Because of the many types of activities in which ministries, worship centers and other religious organizations are involved, they face an expanding number of liability risks – everything from general liability exposures to professional liability, directors and officers and employment practices lawsuits. Let’s take a look at some of these risks and why it’s important for institutions to have the proper religious organizations insurance in place.
Just as with any other type of entity, the condition of an institution’s premises is key in preventing and minimizing premises liability exposures. This is particularly salient as most religious organizations are open to the public not only during worship hours but also for various community gatherings such as choir practice, weddings, baptisms, bar/bat mitzvahs, AA meetings, etc. The premises should be well maintained, be in compliance with local codes and made as safe as reasonably possible for members, guests and anyone else who comes to the facility.
What’s more, the extent of liability exposures increases depending on the number and type of activities a religious institution sponsors. If the organization runs a children’s summer camp, for example, there is everything from swimming to boating, biking, climbing, etc. involved where one negligent act can be costly for an institution. There is also the potential for food poisoning from dining services, injuries from sporting activities and other risks that require robust safety precautions and proper supervision. General Liability insurance limits should reflect the exposure of the institution, depending on its various operations and activities and the assets it has at stake.
In addition, due to the counseling activities of clergy, teachers and others at a religious institution, its professional liability exposure is very real. Over the years, suits have been filed against clergy and their organizations for claims involving, for example, failure to refer an individual for necessary professional care or exerting undue influence over another person. The cost to defend such claims is significant. Professional Liability coverage is an integral component of any religious organization’s comprehensive insurance program to address this exposure and respond with defense and remuneration protection.
Sexual abuse and molestation allegations are also a very real concern for religious organizations. Numerous lawsuits have been brought against worship centers, schools and camps for sexual abuse committed by clergy, teachers, day care workers, counselors and students. These suits generally allege, among other things, negligence in hiring or supervising the offender, negligence in supervising the children and failing to take proper action when molestation is suspected or reported. Robust screening and hiring practices of prospective employees and volunteer workers and thorough, well-defined supervisory guidelines and educational programs are critical toward preventing sexual abuse allegations and incidents. Securing Sexual Abuse & Molestation insurance is also essential in protecting the viability and reputation of an organization in the event of a lawsuit of this nature.
Non-profits and their board members commonly face directors and officers lawsuits for an extended list of alleged wrongdoings, including discrimination (age, race, sex, employment, membership), harassment, wrongful termination of employees, inefficient administration or supervision, waste of assets, misleading reports or other misrepresentations, libel and slander, failure to deliver services, and acts beyond the granted authority, among others. In addition to lawsuits and potential adverse judgments, the cost to defend an organization and its executives, employees and volunteers in the event of a lawsuit can be devastating, which is why having Directors & Officers Liability insurance is so important.
Again, as with any type of operation, allegations of employment practices violations is also a liability risk all religious organizations encounter. Lawsuits alleging discrimination, sexual harassment and wrongful termination are all concerns for religious organizations. They should be familiar with state and federal laws that impact hiring, employment and termination practices and establish guidelines in accordance with the law. Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) will step in should an institution be faced with an employee-brought suit.
RPS provides religious institutions with the insurance program and coverage solutions they require to continue to provide the services they perform. We will work with you to put into place a robust program that addresses each of your insured’s exposures.