Liability Insurance for Churches
From the Bible
... be wise as serpents and innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16).
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all (Romans 12:17).
When one man's ox butts another's, so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and share its price, and the dead beast also they shall share. Or if it is known that the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has not kept it in, he shall repay ox for ox, and the dead beast shall be his (Exodus 21:35-36).
When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? (1 Corinthians 6:1)
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise (Ephesians 5:15).
From the News
Portland, Oregon, 2018 - A Portland church was sued for more than two million dollars by an events hosting business which had rented a building owned by the church. The church refused to allow property it owned to be used for an LGBTQ event, but when pressured the event hosting business agreed to host the event for free. Then the church evicted the event provider for violating the moral clause of the rental contract. The business closed and the owners sued the church.
Gardena, California, February 2020 - The family of a woman killed by her former boyfriend in the parking lot of a church sued the church for not protecting her. The man attacked her after she left a Bible study. The family said that the pastor and security head of the church "intimately" knew the couple and the troubled relationship and should have done more to protect her.
Scott Depot, West Virginia, December 28, 2017 - A church in Scott Depot was sued by a woman who came to attend an event. She slipped and fell on her way to the church building after being directed to park in an unlit grassy area. Her knee was injured, and she had to be taken to the hospital.
Nationwide, 2017 - For a decade, child sexual abuse had been the reason for most lawsuits against churches. In 2016, property disputes became the leading cause. Throughout the same decade, personal injury has been the second or third leading lawsuit claim, and child sexual abuse is still in the top three.
Lancaster, Pennsylvania, February 9, 2020 - In a church office on Sunday morning, the handgun of a volunteer church security team member was accidentally discharged into the floor. Fragments of the bullet hit two other team members - one received stitches in his cheek. The team member whose gun was fired has been charged with negligent injury and reckless endangerment.
Why Do Churches Need Insurance?
Well, really, why would anyone need insurance? Property may be damaged. Injuries happen, some needing medical attention. Financial losses may be caused by theft, robbery, and embezzlement. If the losses or costs are small or moderate, they can be managed by the church, but if they are substantial, they could be catastrophic. Add to this, in this litigious society, the likelihood of being sued over just about anything. Legal fees alone can be more than an individual or an organization can bear.
History of Insurance
Insurance developed to cover catastrophic losses. At first, it was not in written policies with coverages and exclusions, premiums and co-payments. Insurance began as risk sharing. Neighbors would help each other in times of distress, such as storm damage or a house fire. Merchants divided their goods onto several ships or into several caravans, sharing the risks of shipwrecks, piracy, or banditry. Loss of one ship or caravan would not be a total loss for any one merchant. Through about four millennia, insurance developed into the insurance industry we have today with insurance companies, agents, policies, and insurance laws and regulations. This now includes liability insurance and attorneys specializing in defending those facing civil lawsuits or criminal charges.
Liability Risks of Churches
Since a Church Safety Ministry operates as part of a church, the church itself bears the risk of liability incurred by its Safety Ministry. In a sense, then, the Safety Team itself is a liability risk. Any actions taken by the ministry or any of its members which result in injuries or violate laws will not only reflect on the church's public image and reputation, but can expose the church to lawsuits and/or criminal charges. As happened in Portland, a church enforcing its policies can be subject to a lawsuit by those opposing their stand. Expectations of protection can also lead to lawsuits, as in Gardena.
The three most common reasons a church is sued are child sexual abuse, personal injury, and property disputes. Most of the time, the costs of medical treatment of accidental injuries at church or a church-related event are covered by insurance claims. However, as happened in Scott Depot, an injured person may sue the church alleging negligence or malfeasance.
Besides direct liability, there are also risks of substantial or catastrophic losses caused by fire, structural failures, and natural or human-caused disasters. A church needs property insurance to cover major losses, those greater than what the church can afford. The higher the deductible is, the lower the premiums will be.
Future premiums are generally determined by the church's claims record. More claims and higher payouts for claims will raise premiums. The church may be rewarded with lower premiums for a good safety record with fewer and less costly claims. Good maintenance and housekeeping should pay off with fewer and less severe or costly injuries and property damage and lower insurance premiums.
Premiums can also reflect local risk, which means a higher or lower risk rating for the church by its location. If your church is in a high risk area, expect your premiums to be higher.
Liability Risks of Safety Team Members
Not only the church, but individuals working for the church may face civil and/or criminal liability. This means, first of all, legal expenses. If a staffer, pastor, safety team member, or any other volunteer is found liable or guilty in a court of law, the result could be an expensive judgment or fine plus court costs, perhaps jail time. If the medical profession is any example, malpractice insurance is rather expensive, almost prohibitive. However, there are plans (insurance?) to cover an individual's legal expenses.
Coverage for Churches and Volunteers
The good news is that while churches and their staff and volunteers face possibilities of great damages and legal and criminal liability, there is insurance and legal coverage for these exigencies. Most insurance companies will cover churches for property losses, injuries, and lawsuits. There are several who actually specialize in covering places of worship and their people. Two of these are Brotherhood Mutual and U.S. LawShield.
