamental rights guaranteeing the rights of the individual and the functioning of the democratic society (See Art. 38-41). Almost identical is the provision in the European Convention on Human Rights, Art. 10. Insofar as the draft declaration refers to problems in the speech of politicians, the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression for the people's representatives as well, cf. Art. 69: "People's representatives do not bear criminal responsibility for the opinions they express and for their votes in the National Assembly".

The practice of the European Court of Human Rights firmly takes the position that protected speech is not only that which is acceptable to all or to specific individuals and sections of society. On the contrary, the point is that free speech is even what is considered "offensive" by the subjective standards of "hate speech":

The Court's supervisory functions oblige it to pay the greatest attention to the principles characterizing a "democratic society". Freedom of speech constitutes one of the most important foundations of such a society, one of the main conditions for its progress and for the development of each person (…) it is applicable not only to "information" or "ideas" that are favorably received or considered harmless, or treated with indifference, but also those which offend, shock or embarrass the state or any section of the population. Such are the requirements for that pluralism, tolerance and breadth of thinking, without which there is no "democratic society". [1]

The adopted position of the Bulgarian courts and judicial practice is similar, according to which public figures, due to their impact on public and political life, enjoy an understated protection of their reputation. That is, individuals who influence public processes and interests can be criticized and their lives and activities can be subject to public attention and comment.

According to the standards imposed by the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, public figures should enjoy less protection of their reputation. This principle is reflected in the right to express a freer opinion towards such persons, compared to the permissible limits established for other members of society. Restrictions on freedom of speech must be interpreted narrowly and be necessary in a democratic society. [2]

In contrast, the draft declaration we are commenting on, in effect, aims to create a form of "immunity" from public discussion and criticism of individuals or whole groups of society.

Third, restrictions on freedom of expression are strictly limited (Art. 10, para. 2 ECHR; Art. 39, para. 2 Constitution). Authoritative international human rights organizations note that restrictions on freedom of speech should be applied only when absolutely necessary, in strict compliance with the rules introducing comprehensiveness of these restrictions, and not for expediency - when a given political group or layer does not like the ideas and the criticisms of his opponents.

Freedom of expression can legally be restricted in a limited number of specific situations that involve incitement to unlawful physical violence. But such restrictions must remain an exception that is narrowly construed, well defined and proportionate. [3]

In this regard, both the laws against "hate speech" and the declarations of the legislature supporting the implementation of measures against "hate speech" are vague, subjectively defined and open to arbitrariness and do not meet the strict standards of limiting the expression. In addition, such a restriction cannot be adopted on the basis of unverifiable claims that an opinion or speech "harms" society or individuals.

Fourthly , as a remnant of the time of the infamous totalitarian regime, unfortunately, Bulgaria has long had a law against "hate speech". This is the extremely problematic text of Art. 162, para. 1 of the Criminal Code , according to which it is forbidden to express opinions about persons specially protected by the legislator. Paragraph 2 of the same article of the Criminal Code criminalizes violence against protected groups. Thus, combined with a declaration of the parliament that vaguely speaks of "verbal violence", we see a legislative upsurge to limit the freedom of the individual, its expression and free thought. This is a return to the tyrannical model of government familiar to middle-aged Bulgarians.

Fifth, the text of the declaration is ambiguous, but also unequivocally aggressive against free speech . The declaration's preamble mentions the right to free speech in passing, rightly asserting that "the opposition of differing opinions is the very essence of democracy." Understandably, the petitioners call for tolerance in relations within political life. At the same time, many of the other appeals contained in the document go beyond what is permissible in a democratic society in which freedom of expression is a necessary condition for its existence.

