Insurer Pays Settlement for Discrimination Against Atheists and Agnostics
September 28, 2009
Last Friday the DeMoines, Iowa-based insurance company GuideOne Mutual agreed to pay a $74,000 settlement for a claim that it violated the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against atheists and agnostics. The federal government's lawsuit against GuideOne and two of its offices followed complaints filed by two individual plaintiffs - an atheist and an agnostic - and the Lexington, Kentucky Fair Housing Council. According to the complaint, GuideOne and co-defendants the Young Insurance Agency and Robert and Charolottea Lee, doing business as Lee Insurance Agency, offered a "FaithGuard" policy that was available solely to churchgoers.
FaithGuard policy aplications included a space for the applicant's religious denomination. Under the policy, insurance deductibles were waived if property was lost while in the care, custody or control of the policyholder's church. The policy also paid church tithes or donations of up to $740 in the event of a loss of income or a disability caused by an accident in the home. Medical limits for injuries were doubled for those who suffered injuries - but only for those sustained while attending a church-related activity. These benefits were not offered to policyholders who suffered a loss or disability while engaged in non-religious activities, or who did not attend church.
The two individual plaintiffs, agnostic Nicolas Valenzuela and atheist Anthony Baize, refused to buy a policy from GuideOne after learning that it "expressed a preference for religious persons in general, and Christians in particular."