Our places of worship are revered, quiet houses of prayer, reflection, and spiritual meditation. They are also gathering places to celebrate weddings, religious holidays, community events and host funerals and memorials.

Though the pandemic may have changed how Canadians interact with religious services, data suggests that 74% of Canadians who identify with a religious denomination want a return to pre-pandemic levels of in-person worship, but only 37% expect things to return to how they were before COVID-19.

Nevertheless, whether at a church, temple, synagogue, mosque, or chapel, religious and community gatherings are typically large, varied, and may pose several legal risks from which even places of sanctuary are not immune. That’s why these organizations, their boards of directors, and employees need a church insurance policy to protect them from the myriad of liabilities they face. After all, places of worship operate as non-profit organizations, and they tend to face public scrutiny.

The inside of a church

In general, there are six types of liable risks faith-based organizations face that should be addressed:

1. Protecting the Property

Buildings that house religious organizations tend to feature ornate furniture, stained glass windows, expensive or historical property, including organs, pianos, sound systems, religious artifacts, and gold and silver items. Like any non-profit, charitable organization, or private enterprise, the buildings, furnishings, and contents of any place of worship requires commercial property insurance. It is designed to provide financial support for damage or loss resulting from severe weather, fire, flood, or theft.

2. Protecting Business Vehicles

Does your religious organization have a van or other vehicle to transport people or materials to and from religious services or run weekly errands? If so, be sure to purchase commercial auto insurance coverage for it since commercial property insurance does not cover damages to vehicles or provide coverage if you are involved in a collision.

3. Hosting Special Events

Whether you’re renting a gymnasium or large room at your property to host a wedding reception, a charity fundraiser, or other community events, you need to include short-term special events liability coverage. It covers third-party bodily injuries or third-party property damage claims that occur at an event you organize or host. Even if the event your religious organization is hosting is held outdoors, you are still liable for any accidents or injuries to the people attending it or damages to the property where it takes place. Additionally if you rent your property to another organization or individual not affiliated with your church, ensure the renter carries special events liability insurance to cover their liabilities and yours.

4. Coverage Against Third-Party Injuries

There’s always the possibility that someone may fall and be injured on your property. Whether due to negligence (like not placing a warning sign after mopping the floor to warn others the floor is slick and slippery), or if a member of your organization with mobility issues stumbles, falls, and requires medical attention, you could be sued. Commercial general liability insurance is a must-have to cover an injured person’s medical bills and your legal defense if they pursue legal action.

Think about mitigating those risks by examining the flooring, stairwells, and carpeting inside the building, and the walkways outside it and all entrances or exits. Consider getting slip-resistant flooring, ensure regular floor-cleaning maintenance is done, and fix any uneven floor tiles or torn or loose carpeting. Also, make sure there is adequate lighting indoors and outdoors, and don’t allow any extension cords or other obstructions to cross paths of travel.

5. Coverage for Employees

From volunteers and paid employees to a board of directors, the people who work, volunteer, or serve on your organization’s board also require protection. For instance, your institution’s board of directors would require what’s known as directors and officers (D&O) insurance to safeguard them from lawsuits related to poor decisions or defamation that leads to a financial loss.

It’s also worthwhile to speak to a licensed broker about the necessity of adding abuse and molestation coverage and professional liability insurance if your volunteers and employees provide children’s daycare or other types of counselling services to your church members. Moreover, if any employees or volunteers are injured while working, you can include coverage for that possibility in your policy. Speak to a licensed broker about since the amount of coverage you may require will also depend on the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) rules. 

6. Protection from Online Threats

Concerning threats and risks associated with the online world, all organizations need what’s known as cyber liability coverage. The confidential digital data you store is your responsibility to protect. Contrary to popular belief, cybercriminals are more likely to target small businesses or entities than large corporations since they are unlikely to have the cybersecurity resources that large firms do to counter those threats.

Religious Organizations Need Insurance

All religious organizations and leaders should protect their finances and assets from damage, loss, or lawsuits.

Get a free quote for your insurance needs by filling out an online application with Zensurance. Our licensed brokers partner with our customers to advise them and shop our partner network of more than 50 leading Canadian insurance carriers to find them the coverage they need at a great price.

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About the Author: Liam Lahey

Liam is the Content Marketing Manager at Zensurance. A writer and editor for more than 20 years, he has been published in several newspapers and magazines, including Yahoo! Canada Finance, Metroland Media, IT World Canada and others.