Here we point out just some of the problematic texts in the draft declaration:

  • It is inadmissible from the rostrum of the National Assembly for the proponents of the declaration to call, in practice, for the creation of a police whistle-blower apparatus at the Ministry of the Interior, which would monitor for different and uncomfortable opinions . To the extent that the authors of the declaration consider that "hate speech" is also a "hate crime" or leads to one, their request to create a "platform open to citizens" in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior to report "suspected hate crimes ', is actually encouraging whistleblowing against individuals who do not fall into the category of those who agree with the ideological platform of the 'doubt' reporter.
  • The use of the term "verbal abuse" is unsustainable in everyday life and in law. Violence in law can only be physical, unless the legislator decides, in violation of the Constitution, to punish for expressed opinions. Even direct calls for immediate violence are not violence itself, but only a call. In precisely defined cases, only this type of expression is subject to restriction, and that by applying strictly enumerated tests for the necessity of such restriction in a democratic society. For the authors of the declaration, such restraints in favor of the protection of a basic constitutional freedom - that of speech - are absent.
  • The declaration itself illustrates the problem of the lack of a definition of "hate speech", while attempting to provide a definition, stating that hate speech is "any public utterance inciting violence". Bearing in mind that in the same declaration the authors nonsensically talk about "verbal violence", it becomes clear how stretchable are the categories under which the concept will be classified. Any public statement can become a reason for the persecution of dissenters and dissenters for political, religious, worldview and other ideological reasons.

In addition, the draft declaration is committed to "the fight against homophobia" and other "phobias". The category "homophobia", for example, not only lacks legal significance and definition, but even the popular use of this term is a matter of interpretation and worldviews. The approach of framing ideologically different opinions as "phobias" is eloquent enough. It points to the desire of the importers to control the freedom of thought, the formation of opinions and beliefs and their expression.

The recently heated public debate about human sexuality and its transformation into a subject of public law is evidence of the tendencies to restrict freedom of thought, belief and religion in favor of "sexual rights". Besides a challenge to public morality and a threat to the innocence of children, [4] this trend is opposed to Christian doctrine and tradition, and its public expression undermines freedom of religion and of other religions. Not long ago, the National Assembly introduced the controversial and vaguely defined concept of "sexual orientation" as a protected category in the Criminal Code. [5] This is another example of the stretchability of the "hate speech" criteria and their narrow ideological interpretation.

Sixth. Radical ideological propaganda groups, including those who do not know the Bulgarian reality and history , use the political and legal levers created supposedly to "restrict hate speech" to sow manipulations and propaganda, defaming established individuals and organizations that are ideologically different or disagree with their ideological and social dogma. Such agitational formations and their misleading reports and publications are an immediate danger to fundamental rights guaranteed by the Bulgarian Constitution and the European Convention, and are a threat to the democratic exercise of these rights under the jurisdiction of the Bulgarian state. [6] Hate mongering under the guise of "hate speech" protection is the natural bitter product of a poorly chosen approach to freedom of speech and expression as a core value of democracy.


In view of the above, we believe that such a declaration against "hate speech" poses a danger not only to the free debate in the parliament (see Article 69 of the CRC). It would be a pledge to impose censorship on the expression of free opinion on important social, political, religious and moral problems in society as a whole. This planned declaration is symptomatic of the unfolding of a wider attack on freedom of conscience, speech and religion. The politicization of freedom of expression and the persecution of expressed beliefs further increase societal tensions and pit societal groups against each other.

Until recently, Bulgaria was under a political regime in which it was forbidden to express an opinion and a worldview other than the officially approved one. In a similar way, the project in question for a "declaration against the language of hate in Bulgarian politics" is an expression of personal and political insensitivity and insufficient respect for the legal guarantees of freedom of expression in a modern democratic society.

We present this opinion with the confidence that common sense will prevail and the quoted declaration will not be accepted by the people's representatives . Freedom of speech is one of the basic human freedoms, without which a democratic society is doomed to collapse and return to totalitarianism. The task of the people's representatives is to guard and protect this newly acquired and most valuable freedom, not to limit and delete it.


