In order to enhance diversity, it was necessary to suppress it, cont’d: The GuideOne Mutual insurance company offers, in 19 states at last report, what it calls a “FaithGuard” policy rider with features it believes are valued by some churchgoers. In particular, to quote its critics, the rider
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 might make a family feel more confident about pledging material support or volunteer time to its church, by limiting the potential financial downside in case of accidents or misadventure. But now GuideOne is on the receiving end of a lawsuit filed by the National Fair Housing Alliance, on the grounds that the rider discriminates against non-churchgoers — which is to say, by providing benefits they would have no interest in purchasing. In particular, complains NFHA,
The benefits of FaithGuard 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 people in these latter categories would never be inclined to purchase FaithGuard in the first place, any more than people who never step on 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 eyes of NFHA, it’s apparently crucial not just that we non-churchgoers have access to every sort of risk coverage we might take a notion to buy, but that FaithGuard’s customers not have access to one they might like. Will the result of this lawsuit if successful be more diversity? Or, again, less? (earlier). More: Rick Armon, “Akron suit claims insurance for churchgoers discriminates”, Akron Beacon Journal, Nov. 27; Religion Clause (Howard M. Friedman), Nov. 28.