The Corpus Callosum

Discrimination Case: Religion

This is kind of strange: a post about an insurance company, that has
nothing to do with health care.   href="http://www.guideone.com/">Guideone Mutual Insurance
Company recently settled a lawsuit in which religious
discrimination was alleged.  This had to do with a “product”
called FaithGuard, which was a kind of homeowners’
insurance. 

In 2006, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development began an
investigation, after the GuideOne href="http://www.ohio.com/news/break_news/11860056.html">failed
to respond to a complaint:

GuideOne routinely asks for religious affiliation
when talking with prospective customers for homeowners insurance and a
special form asks applicants to state their religious denomination,
according to the suit.

The housing groups filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of
Housing and Urban Development in December 2006 after discovering the
FaithGuard program on the company’s Web site, Smith said. GuideOne
failed to respond to their concerns, leading to the lawsuit, she said.


The case led to  a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS184440+18-Sep-2009+PRN20090918">settlement,
unfavorable to GuideOne:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The
Justice Department today announced a settlement that, pending court
approval, will resolve allegations that the GuideOne Mutual Insurance
Company and two authorized agents discriminated because of religion
when they advertised special benefits and discounts only to
“churchgoers” and “persons of faith.” Under the settlement, the
defendants must pay a total of $29,500 to three victims of
discrimination, an additional $45,000 to the government as a civil
penalty and stop the alleged discriminatory practices.
The
complaint, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Western
District of Kentucky in conjunction with a proposed consent decree,
alleges that the defendants offered a special endorsement to
their homeowners and renters insurance policies at no extra charge
called FaithGuard, which provides special benefits and discounts only
to “churchgoers” and “persons of faith.”
[emphasis added]

It seems pretty obvious that companies are not supposed to do that.
  The specifics are found in the HUD Charge of Discrimination,
available href="http://www.nls.gov/utilities/intercept.cfm?/offices/fheo/enforcement/Baize_v._GuideOne_Mutual_Insurance_Company.pdf">here.

What is interesting is how persons of faith try to put a spin on this.
 GuideOne has a press release posted on their website:

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – March 24, 2009
– GuideOne Insurance, the National Fair Housing Alliance
(NFHA) and the Fair Housing Advocates Association (FHAA) today
announced an amicable resolution of the fair housing groups’
complaint against GuideOne filed in 2007.

The parties met to discuss their different interpretations of the Fair
Housing Act, and discovered that they all had the same goal –
to increase the availability of quality homeowners insurance to all
qualified homeowners. GuideOne, in an effort to eliminate any confusion
on the matter, will make some adjustments to its home insurance
product, and will enhance that product by adding a number of features
and coverages previously offered by endorsement. As a result, NFHA and
FHAA have dismissed their legal claims…

It makes it sound as though it was a pleasant interaction, as though
they sat down, had a cup of tea, and chatted a bit, only to discover
that they “all had the same goal.”  No mention of the fact
that they had to fork over around $75,000.  

Perhaps one should not be too harsh about this.  Most
corporations would word their press releases in the most favorable
light possible.  But look at one of the comments on href="http://caffeinatedthoughts.com/?p=3861"> Caffeinated
Thoughts:

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.

“there are certain things that Evangelicals wouldn’t do in
their home that an atheist would” ??? And what would those things be?
 Reading Darwin?  I’ve known quite a few atheists.
I’ve even been in their homes.  They tend to do things like
eat dinner, watch TV, play with their kids, build model airplanes, can
vegetables, wash clothes, sleep, and so on.  I’ve also know
quite a few religious persons, and have been in their homes.
 They seem to do pretty much the same things.  

The also is a post about this on Overlawyered, and a comment thread.
 Everyone addresses peripheral issues, not the core issues.
 The core issues, mentioned in the HUD complaint,
are:  religious persons got discounts, whereas others did not;
and, the insurance agents expressed a preference for persons of faith.
 

For what it is worth, GuideOne is listed as a bad-faith insurance
compny on the site, href="http://www.badfaithinsurance.org/indexdetaillist.html">Fight
Bad-Faith Insurance Companies.  I don’t know
anyhting about FBIC, so I can’t say whether the listing means anything.
 Casual browsing on the Internet turned up several complains
about GuideOne, but as FBIC notes, no company is without compalints.

Comments

  1. #1 Rob Jase
    September 21, 2009

    Well atheists summons demons in their homes so…no, they don’t believe in demons so forget thet.

    I know, atheists sacrifice burning goats to their gods…no, they don’t believe in gods.

    Of course! Atheists leave their Christmas lights on so they overheat and start fires! Angels make sure that doesn’t happen when believers leave their Christmas lights on.

    I knew I’d figure it out.

  2. #2 k8
    September 22, 2009

    The origins of GuideOne are in the Lutheran church. They used to provide insurance ONLY to members of Lutheran churches. Obviously their pool got a little small. I would imagine this was their link back to their origins.

    But somehow I don’t see this as being much different than a health insurance company discriminating against someone with pre-existing conditions. In this case – the pre-existing condition is a lack of faith.

  3. #3 Shay
    September 25, 2009

    No, the pre-existing condition is a lack of Christian faith. I know many highly religious people who don’t fall into that category; I wonder if they would qualify for a partial discount?

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