Respectfully submitted,

Adv. Dr. Viktor Kostov
"Freedom for Everyone"


This opinion is endorsed by the following organizations and individuals, listed in alphabetical order:

Apostolic Church, Angel Peltekov, Plovdiv
Bulgarian Protestant Church "New Life", Timothy Autry, Svishtov
Bulgarian Christian Baptist Church, Ivan Valkov, Sofia
Movement "Living Faith", Miroslav Gutsalo, Varna
National Alliance "United Churches of God", Anatoly Elenkov, Sofia
National Christian Center, Svetoslav Petrov, Plovdiv
Community of Evangelical Churches of Faith, Ivan Nestorov, Plovdiv
Association "Bulgarian Parental Central Committee", Lyudmila Dukova, Sofia
Association "Bulgarian Center for Protection and Development", Alexander Dimitrov, Sofia
Association "Unity for the Family and the children", Daniela Nikolova, Varna
Association "ROD International", Adv. Vladimir Sheitanov, David Alexandrov, Sofia
Theocracy Association, Georgi Pavlov, Asenovgrad
Union of the Disabled and War Victims, Eng. Petar Velchev, Sofia
Restore Life Foundation, Daniela Ilieva, Ruse
Light of the Balkans Foundation, Ivan Valkov, Sofia
Foundation "Center for Change", Tsvetan Tsanev, Gorna Oryahovitsa
Christian Missionary Center - Vidin, Yavor Kostov, Vidin
Christian Society for Reformation, Ilia Iliev, Ruse
Christian Church "DAV Bulgaria", Danail Tanev, Sliven
HC "Royal Chaplaincy", Stanimir Todorov, Byala, region Ruse
Christian Reform Party, Atanas Terziyski, Plovdiv
Dr. Atanas Terziyski, Plovdiv "Paisii Hilendarski" University
Prof. Dr. Valentin Kojuharov, "Freedom for Everyone"
Docent Nikolay Kochev, "Paisii Hilendarski" University of Plovdiv


Freedom is the right to tell people
what they do not want to hear
. -- G. Orwell

Dear members of the Expert Committee and Council of Ministers,

The right to express one’s ideas and convictions is possibly the most fundamental and inalienable right of human participation in society. Any undue limitation of this right must be rejected as tyrannical and oppressive. In its essence the Draft Recommendation (the Recommendation, the Draft, the document, hereafter) seeks to achieve a chilling effect on free speech and even revoke this right in violation of the very Convention[1] whose values and provisions it seeks to uphold.

I write as a long-time human rights lawyer and observer of the trends in society regarding human rights and church-state relations. I am the founder of Freedom for All, a project operating in Bulgaria which has been involved in defending human rights for three decades through court cases, public speaking and events, and publications.

Here we will point out several general trends we see in the philosophy of the document. We also include a more detailed commentary.

We observe that the Recommendation, if followed as drafted, will facilitate the emergence of a tyrannical international and national regime/s that seek/s to impose unrelenting thought and speech control, and even emotional control, to the detriment of individual rights and fundamental human freedoms. The implementation of the Recommendation, as drafted, will most likely result in:

  • Violation of fundamental human rights (freedom of speech) under the pretext of defending human rights (allegedly the right to privacy and to non-discrimination).
  • The States will be punishing individuals for ideas and thoughts and their expression, and not for actions – a hallmark of any totalitarian regime. Introduction of “thought crimes” and “crimes based on feelings.”
  • Being used for persecution of political and ideological opponents due to unclear and vague terminology where the actual term “hate crimes” remains so broadly construed as to include all expression which a party may deem to fall into those broad categories. (Such parties will include the State and “stakeholders” who have vested interest in promoting certain ideologies).
  • Seeking to establish full control over thoughts and emotions where non-compliance will result in administrative and civil penalties, and even, astoundingly, criminal prosecution.
  • Coercion by the state (government) against the individual conscience and individual speech. Paradoxically the Draft empowers the State v. the individual, just opposite to the philosophy of the Convention (item 17).
  • Clear potential for violation of other fundamental rights, especially freedom of religion.
  • Introducing hyper-regulation, by making private (Internet) companies agents of State’s ideological policing, adding more useless bureaucracy, and more expenses for the taxpayer.

