Freethought Today · Vol. 26 No. 9 November 2009

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

DOJ: No Cheap Insurance For Churchgoers

The U.S. Department of Justice says a company can’t give discounts or special deals on insurance to homeowners or renters just because they’re “churchgoers” or “persons of faith.”

The department announced a settlement, pending court approval, with GuideOne Mutual Insurance, based in West Des Moines, Iowa, that stemmed from complaints by an atheist, an agnostic and the Lexington (Ky.) Fair Housing Council.

“Discrimination on the basis of someone’s religious faith is prohibited by the Fair Housing Act,” said Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “All individuals have the right to secure homeowners and renters insurance without regard to their religious beliefs, and the Civil Rights Division will continue to ensure those rights are protected.”

GuideOne Mutual’s “FaithGuard” advertised special benefits and discounts only to “churchgoers” and “persons of faith.” Under the settlement, the company must pay a total of $29,500 to the victims of discrimination, $45,000 to the government as a civil penalty and stop the discriminatory practices. GuideOne offered the endorsement in at least 19 states and used an application form that included a space for applicants to indicate their “denomination.”

The settlement also requires training for agents on the Fair Housing Act along with periodic reports to the Justice Department.

GuideOne’s Web site calls the company the nation’s leading church insurer, and while FaithGuard is no longer a coverage option for homeowners or renters, company still offers FaithGuard Auto to churchgoers “at no additional charge.” Features include:

• If the insured is involved in an auto accident while driving directly to or from a church service or other scheduled worship activity, the deductible is waived.

• Church tithing or donations up to $750 are covered if the insured suffers a loss of income from a disability caused by an accident in an insured auto.

• Medical limits are doubled if the insured is involved in an accident while driving non-family members directly to or from a church service or other scheduled worship activity.

• Any existing auto loan payments on covered autos up to $3,000 are paid if the insured suffers a loss of income from a disability caused by an accident in an insured auto while driving directly to or from a church service or other scheduled worship activity.

• A memorial gift of $1,000 will be made to the insured’s church if his or her auto is involved in any car accident that results in the insured’s death or the death of a household family member.

The Web site includes the disclaimer that “GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap, or familial status.”

It also says FaithGuard Auto coverage provides “distinctive auto benefits for people of faith.”

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division did not respond to an e-mail asking why the company could offer faith-based specials to vehicle owners but not to homeowners or renters.

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