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Earthquake-Battered Church Wins Lawsuit

WASHINGTON (CN) - An insurer must cover the restoration of a Washington, D.C. church damaged in an earthquake that rocked Virginia in 2011, a federal judge ruled.

The Feb. 11 by U.S. Judge John Bates cites an "ambiguous" policy from Des Moines, Iowa-based GuideOne Mutual Insurance Company.

GuideOne's policy did not state whether clearly enough the agreement between National Presbyterian Church and the insurance company required full replacement of the church's limestone-paneled facade, or simply enough money to repair what had been damaged in the Aug. 23, 2011 earthquake that reached magnitude 5.8.

Bates said National Presbyterian Church leadership sought to ensure that any repairs to the structure's facade matched the undamaged remaining panels. The aesthetic quality of the church's structure, Bates wrote, is of importance.

"Because the insurance policy is ambiguous, the court must find in favor of the church: hence, matching is required," the ruling states.

National Presbyterian Church dates to the mid-1900s, when First Presbyterian Church and Church of the Covenant - each located in the nation's capital - merged. National Presbyterian Church has called its 12-acre campus at 4101 Nebraska Ave. NW, home since 1960.

With a parishioner base of more than 1,500, National Presbyterian Church had the cornerstone of its main cathedral laid by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1967, according to the church's website.

Among the noted attractions at the church is its Chapel of the Presidents, which seats more than 250 parishioners and features six windows depicting Eisenhower and other former U.S. presidents: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Eisenhower was baptized at the church in 1953 and remained a parishioner throughout his stay at The White House.

The 2011 earthquake rocked a substantial portion of the Mid-Atlantic region and was felt by millions of people extending into the northeast and even parts of southern Canada. In addition to National Presbyterian Church, extensive damage was reported to two other Washington, D.C., landmarks - the Washington Monument and National Cathedral.

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