The Recommendation at issue must be fully abandoned as a failed attempt to exert the rule of law through social control and engineering done in drastic violation of individual rights and one of the most fundamental of all – for any free and just society – freedom of thought and speech. In general, the writing of more laws does not make for a better, fairer and more just and free society; legislating feelings, attitudes, thoughts, and expression, as suggested by the draft Recommendation, will only destroy any opportunity for a robust public discourse on issues of importance to society.

In addition, the peoples of the former communist countries are very weary of state directives dictated by one ideological center of thought under the threat of punishment. This Draft suggests nothing much different. The Council of Europe, or its member States, must not resort to divulging directives which will inevitably and drastically limit and largely eradicate one of the most fundamental rights that defines a free society and a democracy. Governments and States have no role in shaping their citizens’ worldviews and ideas. Just the opposite – they have a duty to protect the free flow of information, thoughts, and ideas, and such protections exhaust their role in a free and democratic society.

The Council of Europe was created to defend individual rights from state intrusion, not to fight human rights under the pretext of defending them (see preamble). The limitations on speech have been reasonably defined in art. 10(2) of the Convention and no further demotion of freedom of expression is necessary without threatening the very core philosophy of the ECHR and the purpose of CE.

Further Comments of the Criminalization of Speech

The following is not an exhaustive analysis and such is not necessary. Critiquing the principles in the preamble and a few examples from the rest of the document suffice to expose its anti-democratic nature.

The most concerning parts of the Draft Recommendation is that it seeks to punish as crimes not actions but speech and the dissemination of information.  Item “k” introduces the concept and points 12-17 of the Appendix of the document provide the specifics concerning criminal, administrative and civil prosecution of speech deemed to be “hate speech”. Item 12, found on page 7, criminalizes all speech related to any poignant public debate issue:

Member States should clearly specify in their national criminal law when hate speech is subject to criminal liability, such as incitement to hatred, violence or discrimination, denial, trivialisation, condoning and direct and public incitement to commit genocide, racist, xenophobic, sexist and LGBTI-phobic threats or, under the conditions set out in the Additional Protocol to the Cybercrime Convention, insults, denial of genocide, of crimes against humanity and dissemination of material that contains such expression.

Even if the holding of ideas depicted in the citation may be seen as morally reprehensible by some, the depiction of this broadly construed spectrum of thought, ideas, and expression which will be hunted down and prosecuted by the member States, assisted by the alleged “stakeholders”, and pretty much the whole of society, points to nothing less than draconian measures against freedom. There is no proportionality, legitimate purpose and acceptability in a democratic society which could be reasonably demonstrated by the Experts, in order to justify such a lust for mind control as demonstrated in the citation and the document as a whole. In addition, many European countries already have laws criminalizing behavior and some speech that may fall under the broad definition of “hate speech.”[2]

Comments on the Preamble and the Philosophy of the Draft

In general, the preamble has few recitations of the current protection of freedom of speech under Art. 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights (ECHR). In contradiction to these recitals, the rest of the preamble is a forceful defense of a largely totalitarian approach to freedom of thought and speech.

Contending for Both Freedom of Speech and its Revocation (Rec. I; App. Item 17). Item “a” of the Preamble notes that human rights enshrined in the convention are indivisible, universal, and inter-dependent. Yet in item “c” the text reduces freedom of expression to a concept subject to severe limitations by redefining it. Adding the adjective “hate” to the right to free speech, the document turns one of the most fundamental human rights into a perceived threat to human rights. Speech is protected by the ECHR for that very reason for which it is being attacked in the document – it becomes a target to be stifled if it protects dissenting speech. The court case precedents of the European Court of Human Rights abound with examples along these lines.

Imposition of a Dominant Ideology by Coercion. Point “d” of the Preamble points to certain troubling aspects of social engineering trends in the document. It speaks of “understanding the root causes” and asserts that “countering hate speech is an important aspect of protection of human rights.” The document fallaciously asserts that somehow member States have the right to define ideas, thoughts and expression including by deciding which content of speech should be approved, tolerated, pushed forward and which not (see also Appendix point 8, page 6).

