Soundings

Walter Olson
Get Sued, All Ye Faithful
Activists seek to shut down churchgoer insurance.
Spring 2008

The GuideOne Mutual Insurance Company offers (in 19 states, at last report) a policy rider called “FaithGuard” with features it believes some churchgoers will value. The rider, to quote its critics, “waives insurance deductibles if there is a loss to personal property while it is in the ‘care, custody and control’ of the insured’s church; pays church tithes or donations if the insured suffers a loss of income from a disability; and doubles medical limits for an injury received while sponsoring an activity conducted on behalf of the church.”

All three provisions, by limiting the potential financial downside of accidents and misadventure, might make a family feel more confident about pledging money or volunteering time to its church. But now GuideOne is on the receiving end of a lawsuit filed by the liberal National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), on the grounds that the rider discriminates against non-churchgoers. “The benefits of FaithGuard,” the group charges, “are not available to persons who suffer a covered loss or disability while engaged in similar activities but who are not religious, who do not belong to a church, or who do not attend church or participate in religious activities.”

Of course, non-churchgoers would never want to purchase FaithGuard in the first place, any more than people who never step onto airplanes would go out of their way to buy flight insurance. Instead, if they worry about the financial risk of accidents, they would select one of the innumerable insurance products readily available with no particular religious component. But to achieve religious nondiscrimination in the NFHA’s eyes, it’s apparently crucial not just that non-churchgoers have access to every sort of risk coverage that they might want to buy, but that FaithGuard’s customers not have access to one that they might like. So much for diversity.

Walter Olson is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

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