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Insurance Companies Crying Wolf to the Churches

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Richard O. Jones
During the 1990s when a disproportionate number of Black churches were being burned to the ground by arsonists, especially in the South, naturally, and opportunistically, the insurance companies increased fire coverage for Black churches in the South. In a frantic rush, insurance companies began to send out agents to lecture the churches on how to detect a potential arsonist within their congregation.  As a result Black church members became paranoid or at least highly suspicious of visitors, especially white ones. Church deacons and ushers were instructed to rush into restrooms and inspect for smoke every time a stranger exited.  Panic grew as the allegedly racist burning of Black churches gradually spread to other areas of America.  Churches were beginning to close their doors because they could no longer afford the rising rates of fire insurance. However, fire investigators began to suspect that many of the fires were not the work of White racists but by Black pastors and other church officers to collect insurance money and rebuild another church. As a result, several Black pastors and church members throughout America were arrested, pled guilty, and convicted of arson upon their own churches.

Today the insurance companies are running fearful and creating a paranoid atmosphere within the churches in America as a result of the wide spread sexual scandals in the Catholic Church. Many insurance companies won’t even insure a Catholic Church. Although sexual misconduct in the church has been a realty since the beginning of churches, as in all other facets of life, insurance companies encouraging all churches to circle the wagons against becoming easy targets for sexual misconduct lawsuits.  A few weeks ago, our church gathered to be lectured to by our insurance company representative about how to reduce the risk of child molestation and financial theft within the church. One of the first things the agent said was that we should do a background check on all members before they are allowed to work with the children. We were further encouraged not to allow a lone adult to drive a child home. It was even suggested that if a parent doesn’t arrive to the church to pickup their own child after church or a church function, church officials should call the police and report the child abandoned rather than transport the child themselves. To add ridiculous to impractical we were asked do a background check on all members working with church funds. And as far as theft is concerned, a large number of Black men with criminal and/or prison records are rehabilitated, bornagain and are now pastors. Should they be barred from trust because of their past? Only a few disciples in the Bible could get insurance by today’s new insurance guidelines.  The insurance representative acknowledged that a close family friend or family member molests most children more often than an outsider. With that being the case, how can the church protect a child from the possibility of a perverted family member driving the child home? Furthermore, very few Catholic Priests, if any, had a criminal record of child molestation.

The Bible says that God is not a respecter of persons; however, that does not apply to the insurance company. If any type person should be scrutinized then everyone should be scrutinized. What about the car thieve? Do we want an ex-car thieve around our church parking lot? Do we want an ex-murderer working in our church kitchen with the opportunity to poison everybody? What about mental patients and former mental patients, should the church begin to screen for them too?

Should we allow an ex-arsonist to light the candles? Insurance companies should stay out of God’s business stop being church doorkeepers.  And the church must not become insurance company vigilantes; however, more vigilant of the responsibility to protect everyone in and outside of the church.


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