Lack of Definition. There is no clear, well-constructed, and dependable definition of “hate speech” yet it will be a criminal offense. In the draft hate speech is described as a “phenomenon” which has to be “combated” and also “tackled”. A definition is attempted no earlier than in items 3 and 12-17, of the Appendix of the Recommendation. The definition in 3 is broad and all-inclusive so no speech, respectively no “harmful” idea, seems to be left out of its scope (“all kinds of expression”). There is not even a need for the speech to result in violence to be criminalized, per this broad definition. “Incitement to violence” which should be criminalized, is not the same as “incitement to discrimination,” used in the definition and which is a broader and more fluid concept. It is also sufficient that an expressed opinion “justifies prejudice” in order to meet the broad criteria of a “hate speech crime.” One can imagine the intellectual sterility of a society where only allowed thoughts are being thought due to the impeding threat of being criminally prosecuted for an unapproved opinion.  

If we accept that “hate speech” is offensive, disturbing and shocking speech, it is then protected under ECtHR precedent (Handyside v. United Kingdom, 1976). If we accept that “hate speech” is some speech which is so drastically outrageous that that it is beyond offensive, disturbing, and shocking, and it has to be limited, then it could be limited under the rules of art. 10, sec. 2 of the ECHR. In such a case, each member state has already been given clear guidance under the ECHR as to how to tread this sensitive ground. A broad restriction on speech, as discussed here, will never be a legitimate purpose in a democratic society.[3] Yet the Draft clearly introduces a new category of speech which is still speech, but which must be limited beyond the exhaustively listed measures in Art. 10 (2) of the Convention, to the point of criminal prosecution.

The fluidity of the definition of “hate speech” is seen in item “j” of the Preamble. The call for unified terminology actually stems from the very fact that it is almost impossible to agree on the definition of “hate speech” as well as on how scrutiny should be applied without quickly descending into repealing the right to free expression. Maybe exactly because of the different understandings at “national and international levels” there should be no attempt to develop a common understanding of the concept. Developing such a “common understanding” is in fact an attempt to overcome an impossible hurdle in a strictly bureaucratic fashion. 

Violating human rights to protect human rights. In effect item “d” is targeting a fundamental human right (freedom of conscience and expression) in order to “protect” human rights. This targeting uses a rather militant language “combat” and later on “tackle” (j). This is a drastic departure of the principles of the Convention, which protects individual rights from undue State intrusion. Through the Draft Recommendation the State becomes an active actor in suppression of speech.

Freedom of religion and conscience will also be severely curtailed and trampled on. It is known that currently the protection of certain minorities allows for government attacks against men and women in their public expression of religious views, only because their religious views do not conform to the state-endorsed ideology (The case of Päivi Maria Räsänen of Finland, prosecuted for publicly sharing her biblical view of marriage is only one example). The tenets of many religions, and those of the Bible, will inevitably be seen and treated as contradicting a state-imposed “emerging morality” of same sex marriage and its introduction into the legal definitions of marriage in certain countries. Following the Recommendation any disapproval and disagreement with such policies, which are to be perceived as equality-driven, will result in persecution against Christians and other religious groups.

The very philosophy of the ECHR is to protect human rights from government interference. In a stark departure from this principle, the Draft seeks to reword, limit, and deny the exercise of a human right to the point where the governments of member States have to criminalize that fundamental right (see “h”). The idea presented in item “e” is that a right interferes with another right, therefore, the exercise of the former has to be limited.

Item “I” introduces privileges based on perceived victimhood. The mentioned “special protection” is in essence establishing privileges. The rights of certain minorities can be defended and protected efficiently under the current legal systems of member States with actions against libel, in tort law, and anti-discrimination administrative procedures. Prosecuting criminally speech on a large scale, even if it is hateful (as per whose perception and standards?), is a totalitarian approach to human rights. The rule of law requires equality under the law and such is not afforded here.