In 1917, a group of Mennonites started a mutual insurance company to provide fire insurance for churches. Now Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, based in Fort Wayne, Indiana, is the second-largest provider of insurance to churches and church-related institutions, such as schools and daycare centers. Their policies now include Property & Liability, Workers' Compensation, Accident Insurance, Mission Protection, Commercial Auto, and Cyber Liability Insurance.
Brotherhood Mutual does more than sell insurance and process claims. They are also active in risk abatement (reducing risk), which they call "Risk Management." Their agents can help you in evaluating the risks your church faces and advise you on how to reduce them. More than that, they have an Online Safety Library with resources for making the church a safer and more healthful place, such as:
- Risk Management Articles (Free ministry risk management articles, created to help you keep your ministry safe)
- Risk Management Forms (Sample forms, sample policies, and checklists designed to help ministries manage risks to their people and property)
- Risk Management Videos (Watch to learn how you can reduce risk in your ministry)
- Publications (Risk management guidebooks to help prepare your ministry)
Other resources include guides to Background Screening, Church Security, Legal Assist, and Ministry Payroll. They also have Online Training and a Safety eNewsletter.
For more information about Brotherhood Mutual or to request a quote, click here.
In 2009, a group of lawyers organized to help people - legal firearms owners - to defend themselves in the legal system when they defend themselves against criminals. The basis for this was the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the right to keep and bear arms. They offered their services to those who owned and used guns legally, especially those with concealed-carry weapons permits. What they provide is "Legal Defense for Self Defense."
They chose a name indicating that they provided a law shield - Texas LawShield. Their success in the Lone Star State led to gun owners in other states applying for their services, so a name change was in order. The name has transitioned through U.S. & Texas LawShield to U.S LawShield.
U.S. LawShield describes their service as "the most comprehensive (and affordable) Legal Defense for Self Defense Program." According to them, they are not an insurance company. Neither are they a law firm. They are a service linking members to attorneys who practice in that area of law.
Whereas with an insurance company, you buy a policy, you join U.S LawShield as a member. With membership, you get access to a "24/7/365 Emergency Attorney Hotline." If you call, you won't be talking with a computer. Nor will you talk with a call center in a foreign country, or even here. A real attorney will answer your call.
What does your membership cover? Everything from subpoena to judgment. Suppose it is a criminal case, and you are acquitted. Civil lawsuits may follow, with appeals. All this is covered, too.
When it comes to self-defense, don't assume that it is automatically legal. State laws vary on the level of force justified in defending yourself or others. Some states have a "Duty to Retreat." Others have various versions of the "Castle Doctrine" or "Stand Your Ground." Some describe the mix of Use-of-Force laws among the states as "legal spaghetti." No wonder! Therefore, U.S LawShield has lawyers for most states.
U.S LawShield covers all legal weapons and has up-to-date information on gun laws by state. They also educate members in self-defense law and schedule events (subject to Coronavirus restrictions). You can customize your membership to suit your individual needs.
U.S LawShield briefly describes their benefits as Legal Defense Protection, Multi-State Protection, and Minor Child Protection. If you wish to join U.S LawShield, you can click here. At this site you can "Chat with an Expert."
When your church experiences a substantial loss or liability, you need insurance. When defending yourself gets you into legal trouble, you need a lawyer. Two premier providers of these services are Brotherhood Mutual and U.S. LawShield.
- Aaron Earls, "Church Sued for $2.3 Million Over LGBT Event," Facts & Trends, June 5, 2018 [https://factsandtrends.net/2018/06/05/church-sued-for-2-3-million-over-lgbt-event/].
- Contributing Editor, "Man, Church Sued in Fatal Stabbing of His Ex-Girlfriend in Gardena," My News LA, February 21, 2020 [https://mynewsla.com/crime/2020/02/21/man-church-sued-in-fatal-stabbing-of-his-ex-girlfriend-in-gardena/].
- Marian Johns, "Woman who fell at Scott Depot church alleges knee injuries, seeks damages," West Virginia Record, February 12, 2020 [https://wvrecord.com/stories/525269256-woman-who-fell-at-scott-depot-church-alleges-knee-injuries-seeks-damages].
- Kate Shellnutt, "The No. 1 Reason Churches End Up in Court Is No Longer Abuse: For the first time in a decade, there's a new lawsuit leader," Christianity Today, August 3, 2017 [https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2017/august/top-5-reasons-church-lawsuits-child-sexual-abuse-property.html].
- Dan Nephin, "Security guard charged with firing gun that injured 2 at Worship Center," Lancaster Online (LNP Media Group), Mar 12, 2020 [https://lancasteronline.com/news/local/security-guard-charged-with-firing-gun-that-injured-2-at-worship-center/article_960a4842-648e-11ea-8197-eb76ec5e4997.html].
- "History of Insurance," Wikipedia [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_insurance].
- "Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company," Wikipedia [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brotherhood_Mutual_Insurance_Company].
- "Safety Library," Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company [https://www.brotherhoodmutual.com/resources/safety-library/].
- "Resources," Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company [https://www.brotherhoodmutual.com/resources/].
- "Request a Quote," Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company [https://www.brotherhoodmutual.com/request-a-quote/].
- "About," U.S LawShield [https://www.uslawshield.com/about-us-2/].
- U.S. LawShield (SDCS Affiliate Link) [https://www.uslawshield.com/?affid=f83659a7-c044-11e9-a753-02fcb63ac2fe].