Church Insurance Cites ‘Act of God’ in Not Paying for Church’s Flood Damage

*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*

For anyone who is familiar with the Christian bible, an act of god is typically one of death and devastation, angry revenge, and a lesson to the faithful to stay obedient and toe the line. In fact, the conservative movement’s close relationship with evangelicals takes great advantage of “acts of god” to promote policies allowing them to deny other Americans their constitutionally-protected equal rights. It is a familiar line from evangelicals that a tornado, flood, or other natural disaster is an act of god to punish the nation as a whole for adhering to the Constitution’s equal right protections or electing an African American man as President.

In the legal world, primarily the legal insurance world, “act of god” is a catch all favored by the industry to deny covering damages that they claim are outside human control for which no-one can be held responsible, especially god. It was ironic, then, that an insurance company specializing in covering churches refused to pay for flood damage at a Pennsylvania church because they said it was an act of their god.

The pastor of the Connellsville Church of God, Reverend Nelson Confer, told a local news station that the Church Mutual Insurance company denied covering the flood damage because it was his god’s own hand that sent the four feet of water into the basement that destroyed an outside wall of the church.

Apparently, either the church is the recipient of some righteous vengeance from their righteous God for some kind of unrighteousness, or they are victims of the Church Mutual Insurance company’s typical industry ploy to avoid paying claims. Here’s the thing about the Connellsville church damage though; the church is located up on a hill above the floodwaters; the water caused drains to back up forcing 4 feet of water into the main hall collapsing an outside wall.

The church’s preacher, Reverend Confer said “the devastation on our whole church is unreal, but we serve a good god.” He also said that because they are being ripped off by the Church Mutual Insurance company, church volunteers were working tirelessly to clean up the damage. The church still holds services in the gymnasium until the humans clean up and repair all of god’s mess. Confer said, “I know god. He opened the door today, so many different blessing for us and helped us with different things so far. I know there’s more to come.” How much more can a church want coming after Americans subsidize these folks by picking up the tab for all manner of public services due to their tax-exempt status? Maybe the uphill flooding really was an act of god as righteous retribution for violating the Old Testament’s Tenth commandment prohibiting greed.

One thing that won’t be coming anytime soon is any financial help from the specialty insurance carrier that regularly collected church-goers’ hard-earned tithes to cover hazard insurance premiums because god acted out and flooded the church on a hill, albeit through backed-up drains. There are two issues the Connellsville church are missing that they may have proffered to convince the Church Mutual Insurance company that no, it was not god’s handiwork that flooded the church.

First, if the local drain system backed up severely enough to send water up a hill and into the church; it is an act of a man, or group of men, who didn’t adequately plan the drains. Any plumber and common sense informs that water naturally runs downhill. There had to have been a serious issue with the area’s drainage pipes if the water actually flowed uphill. Second, there are mountains of scientific data revealing that one of the effects of anthropogenic (man-made, not god) climate change was increased and severe weather that leads to increased and more severe flooding. Nobody’s god did that, man burning fossil fuels did.

Although there’s some irony in this circumstance, it does shine a light on an industry practice that was created solely to deny covering damages to buildings. For example, when a neighbor cut down a tree and it collapsed on another neighbor’s roof causing serious damage, a secular insurance company cited a clause in the policy that said any tree damage is regarded as an act of god; not crappy lumberjack skills. In another, a car driving too fast on a wet road during a rainstorm skidded into a home and because weather is regarded as an act of god and the reason the roads were wet, the claim was denied.

Act of god is overused legally and devised specifically to allow insurance companies to deny paying claims and it is a kind of insurance reform few Americans would oppose. Anything can be considered an act of god when it suits the insurance industry. What was missing from this and other similar incidents is blaming gays, contraception, or President Obama for bringing the wrath of god down on some poor innocents. It is a convenience that recently was not used by Tony Perkins whose home was flooded during the Louisiana deluges. Perkins regularly claims natural disasters are his god’s wrath on America for whatever Perkins says is contrary to god’s will; usually it is that pesky Constitution, gays, contraception or President Obama.

No matter what the Church Mutual, or any other, Insurance company claims, there was nothing god-related about drains backing up and flooding a church. It was likely a combination of bad drain planning and climate change-caused flooding. If the church had saved those tithes and taxpayer largesse in the form of tax-free operation instead of sending it off to an insurance company specializing in ripping off the faithful, they wouldn’t have had to blame their god, but he is, if nothing else, a very convenient excuse – for rip-off insurance companies and the religious right malcontents feverishly trying to force god into the public forum to commit more acts through his Republican facilitators.