By Daniel James Devine, World Magazine.
Rumors swirled last week after someone leaked a memo from a church insurance company. The internal bulletin addressed same-sex marriage and said a church that refused to marry a gay couple, if sued, would not be covered under the company’s regular liability policy. That seemed to suggest a serious new problem: Would insurance companies abandon churches that believe marriage can only be between one man and one woman?
“Homosexual agenda causing churches to lose insurance,” one website headline warned.
Now the president of the insurer that issued the bulletin, Southern Mutual Church Insurance Company, says he wants to set the record straight.
“I can’t speak for the industry, but I can absolutely tell you, when it comes to Southern Mutual Church Insurance, that is false,” Robert Bates told me this week. “Churches are not in jeopardy of losing their insurance coverage because of the belief that they choose to practice.”
Following the Supreme Court’s June decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized same-sex marriage across the country, church leaders are worried about the possibility of being sued if they refuse to host a gay wedding.
The insurance bulletin, sent to sales agents by Southern Mutual’s vice president of underwriting, David Karns, said churches have been calling the company with their concerns.
“We have received numerous calls and emails regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriages,” said the bulletin, published online by National Review. “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.
“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.”
The bulletin continued: “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.”
Bates told me the bulletin was not a position statement and was not intended to deny coverage, but the opposite.