PRESS RELEASE: Religious groups announce coalition to combat predatory lending

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 14, 2015

CONTACT:
Elizabeth Bristow, press@erlc.com (Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission)
Sarah Kropp Brown, skropp@nae.net (National Association of Evangelicals)
Aaron Weaver, aweaver@cbf.net (Cooperative Baptist Fellowship)
Katie Thompson, katie.thompson@cpjustice.org (Center for Public Justice)
Jerlen Young-Nelson, mediarelations@nationalbaptist.com (National Baptist Convention, USA)
Kawana Lloyd, klloyd@piconetwork.org (PICO National Network)

Religious groups announce coalition to combat predatory lending

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Citing religious texts and evidence of widespread harm to households from high-cost payday loans, a diverse group of faith organizations announced today the formation of a new coalition to combat payday lending and predatory financial practices during a press conference on Capitol Hill.

Members of the Faith for Just Lending coalition include the Center for Public Justice, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Ecumenical Poverty Initiative, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, National Association of Evangelicals, National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., National Latino Evangelical Coalition and the PICO National Network.

While representing distinct institutions with different histories and practices, these faith organizations hold a shared conviction that Scripture speaks to the problem of predatory lending — condemning usury and teaching us to respect the God-given dignity of each person and to love our neighbors rather than exploit their financial vulnerability. They believe that just lending is a matter of biblical morality and religious concern.

Over the past several decades, high-cost lending to those in need has increased significantly. More than 20,000 payday and car-title loan stores operate nationwide. Taking advantage of loopholes and a weakening of traditional usury laws, many of these lenders now offer loans at 300 percent APR, resulting in families being trapped in a cycle of debt. Faith for Just Lending believes the time has come to release the stranglehold that predatory payday lending has on too many lives in communities across the United States.

The coalition also released the following set of principles for just lending:

  • Individuals should manage their resources responsibly and conduct their affairs ethically, saving for emergencies, and being willing to provide support to others in need.
  • Churches should teach and model responsible stewardship, offering help to neighbors in times of crisis.
  • Lenders should extend loans at reasonable interest rates based on ability to repay within the original loan period, taking into account the borrower’s income and expenses.
  • Government should prohibit usury and predatory or deceptive lending practices.

With these principles for just lending, the coalition is urging churches, lenders, individuals and government to each do their part to teach stewardship, offer responsible products, use credit wisely, encourage just lending and put an end to predatory loans. The coalition is calling for an end to the exploitation of households and families through the payday debt trap.

Coalition members offered the following reflections on the problem of predatory payday lending:

Dr. Russell Moore, President, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Nashville, Tenn.
“Payday lending is a form of economic predation and grinds the faces of the poor into the ground. As Christians, we are called by Jesus, by the prophets, and by the apostles to care for the poor, individually, and also about the way social and political and corporate structures contribute to the misery of the impoverished. Groups across this diverse coalition don’t agree on every issue in the public square, but I am happy to work together on this issue to stand against unchecked usury and work for economic justice, human dignity and family stability.”

Galen Carey, Vice President for Government Relations, National Association of Evangelicals, Washington, D.C.
“Ethical lending is an honorable business, but ensnaring vulnerable people in debt traps is not. We need just laws and regulations that meet legitimate needs while preventing the egregious abuses that are now committed by too many payday lenders.”

Rev. Dr. George Mason, Senior Pastor, Wilshire Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas (Cooperative Baptist Fellowship)
“The usurious practices of payday lenders are a scourge upon the land. Exploiting the poor while pretending to serve them is a greedy and sinful business. We are calling on lawmakers to remember that when virtue fails, laws are made to restrain evil and protect the vulnerable. Even those who believe strongly in limited government know the value of promoting fairness and honesty in the marketplace.”

Rev. Dr. Willie Gable, Jr., Pastor, The Progressive Baptist Church, New Orleans, La., and Chairperson, Housing and Economic Commission, National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.
“Payday loans are a sin in plain sight. The Bible warns against exorbitant interest. But in recent years, payday lenders have woven themselves into the fabric of our neighborhoods and sought to convince us that they are offering a service or a helping hand to the community. Just the opposite is true.”

Katie Thompson, Editor, Center for Public Justice, Washington, D.C.
“Predatory payday lending is a clear violation of human dignity and the Center for Public Justice is committed to putting an end to it. We look forward to working with the Faith for Just Lending coalition and believe these principles for just lending affirm the unique roles that citizens, government, churches and businesses can play to bring lasting change.”

Rev. Dr. Billy G. Russell, Pastor, Greater Friendship Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minn. (PICO National Network), and President, Minnesota Baptist Convention
“Exploiting the working poor with payday lending is an egregious practice that goes against God’s word to help the poor and instead puts a chokehold on some of America’s most vulnerable families. People who are poor or struggling should not become easy marks for predatory lenders. Instead, lending should be fair. Loans should provide an avenue for financial opportunity, not a quagmire of debt.”

Dr. Barrett Duke, Vice President for Public Policy, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention, Washington, D.C.
“Today, our country is awash in payday lenders taking advantage of people in financial distress. Under the guise of offering a helping hand in times of financial emergencies, payday lenders often pile on greater financial burdens than the ones they solve. Since these companies refuse to operate in a responsible manner, government intervention is crucial. We cannot sit by idly while some of the poorest among us are preyed on by people simply looking for a quick buck with no regard for the devastation they cause in the lives of others.”

Stephen K. Reeves, Associate Coordinator of Partnerships and Advocacy, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Decatur, Ga.
“CBF Advocacy is proud to stand alongside our pastors and congregations with such an impressive and broad spectrum of national faith leaders and organizations. It is time for a return to traditional lending practices that acknowledge usury as immoral and detrimental to communities. Our elected officials should take note that the faith community stands united in our call to put the law back on the side of struggling families rather than those creating debt-traps for profit.”

Claudette M. Humphrey, Kansas Loan Pool Project Director, Catholic Charities of Northern Kansas, Salina, Kan.
Every day clients walk into my office with tears in their eyes and defeat in their hearts. Predatory lending has brought them to me on the brink of homelessness, the brink of financial ruin, even the brink of suicide. Predatory lenders are destroying lives. I see it every day and there was a time, not long ago, I lived it. We must rise up and declare in one united voice: No more.”

Rev. Dr. Gabriel Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition, New York, N.Y.
“As evangelicals committed to justice we deeply lament the predatory lending that has disproportionately impacted poor communities. Scripture is clear about its denouncement of usury and calls us to call for laws that defend against it. Silence is not an option.”

Rev. Sèkinah Hamlin, Director of the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative, Washington, D.C.
“First John 3:18 teaches that we are not to love in word and speech but rather in truth and action. Love does not look like sitting idly by and watching families and children being caught in a cycle of debt because of payday loans with 300 percent APR and higher. Love in truth and action looks like a coalition of faith groups saying enough is enough. We will fight for the financial health and well-being of children and families to uphold the God-given dignity of each person and love our neighbors rather than exploiting their financial vulnerability.”

Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association
“As Christ-followers who care for the poor and marginalized in our communities, we believe that lending should be fair and not an object of extortion or greed. Maximizing short-term gains on the backs of the poor is abhorrent and not reflective of the values of God’s kingdom here on earth. The injustice of deception, exploitation or coercive acts that are added to vulnerable borrowers by payday lending institutions must be confronted by our association committed to seeking justice alongside our neighbors in under-resourced communities. We stand with other like-minded organizations, calling for just lending practices.”

Faith for Just Lending is a diverse coalition of faith organizations calling for an end
to predatory payday lending.
Learn more about the coalition at
www.lendjustly.com