Another Domino Falls after Obergefell: Church Liability Insurance

Getting the Supreme Court to dogmatize on same sex “marriage” may succeed in ending church liability insurance.

Even without a First Amendment legal revolution in place yet, the mere threat of lawsuits might already be stripping the church of normal legal protections. David French writes at the National Review, “For Churches That Won’t Perform Same-Sex Weddings, Insurance Begins to Look Iffy.”

Churches, like virtually every functioning corporation, protect against liability risks and the potentially ruinous costs of litigation through liability insurance. With same-sex marriage now recognized as a constitutional right — and with news of Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries awarding a lesbian couple $135,000 in damages for “emotional, mental and physical suffering” after a Christian bakery refused to bake their wedding cake — pastors are reaching out to insurance companies to make sure they’re covered. And at least one insurer has responded with a preemptory denial: no coverage if a church is sued for refusing to perform a same-sex wedding.

On July 1, David Karns, vice president of underwriting at Southern Mutual Church Insurance Company (which “serve[s] more than 8,400 churches”), wrote an “all states” agents’ bulletin addressing same-sex marriage. It begins: “We have received numerous calls and emails regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriages. The main concern is whether or not liability coverage applies in the event a church gets sued for declining to perform a same-sex marriage.” Karns continues:

“The general liability form does not provide any coverage for this type of situation, since there is no bodily injury, property damage, personal injury, or advertising injury. If a church is concerned about the possibility of a suit, we do offer Miscellaneous Legal Defense Coverage. This is not liability coverage, but rather expense reimbursement for defense costs.”

There is no coverage for any judgments against an insured. In other words: Churches, you’re on your own.

I don’t blame Southern Mutual for their statement and policy. Unlike believers in Obamacare, I know that insurance is based on statistical probabilities regarding unforeseen events. Churches that refuse to pretend the power to marry people of the same sex are basically, from the standpoint of the insurance company, provoking a lawsuit. Furthermore, this is a brand new legal environment and no insurer can possibly calculate the risks or the statistical probability of a church being sued.

This is happening now in real time. Churches are effectively losing protections thanks to Justice [sic] Kennedy and the Furies. In the meantime, people who call themselves Christians are applauding all this and blaming their more faithful Christian brothers and sisters for the persecution they are about to suffer.

May God have mercy.