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White House, faith leaders say ‘moral obligation’ to halt payday loans

A cash loan or car title loan sign.


WASHINGTON (RNS) White House officials have joined faith leaders in endorsing an end to payday lending abuses that often charge triple-digit interest rates.

Valerie Jarrett, Cecilia Munoz and Jeff Zients, all top aides to President Obama, met Thursday (April 14) with religious leaders from across the country who described “heart-wrenching stories” of congregants whose lives had been ravaged by payday loans.

“What emerged was a common, powerful theme: that we have a moral obligation as a country to do something to stop payday lenders from preying on consumers by trapping them in an endless cycle of debt,” the trio wrote in a White House online post.

A cash loan or car title loan sign.

Photo courtesy of Annette Shaff via Shutterstock

A cash loan or car title loan sign.

The faith leaders, who represented Southern Baptists and Reform Jews, among others, recommended ways to address abuses in payday lending. Obama’s advisers noted that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau began working in 2015 on rules to reduce such abuses.

“Yet even as there is widespread agreement across a diverse array of faith communities that something needs to be done to address payday lending abuses, too often these reasonable efforts face stiff resistance from the special interests supported by the payday loan industry,” the three advisers said.

RELATED STORY: Christians oppose payday loans as ‘sinful’

The meeting came a day after LifeWay Research released a survey that showed three-quarters of Christians consider payday loans to be “sinful.” The survey was sponsored by Faith for Just Lending, a coalition of religious groups opposing the lending practices that also issued a report on “The Collateral Consequences of Payday Loan Debt.”

Stephen Reeves of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a member of the coalition, was among the leaders advocating for additional government action to limit payday lending.

“It is time for lawmakers and regulators to step up, listen to the voice of the people so often drowned out by industry money and political influence, and enact fair and responsible boundaries for these predatory products,” he said.

(Adelle M. Banks is production editor and a national reporter for RNS)

About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.


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  • Meanwhile, Arizona lawmakers just passed a law allowing pay day lenders to charge up to 200% interest! Where is the national outrage from Christian leaders??

  • And this action by Obama’s “faith leaders” accomplishes it’s principle objective, which is another round of “feel good,”–indeed the goal of this liberal religion of social justice. The truth is, it leaves the poor worse off. Why don’t they DO something that’s helpful, like establishing small limits credit unions in their parishes, that can lend small amounts to tide people over? The poor pay high rates to payday lenders, but they pay even higher amounts in late fees and penalties, and over-draft charges. Nobody talks about that–guess that doesn’t let them feel so good!

  • Alabama, like many states, had usury laws (8%max) until the Eighties. Bank of America was sued for violating them, so the Banks lobbied (paid off) the legislature and repealed all usury statutes. Now the sky is the limit. One of my clients, a waitress, pays over thirty percent for her car loan. It is a disgrace and the “most respectable” Banks have grown fat off robbing the poor.

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