Spying and control over citizens in violation of their freedoms (Rec. iv). The Draft Recommendation requires “continuous and systematic monitoring” of “multiple threats” posed by perceived “hate” speech online and offline (Recommendation iv, p. 3 of the document). This is an open door for nothing less than establishing a police state which will be probing and possibly prosecuting people for holding the wrong view. The “right view” of course will be expounded by the State and the “stakeholders.”

State control over so-called Internet Intermediaries (Rec. iii; Ch. 3 of Appendix, Key Actors). The Internet has become the most essential publishing platform in the last decades. Controlling the internet, as suggested, will deprive members of the public of their right and ability to freely engage in exchange of information and public debate. As it currently stands, the Draft devotes significant attention to online “hate speech” and the responsibility of internet companies and Member States to deal with this “phenomenon.” There seems to be no substantive analysis of how freedom of expression is negatively impacted by the use of hate speech laws (freedom of expression as secured by Article 10 of the ECHR is only mentioned in a formulaic way in the draft report’s opening recitals). In fact, this push for member States to legislate and control Internet companies to ensure their full compliance with the so-called “hate speech” laws in fact turns the Internet companies into a policing extension of the State. Thus, the State thought police will effectuate private companies to become agents of such tyrannical policing of opinions and exchange of information.

States are prompted to “educate, raise awareness, and combat the dangers of “hate speech” (Ch. 4 of Appendix). In general, this approach is the State promoting a certain ideology. Even if such efforts on behalf of the state are construed as movement toward peace and harmony it does represent a totalitarian push toward state control and imposition of ideology through state power. Such developments are detrimental to a free and democratic society.

Politicized and Unnecessary. To introduce crimes based on how one feels about someone else, or to promote a right “not to be offended” where such a right merely does not exist, is clearly intrusive, unjust, and untypical of any free society. Criminalizing speech with a broad sweep will deprive the individual from the needed protection of their views, convictions, and dignity. To attempt to qualify expression as “hateful” requires the use of subjective, and often politicized criteria, which further threatens the due administration of justice and intrudes into the consciences and souls of people. However, the Draft Recommendation go even further – it establishes a mandate to turn emotions into crimes (hate); judgements of events, trends and people (trivialization), possibly including limiting scholarly research; even “insults” and the “denial of genocide” are crimes. Generally, the state (government) punishes actions, not thought: this is an essential principle in any free, just and democratic law-making legislature. Also, many member States already have existing national laws that criminalize to various extents speech that is deemed offensive and may fall into categories similar to “hate speech”.[4]

Legal Framework mentioned in Chapter 4, points 9-11. This is the most restrained appeal to the law and reason. Unfortunately, at the backdrop of the radical nature of the rest of the document these three points remain only wishful thinking.

In conclusion

The draft Recommendation may be well intentioned. It formally signifies the importance of freedom of expression under the Convention, but it is so imbalanced that in the end, the Draft Recommendation will have a chilling effect on one of the most fundamental human rights the Convention enshrines – freedom of expression. Any implementation of the Recommendation as drafted will be detrimental to any free and democratic society and will lead to the establishment of tyranny. Therefore, the Recommendation should be withdrawn.

Respectfully submitted,
Viktor Kostov


[1] The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Also referred to as the European Convention on Human Rights, and ECHR.

[2] See a list of countries in note 4.

[3] However, it is noteworthy that in the case of Vejdeland and Others v. Sweden app. No. 1813/07 the European Court of Human rights stepped back from its generally consistent protection of freedom of expression and found that no violation of Art. 10 of ECHR was committed by the criminal conviction of Vejdeland under Swedish national law. The court held that “insulting, holding up to ridicule or slandering certain groups of the population” could be considered “attacks on persons” thus equating speech with incitement to violence. This means that the prevailing ideology backed by political power will decide what speech is protected and what is to be criminalized. Thus humor, satire, critique, research, opinion, etc. may become, if not criminal, then borderline “criminal” speech. The result will be self-censored, censorship by third parties in order not to face criminal charges and investigation and deterioration of public debate and stymieing of intellectual and spiritual achievements. The cited decision by the ECtHR contradicts its broader minded decisions as in Handyside v. UK.

