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September 21, 2009 - Insurer Fined Over Discount for Religious

An insurance company discriminated by offering special benefits and discounts only to "churchgoers" and "persons of faith," the U.S. Justice Department said.

Under a settlement, awaiting court approval, GuideOne Mutual Insurance Company of Des Moines, Iowa, and two of its agents must pay about $10,000 to each of three victims of religious discrimination, the department said Friday. In addition, the companies must pay a $45,000 civil penalty to the federal government.

The companies also must stop offering the "FaithGuard" homeowners and renters benefits it advertised in 19 states.

"Discrimination on the basis of someone's religious faith is prohibited by the Fair Housing Act," Loretta King, acting assistant attorney general for the department's Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. "All individuals have the right to secure homeowners and renters insurance without regard to their religious beliefs, and the Civil Rights Division will continue to ensure those rights are protected."

A federal government lawsuit stemmed from complaints filed by an atheist, an agnostic and the Lexington (Ky.) Fair Housing Council.

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