Insurer Will Pay $74,000 Settlement for Discriminating Against Atheists & Agnostics

     (CN) - An insurance company will pay $74,000 to settle a claim that it discriminated against agnostics and atheists. Des Moines-based GuideOne Mutual Insurance offered homebuyers, owners and renters in 19 states special benefits and discounts if they were churchgoers.
     The United States' lawsuit against GuideOne and two of its offices stemmed from complaints filed by an atheist, an agnostic, and the Lexington, Ky., Fair Housing Council, in Louisville Federal Court.
     The defendants agreed to pay a total of $29,500 to three plaintiffs and a $45,000 civil penalty. 
     GuideOne also must remove from its policy applications a space for the applicant's religious denomination; develop new, nondiscriminatory insurance offerings; train its employees and agents on the Fair Housing Act; and provide periodic reports to the Justice Department.
     The complaint states the for 4 years GuideOne and co-defendants the Young Insurance Agency and Robert and Charolottea Lee dba Lee Insurance Agency offered a "FaithGuard" policy for churchgoers.
     Benefits of the FaithGuard endorsement included waiving the insurance deductible if personal property was lost while in the care, custody or control of the insured's church; paying church tithes or donations up to $740 if the insured suffered a loss of income from a disability caused by an accident at home; and doubling medical limits for an injury if the insured person was injured while attending a church activity.
     The benefits were not made available to policyholders who suffered a covered loss or disability while engaged in similar activities not related to a church or religious activity, or who were not churchgoers, prosecutors said.
     Agnostic Nicolas Valenzuela and atheist Anthony Baize said they decided not to buy a policy from GuideOne after learning that it "expressed a preference for religious persons in general, and Christians in particular." The Lexington Fair Housing Council used testers to verify their claims.
     The consent decree says the policy is discriminatory and violates the Fair Housing Act.