From AP via KCCI:

The Justice Department announced the settlement Friday involving Des Moines, Iowa-based Guideone Mutual Insurance Co. and two authorized agents, which had advertised special homeowners’ and renters’ benefits called FaithGuard to "churchgoers" and "persons of faith."

Under the agreement, the defendants must pay a total of $29,500 to three plaintiffs and $45,000 as a civil penalty.

GuideOne had offered the FaithGuard endorsement in at least 19 states. It must cease the practice under the agreement.

The lawsuit was the result of complaints filed by an atheist, an agnostic, and the Lexington Fair Housing Council. The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky in conjunction with a proposed consent decree.

Insurance companies charge different rates based on age, sex, behavior, etc.  Should faith be different?  What do you think?

13 comments
  1. Can they show statistically that people of faith represent less risk? That’s probably where the hangup is. You can show that men, for example, are more expensive to cover than women. Can you show that atheists are more expensive to cover than evangelicals?

    1. @Eric Goranson, Probably could point to behavior-related aspects, but then they should have based their polices on that (which they already do).

      On one hand it did seem ill-advised, but on the other hand I think, to a certain extent, companies should be allowed to give discounts to whomever they want to give discounts to. I know some stores/restaurants (not necessarily in Des Moines) that gave discounts if you brought in a church bulletin.

  2. A Christian insurance company wanted to entice the business of fellow Christians by giving them a discount incentive. Not too much wrong I can see about that. As far as the less risk question.. I can tell you that there are certain things that Evangelicals wouldn’t do in their home that an atheist would, considering that it was homeowner and renter’s insurance that they are providing.

  3. All good points. I don’t think this is discrimination. If it is, then where do you stop? Say I have a product/service and I want to sell it. Do I market to certain people? Certainly! Do I exclude people from buying? Can I pre-qualify people? Is there an equivalent insurance product for atheists, agnostics, etc. — separate but equal? And how many people register at a church but aren’t “religious?” How can you prove someone is a “person of faith?”
    .-= Julia in WDM´s last blog ..Sack Sale at the Bargain Basket =-.

  4. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion when providing home insurance. Otherwise, it would just create a loophole which could be exploited to prevent groups of people from freely choosing where to live.

    In this case, it states that there were “special” benefits offered only to persons of faith and churchgoers. This implies they were not available to others in some equivalent form. In any case, being from the south, I get a bit of a chill when people begin advocating separate but equal.

    And please tell exactly what sorts of things Evangelicals will not do that Atheists will, which should affect a homeowner’s policy?

    1. @SouthernFriedSkeptic,
      Case in point: to obtain the discount, you must sign a statement that you do not drink alcohol. That is a huge underwriting difference for insurance companies in auto insurance. You must also declare for homeowners insurance that you do not smoke. Again, a large underwriting difference.
      Also, the company does not deny coverage for other people, they simply reward those adhering to a less risky lifestyle.

      I know of a real estate firm and advertising firm among others here in Columbus, OH that cater to homosexuals to the extent that hiring is virtually exclusive. No one seems to investigate them. And what about groups like ACORN that cater to pimps and prostitutes? No one investigated them until it was forced upon them. (O.K., I couldn’t help myself when it came to ACORN).

      When you break it down, ALL INSURANCE IS DISCRIMINATION! They discriminate based on sex, credit score, driving record, age of house, type of car, marital status, area of residence, miles to work, annual miles, type of house, some even what type of education and/or job you have, etc., etc.,. In fact many companies have over two million rating factors.

      Think about this, these people had hundreds of companies to which they could apply for insurance. But they choose to sue the one comany that they don’t want to buy insurance from; because the company wishes to attract the conservative relilgious person for better underwriting reasons. This was probably some low lifes and an attorney looking for a quick buck. They don’t sue at the drop of a hat–they sue you if you are wearing a hat! Get real and get a life.

