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Religious Expression Coverage For Churches

Religious expression coverage came to surface, out of a legal needs church institutions face each day.  

US state’s were handed down legal decisions which forced their hands to implement changes to their current laws to comply with the United States Supreme court decision.

Throughout the years churches faced different liability issues surrounding their religious beliefs.  No church insurance company was willing to provide liability coverage for a churches long held religious beliefs. 

This left churches to defend themselves when presented with a lawsuit, which many times ended with the closure and sale of all church assets. 

In 2018, a church insurance company came out with a solution to this gap in insurance.  This company announcement of this new revolutionary coverage was embraced by church insurance brokers and churches throughout the country.  

RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION COVERAGE

What Changed Leading To The Need For Religious Expression Coverage?

Mental and emotional liability claims are the two most common claims related to religious expression coverage for churches. 

Individuals and families who have different values and don’t share your religion’s views, could deem your long held religious beliefs as discriminatory and bigoted. 

As a result of the conflicting views, they can allege that your church or nonprofit organization is responsible for causing them mental or emotional anguish.

As a result of these differing beliefs, it’s important to protect your organization in the event of a lawsuit.

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that:

  • The Constitution requires a state to grant a marriage license between two people of the same sex.
  • The Constitution requires when a marriage is between two people of the same sex which was lawfully licensed and completed in a different state, those states are required to recognize the marriage as they would any other marriage between a man and a woman.

While this case between Obergefell v. Hodges addressed the requirements to state government, the ruling failed to answer the questions related towards if the ruling also applies to a church’s long held religious beliefs which could go against the US Supreme court requirements.

Getting Married At Church

How Should Churches Respond To This Court Decision?

While there is no simple answer to this question, and it will potentially lead to new lawsuits in the future. For now, church organizations no matter the size, who are opposed on theological grounds to same-sex marriage may want to consider the following:

  • Review Your State laws regarding religious exemptions dealing with state civil rights laws. Many state laws have been updated to address same-sex marriage and may contain religious exemptions which are designed to protect churches. This exemption allows institutions that are classified as a religious organization, to discriminate based on their religious belief. Obtain legal help in determining your local state laws and how they protect your religious organization.
  • Consider reviewing, updating, and incorporating appropriate religious belief statements into the church’s governing documents and operational policies. Several examples include, adding scriptural references supporting your long held religious beliefs. Update your facility usage for internal and outside groups related to wedding, funerals, school policy, events, church membership policy, and employee handbook. Always consult your legal team prior to making changes to your operational policies.
  • Follow and enforce the provisions of your current governing documents and operational policies. Failing to enforce your operational policies and governing documents, can open your religious institution to legal challenges. If it can be proven your organization has not consistently followed your guidelines, this can open the doors for a discrimination claim.
  • Update churches website and social media platforms. It is important your public pages do not conflict with your religious beliefs. For example, showing picture of an event that includes serving alcohol to church members, but not allowing an outside organization to use your facility due to their event having alcohol could pose a legal challenge. 
  • Exercise caution when publicly addressing sexuality and same-sex marriage from the pulpit or social media sites. Specifically naming an individual, group of individuals, outside organization, or discussing a particular situation, can lead your religious organization to claims for defamation or invasion of privacy. No matter the intent on why a religious leader publicly discussed the sensitive topic, could land you in court.
  • Discuss available insurance coverage with your church insurance agent. Your church insurance agent will know about new coverages that may be available to your church. It is important to discuss what coverages are available and how religious expressions coverage can help protect your church related to same-sex marriages. Your church insurance agent can review the coverages and exclusions that apply within the policy.

Is There Sample Religious Belief Language We Can Use?

Church insurance brokers have access to sample language your church can use to develop and update your governing documents and operational policies. 

The church insurance company have provided these documents to their agents, to assist churches in developing their policies. 

It is unknown the effectiveness of these documents and they have yet to be argued in court.  

Some churches have decided to remain silent of this issue.  Their legal advice obtain, believed this was a better approach.

It is important to mention these are only sample documents and require churches to obtain legal help to finalize. 

Church insurance brokers are not legal experts and cannot provide legal advice. 

Religious Expression Coverage Policy Language

Religious Expression Coverage Included In Policy

Below is an example of available coverages offer through the religious expression coverage offered by church insurance companies.

RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION COVERAGE:
  • RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION COVERAGE: EACH CLAIM LIMIT – $1,000,000
  • RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION COVERAGE: AGGREGATE LIMIT – $1,000,000
  • RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION COVERAGE: LEGAL EXPENSES REIMBURSEMENT – HOURLY LIMIT: $250
  • RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION COVERAGE: LEGAL EXPENSES REIMBURSEMENT – EACH INCIDENT LIMIT: $150,000
  • RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION COVERAGE: LEGAL EXPENSES REIMBURSEMENT – AGGREGATE LIMIT: $300,000

Obtaining higher limits on your primary general liability coverage can increase the limits within this coverage as well.  This coverage is one of the highest available related to the hourly legal expense and each legal expense limit. 

church insurance brokers

Church Insurance Brokers

Integrity Now Insurance Brokers specializes in church insurance.  We love helping churches evaluate and explore their insurance coverages.

As your church explores new and relevant coverages, using a church insurance expert is critical to your success in avoiding coverage gaps.  

We are here to help your church with the following church insurance coverages and more:  General Liability Insurance, Directors and Officers Insurance, Abuse Coverage, Employment Practice Liability Insurance, Workers’ Compensation Insurance, Ministry Insurance, Bus and Van Insurance.

We provide a no cost church insurance policy review.  For the insurance review, we will request a copy of your complete policy.  Once received we will go over all of your coverages with you and identify any concerns.  

Depending on your church insurance provider, there could be the lack of coverages, or specific wording that is not written in your churches benefit.

Give us a call or complete our online church insurance quote form.