The Wisconsin State Assembly's Committee on Insurance is considering this week a car wreck of a bill that would exempt members of religious sects from carrying auto insurance. The Committee has scheduled a public hearing for April 20, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation needs your help to ensure that the wheels come off this problematic bill.
Assembly Bill 68 would allow a religious sect whose members register more than 25 vehicles with the Department of Transportation to self-insure those vehicles. Essentially, the church, rather than an insurance company, would be on the hook for any member's vehicle involved in a collision. This bill would grant a unique benefit to religious sects, although churches are in a far worse position to cover the costs of a collision than an insurance company.
Please contact Committee Chair Kevin Petersen, along with any representatives you may have on the Committee, and ask that this bill be killed.
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(Keep reading if you wish to learn more about this bill.)
Wisconsin has an existing law that allows large companies with more than 25 vehicles to self-insure. But there are only nine companies in the state that elect to do so, and they are all commercial businesses. While this exemption makes economic sense for these companies, a similar provision for religious sects may put churches one large collision away from bankruptcy.
And this bill puts all drivers in the state at financial risk. If a person is involved in a costly collision with a member of a religious sect, he or she could find that the parent organization cannot cover medical costs and the repair bill, leaving the victim without financial compensation.
This scenario isn't pretty for those within qualifying religious sects, either. The bill would effectively turn churches into their own insurance companies. Members who get into a fender bender in the church parking lot may find themselves facing down church elders who pressure them into not repairing their vehicles or not seeking medical treatment, since those costs would come directly out of church coffers.
When you couple this bill with a law the State Assembly passed last year that exempts church-owned Christmas trees from Wisconsin's fire safety regulations, it becomes clear that the Legislature doesn't care whether Wisconsin's parishioners crash and burn. The problem with bills like these should be readily apparent: Churches and their members are not special. They aren't any better at assessing fire safety risks and they're no better positioned to insure against collision. Legislators are adopting nonsensical special exceptions for churches to the laws we're all supposed to follow.