      1. @TERRY,
        Discrimination on the basis of behavior is different than discrimination on the basis of belief. Atheists in the population of prisons make up a much smaller proportion than their proportion of the general population. This would indicate they are less likely to be criminals. Atheists are also more likely to have a college education. The south has the highest rates of church attendance in the country, but also has the highest rates of teen pregnancy and STD’s. There is no evidence that atheists exhibit any risky behavior more frequently than churchgoers. Discriminating on the basis of actual risks for the purposes of underwriting may be acceptable, but discriminating on the basis of an assumption of behavior without any evidence, is just bigotry. If they can prove that church-going people are less of a risk, then fund the study and show some evidence. They might then have a case. But the truth is, most research shows atheists tend to be very responsible, highly educated, productive citizens. Which blows any argument for underwriting risk out of the water and reveals that it is simply personal preference, not actual risk. And that isn’t any more acceptable than just selling insurance to white people because you prefer them to blacks.

        You can cast aspersions all you want on the people involved and question their motives. I don’t know their motives or enough detail to make a guess as to their character. But I do know that ad hominem attacks are not part of a coherent logical argument and do not support your case.

        Are you committed to ideology or to facts? Your irrelevant comments on ACORN and personal attacks on the people involved look like an argument based on particular worldview manufactured by pundits and ideologues rather than rational, independent consideration of the situation.

      2. @SouthernFriedSkeptic,
        Again, you miss the point. My understanding is that GuideOne is the largest church insurer in the nation. THIS IS THEIR AFFINITY MARKET. They are selling and cross selling to their market. I have often wondered why no one sues companies for “affinity marketing”. This is simply discriminatory! Geico gives discounts to government employees; I’m not a government employee, so I don’t get that discount. That’s discriminatory! AARP gives insurance discounts to its members only, that’s discrimination. One company was giving discounts to homosexuals–that’s discriminatory. We should sue them. Hundreds of insurance companies give discounts or special benefits to a select group of people–it’s called affinity marketing. I agree that that doesn’t seem fair. O.K.: let’s sue them all and stop all affinity marketing!

        If your bank gives you a discount on a loan because you have a large savings or checking account with them, that’s affinity marketing and cross selling: exactly what GuideOne was doing. Let’s sue all the banks. And how about your sub shop giving you free subs after you buy a certain number–hey, that’s not fair because I don’t belong to their sub card club! Let’s sue all the restaurants that have rewards. Oh, and what about those charge card rewards. What about the people who can’t get a reward card? Hmm…sounds Lille discrimination to me. Let’s sue all the card companies. Where does your logic end? Taken to it’s logical conclusion, it would stop commerce and the free Enterprise system. Or is that the genuine objective?

        You still didn’t answer the question: why don’t they just apply for the insurance for which they are qualified? GuideOne will insure atheists, agnostics, homosexuals, you name it. I am an agency owner and I have insured them myself in GuideOne. I maintain that it is obvious that they just wanted to SUE SOMEONE. They want something for nothing and still get preferential treatment. That’s why I called them low lifes. That must be what you are defending.

        This is my last post. I actually own a business and I must actually earn a living to pay taxes so others can cry about something and sue someone to get something for nothing. Good luck on your rationalizations for angry, selfish, self-centered, religiously bigoted people.

  5. Perhaps I did miss your point, Terry, since you did not mention affinity markets, but spent time discussing risky behavior and then went into a bunch of other “examples” of discrimination.

    All of these examples are pointless. We, in the United States, decided that certain types of discrimination (not all) are especially odious and fundamentally act to deny us our basic liberties. Among these is the freedom of religion. And thus, discrimination on the basis of religion, in effect prohibits one’s freedom to worship as they choose. This was codified in the Fair Housing Act which clearly prohibits discrimination by favoring one group over another on the basis of religious belief. You may want to repeal the Fair Housing Act, but that’s another topic. GuideOne blatantly violated the Act by discriminating on the basis of religion. They should have known the risk when they ignored the behavior.

    Some people think pot should be legalized. However, if they are caught with it, they go to jail. That’s because whatever their opinion on the law, they are obliged to follow it and must take responsibility when they break it. GuideOne must likewise take responsibility for violating the Fair Housing Act. To place all of the blame and responsibility on those bringing the lawsuit is like blaming the cops for arresting someone with pot without acknowledging the suspect’s role.

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