CLH Insurance President, Chuck Hembree breaks down what is included and what should be considered when building a church insurance policy. Welcome to our wheelhouse.
Below is a transcript of the episode, lightly modified for your reading pleasure.
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[Chuck HEMBREE] So a church is not just a shoe store or another retail store. It's a unique organization that needs unique resources and coverages and we have all of those resources and more to provide the church and that;s why we feel like we're uniquely positioned to help out with church insurance in this special niche that we're privileged to work in.
[Grant FINLEY] Welcome to another episode of Your Insurance Connection Podcast by CLH Insurance. I’m Grant Finley.
As CLH Insurance president, Chuck Hembree, mentioned, a church requires unique coverage, but what does a church absolutely need to get started?
[HEMBREE] A small church thinks that generally what they need is something to protect the building and some general liability for slip and fall. And you can start there, but when we say general liability, that's where we may have differing thoughts about what's covered there. General liability means we're going to cover any property damage that the church might cause because of its operation, or bodily injury. So if somebody slips and falls, we didn't get the ice cleaned up, but those are just the beginning parts, the elementary parts of church insurance and then when you build beyond that, that's when you want a church insurance specialist who really understand the ins and outs of a church.
[FINLEY] Let’s take a closer look at some of the instances a church should be keeping in mind when considering additions to a basic policy and how the right coverage will allow them to maintain the focus on their message and not on any legal troubles.
[HEMBREE] There are ways we can protect the church from being sued because of what it says or the stance that it takes. We know that churches widely differ on their position on what is a biblical view of marriage. Some have the view that marriage has evolved over the years, and have no problem with any gay or lesbian relationship and that's one end of the spectrum all the way to another end of the spectrum that may say, "No we believe that the Bible says that that's between one original biological male, one original biological female, and we have a position on sexual orientation." and so we have these two extremes and it's our job as church protectors to provide coverage and protection for both views.
[FINLEY] This can be a tricky topic as of late, so Chuck offers up some suggestions churches can undertake to put themselves in a position to be in favor of a court’s ruling on these matters.
[HEMBREE] We encourage churches, wherever they stand on biblical marriage, sexual orientation and so forth, that they put that into their bylaws, that they put that into their constitution. We encourage them to put scripture with it so that it backs up their belief. And then, their facility use agreements, their wedding policies - all of those reflect their doctrinal view and that way they've stated to someone, "Here's how we think and here's what we believe." and the courts have sided with that many times.
[FINLEY] Let’s move to another topic that makes headlines in all the wrong ways – sexual misconduct, whether it’s against minors, women, or any other group that may find themselves assaulted.
[HEMBREE] Because a church is an organization that generally welcomes family and children, we need to be particularly careful how we work with kids and that we protect kids and children, because they are the lifeblood of the church of tomorrow. And so we want to show proper care there. So sexual abuse, child molestation is an extremely important coverage, and protecting other members from sexual harassment and so forth - particularly important in the #MeToo movement and we've seen that all over the news. And a lot of folks think they have the coverage and they really do not.
[FINLEY] Unfortunately we live in a world and during a specific point in time where these topics that no one likes to think about have to be discussed and ultimately protected against. This includes the reality of active shooters and gun violence in churches.
[HEMBREE] So a church provider, they can provide protection for those types of situations in a church. Where a normal retail, business owner's policy is not going to provide. And we are knowledgeable in being able to provide coverage for those who are on the security operations team and can understand concealed carry and active shooter risk management.
[FINLEY] It’s common for pastors to offer advice or counseling for members of their congregation, but what if the unthinkable happens. Can a pastor be on the hook for the counseling they gave?
[HEMBREE] Pastors are always doing marriage counseling, psychological counseling - to an extent, but we can provide provide pastoral counseling for them too. What it's protecting against is when someone says that counseling was not effective. A few years ago, John MacArthur's church was sued because John MacArthur, along with some of his other counselors on the counseling staff were advising a teen who was really struggling with depression and ultimately the teen committed suicide and the family sued because they felt like the counseling was not effective. It didn't keep him from committing suicide. Well the church needs protection in those particular types of cases and so that's what pastoral counseling is providing coverage for.
[FINLEY] Churches will spread their message far and wide and that will inevitably take them overseas, but can you expect the same coverage and protection outside of the united states?
[HEMBREE] Just like we're in a global economy, churches are going global too. They go overseas, on mission trips, they sponsor missions that are overseas. They may even establish churches that are overseas, and so when we conduct the church's operation outside of the normal policy territory of the United States, its territories and possessions, then we're entering areas where foreign courts are going to have jurisdiction and the normal policy doesn't protect us there. So worldwide liability coverage is important when we get outside of the United States. Obviously personal injury in Singapore is not going to be interpreted the same as personal injury in the United States, and the court systems are not the same. So worldwide liability protects the church and gives them defense coverage and provides with defense even in foreign countries, which is an amazing coverage.
[FINLEY] So the church itself may be able to add worldwide coverage to protect their operations, but it’s also worth pointing out that a church sponsored mission trip, with members from the congregation, requires a different coverage that is also available and easily added to a policy. Another important area to consider is the church leadership.
[HEMBREE] Every not for profit, generally every one has a board of directors that gives oversight and direction to the organization and in a church it's no different. Now, we might not call them directors and officers, we might call them deacons or trustees and we need to protect that so directors and officers is a must that any not for profit needs.
[FINLEY] Let’s switch gears and look at some of the property considerations that may need to be added to a basic policy.
[HEMBREE] One here in this area, on the east side of Missouri and down into Tennessee is, of course, earthquake. Now I might not need earthquake if I'm in the middle of the state. I may desire it, or I may think, "No, it's not much of a peril there," but certainly on the east side of the state we want to include earthquake, which is never included, it's always an endorsement.
Equipment breakdown. Churches tend to have lots of equipment. Audio visual equipment of all kinds, computers, they have lights and HVAC, like a lot of other things, and those need special protection. So we always look at equipment breakdown to give that extra protection that's not covered by the underlying perils of lightning and wind and so forth.
[FINLEY] One more property coverage that probably deserves your attention because people often assume this protection comes standard is water damage.
[HEMBREE] Water damage is more than just a pipe breaking or a toilet over flowing. Those are covered in virtually any kind of package. And so we look at things like surface water damage or flood. Are we in an area where that's a probability? Or maybe it seems like a distance probability but we're in a flood plane. Do we need to do that?
[FINLEY] Two other common policies that aren’t part of a basic policy, but churches would be wise to consider are workers compensation and hired and non-owned auto. As has been previously said, and hopefully now you agree a church requires specialized protection. Fortunately, that’s directly in CLH’s wheelhouse.
[HEMBREE] It's great to be able to talk about churches because that's near and dear to my heart and we feel like we have some really deep expertise in this area.
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