Insurance denied to congregation that is a member of a GLBT-supportive denomination

10 years ago

Most of the time spent discussing GLBT issues and "THE" church, point to ways the church has lagged behind. But today's WSJ points to a church whose denomination affirms GLBT persons and is being denied insurance because of that fact. I find this apalling.

According to today's Wall Street Journal:

A small Protestant church in Adrian, Mich., has weathered controversies surrounding abolition, the Civil War, desegregation and Vietnam since it was established in 1836. Now, because its denomination supports gay rights, the church has been deemed too risky for property insurance. Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Co. of Fort Wayne, Ind., turned down the West Adrian United Church of Christ, citing its national governing body's approval of gay marriage and the ordination of homosexuals... Its pastor, the Rev. John Kottke, says he knows of no acts of violence or threats against his church, its congregation of fewer than 200 members, or its parent organization...Brotherhood Mutual was founded in 1917 as a mutual-aid association by a sect of evangelical Mennonites, according to the company's Web site, and now serves 30,000 churches in 29 states and the District of Columbia. It is one of the largest insurers of religious institutions in the U.S...

It goes on to describe the position of the parent denomination:

United Church of Christ, formed in 1957 by a merger of the New England Congregationalist churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church, is known for its history of social activism. It ordained its first openly gay pastor in 1972 and affirmed support for same-sex marriage with a resolution at the General Synod, its governing body, in 2005. Of 5,700 United Church of Christ churches, 700 have publicly stated that they are "open and affirming" of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons. West Adrian isn't one of them...

The church's only uninsurable "flaw" appears to be that it is associuated with a GLBT affirming group.

I know that insurance is a business. I know that a business has the right to limit their liabilities, especiallty an insurance business. But this example takes the cake. How frightened are we in this country? Someone in this insurance company fears that massive, violent crime will strike a church that is only associated with a GLBT positive denomination. But where have we seen examples of this violence? We have not.

From the same WSJ article, Ms Mitzi Thimas, a VP at the insurnce company, says:

Ms. Thomas said she wasn't aware of other churches Brotherhood Mutual turned down because of positions on gay clergy or marriage, but the insurer has rejected churches because of other controversial positions. "Advocating violence, militia groups, we have turned down for that. Picketing at military funerals, making statements against religious leaders of other faiths...are some of the reasons," she said.
Insurance regulators for Michigan and Indiana said the company was within the law in such underwriting decisions. Insurers generally can set their own underwriting criteria and decide who or what not to insure, as long as they don't violate state or federal antidiscrimination laws or other specific prohibitions.

Could this not be considered discrimination?

Christianity Today weighed in with this comment :

A couple of things to note: Brotherhood Mutual rejected the church's application not because of moral or religious opposition to the church's stance, but because the stance might increase risk to the insurer. So this is not precisely a religious freedom issue. One wonders if the company didn't want to do business with supporters of same-sex marriage and risk seemed a better explanation for its refusal. But are churches that support same-sex marriage really more prone to being victims of vandalism? The article says there is no evidence one way or the other. The story doesn't mention any other ways in which Brotherhood Mutual does business with supporters of same-sex marriage. Does it screen its investments of companies that offer benefits to partners of employees? Presumably, if/when same-sex marriage and homosexual ordination became less controversial, Brotherhood Mutual would then accept applications from churches that supported that stance.
Also, there is no lawsuit. West Adrian didn't sue Brotherhood Mutual over the denial, so the situation would set no legal precedent in regards to religious freedom. If same-sex marriage does gain national legal acceptance, there will probably be exceptions for clergy and churches to discriminate according to their religious teaching. The real test, however, will lie with for-profit companies like Brotherhood Mutual.

Moxie Lady blogged it, too.

The company claims that the CRAZY, Christian-based principle of loving your brother and living in non-judgement places the church in a vulnerable position where it could be subject to violent attacks and "increased litagation".

CindiK says "What a queer way to do business" and ends with this...

In Matthew 5:11, Jesus says, "Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake." And so it is with this congregation. May they, and we, see the blessings of being accused of love.

This is alarming if it is allowed to remain a precedent.

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