[4] Such nations in Europe are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.



The above text was submitted on Aug. 8, 2021. You can view the page of the counsultation at the Council of Europe web portal:


Address to the Intermarium Conference online

Role of NGO’s Promoting Individual Rights and Liberty in Light of the Geneva Consensus Declaration
April 29, 2021

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to be a part of this forum, and as co-organizers we welcome all the ideas presented here in favor of the traditional family, natural human rights, and individual liberty. (Many greetings from Dr. Viktor Kostov who could not join us for this event, and whose statement I will read, on his behalf.)

Freedom for All is a human rights organization and publishing group working since 2000 and formally, as a registered non-profit, since 2004. Our goal is to especially defend freedom of conscience and religion, and freedom of speech.

The Geneva Consensus Declaration is an important document which contains a number of provisions which enhance the role of women; protects their rights, and protects the traditional family. Such are article 2, emphasizing equal rights for women, article 3, that every human being has an inherent right to life, including the unborn; article 4, clearly stating that “in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning,” and article 5, allowing for the state and society to view the natural family as the “natural and fundamental unit of society.”

We are also pleased that article 7 affirms the importance of national sovereignty and the primary role of national governments in making policy decisions regarding health care, the so called “universal health coverage” while keeping in mind the local context.

In addition, we are pleased that the Declaration refers to the obvious truth that there is no international right to abortion as there could not be a right to end another human being’s life. It is also commendable that the document has the goal to “advance supportive public health policies” not just for women but also for families.

The role of NGO’s in the fulfilling of the goals of this Declaration may be twofold.

Firstly, to promote the ideas, and especially those mentioned above, in the Declaration on the local and international level, as good policy markers. Those are the support for the natural family, individual and natural rights, support of the right to life for the unborn, and the individual and family right to privacy and conscience.

Secondly, the NGO’s have an important role to be a corrective to the centralization of thought and power, as their role is to approach any issues from the perspective of the citizenry they serve. Of course, that role depends on how concerned the entity is with the well-being of the people, and to what extent it remains financially independent of these networks, especially influential international bodies, so that a citizen’s organization, as is the NGO, can really speak truth to power.

We are concerned with certain formulations in the Declaration. For example, article 6 speaks of universal health coverage which is necessary for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, related to well-being which is considered related to more than health. It is stated that “health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.” This verbiage is sure unsettling as it aims to address more than one’s physical problems but also his or her mental, and, seemingly, spiritual well-being. One must remain aware that religious and Christian faith also aims, by the work and grace of God, at the wholeness of the person: physical, emotional, and spiritual. Religious or quasi-religious overtones may not be emanated in any form by any policy or document that seeks to help people and which are obviously not religious in their purpose. Help should not aim to control.

This so-called “holistic approach”, combined with bureaucratic mechanisms for its implementation may not be allowed to turn into a “total” and rather intrusive approach, which threatens individual rights, privacy and dignity. The sustainable development also looks into the wellbeing of the whole, of the corporate; and the well-being of the individual is somewhat buried in the grand project for control of future developments on a large scale.

It is our role, it is the role of human rights and religious freedom organizations, NGO’s, to safeguard the freedom and religious conscience and dignity of each one individual person, their privacy and their rights, and guard even against the UN programs on health and sustainable development hampering those rights. The role of NGO’s is crucial in maintaining the safeguards for natural individual freedoms.

The proper balance we seek can also be guaranteed by the strong language on national sovereignty found in the Declaration. It is our task to help ensure the UN remain within its initial goals, to facilitate the conversation between people’s and sovereign nations, and not turn into a totalitarian superstate overwhelming sovereign nations and individuals with health care, protection, and development plans that control rather than care.

We believe that if the Geneva Consensus Declaration is seen through those lenses it will fulfill the purpose to protect human faith, dignity, and purpose. It is our goal to do likewise. Thank you.

Viktor Kostov, Ph.D.
lawyer, missiologist

Website of the conference: