DETROIT - In a letter to one of the largest insurers of churches in the country, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan expressed deep concern today over the company’s policy to deny churches coverage based on “controversial” stances.
Last summer, Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company of Indiana denied the West Adrian United Church of Christ in Michigan insurance because its denomination may support same-sex marriage and the ordination of openly gay clergy. The company claims that these positions are an insurance risk because they may result in vandalism and lawsuits.
“We are troubled by Brotherhood Mutual’s rationale for denying coverage to West Adrian United Church of Christ,” said Jay Kaplan, ACLU of Michigan LGBT Project Staff Attorney. “We are concerned that Brotherhood Mutual has made a subjective judgment as to what constitutes an insurance risk, without any regards to actual facts to support this contention.”
In the denial letter to the church, Brotherhood Mutual said “based on national media reports, controversial stances such as those indicated in your application responses have resulted in property damage and the potential for increased litigation among churches that have chosen to publicly endorse these positions.” However, when pressed by the Wall Street Journal, a Brotherhood Mutual spokesperson said that the company “didn't have any examples of violence attributable to a church's support for gay clergy or same-sex marriage” and could not cite specific lawsuits. Furthermore, national experts believe there is no evidence proving that churches in support of marriage equality are vandalized more often.
In addition, Reverend John Kottke of the West Adrian Church said that there have been no acts of violence or threats against his church, or its parent organization. Furthermore, unlike other local branches of the United Church of Christ, West Adrian has never officially endorsed a resolution affirming gay rights.
According to the ACLU of Michigan’s letter, “While churches have had their coverage revoked in the past in response to specific acts of violence or property damage, we believe that is highly unusual for an insurance company to deny coverage because of fears about a backlash regarding a political position, rather than actual acts of violence or threats of violence against the church.”
The ACLU also learned that this is not the first time that Brotherhood Mutual has taken negative action against a church for its supportive stance on gay issues. In 2003, after being insured for 13 years, the Skyridge Church of the Brethren in Kalamazoo had its insurance terminated because it took “a stand on the controversial issue of ordaining homosexuals,” as stated in a letter to the church.
The ACLU cautioned against the insurance companies policies, stating that they “provide an open invitation for insurance companies to discriminate against churches based on their political viewpoints.”