Today, we hosted a remarkable group of religious leaders from around the country at the White House to discuss the need for stronger consumer protections, particularly in the payday lending and short-term consumer loan markets. These leaders represent a diverse array of faith traditions – from Southern Baptists to Reform Judaism – and many traveled here from all over the country. But no matter where they came from or their particular faith tradition, they share a common goal of doing right by the communities they serve.
We heard from the group about what they are seeing in their communities, including specific heart-wrenching stories of members of their congregations whose lives have been devastated by usurious loans. We heard their recommendations for action to address the abuses in payday lending that are visiting hardship upon their communities.
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.
These leaders reflected the views of their communities. For example, a recent survey reported that 77 percent of American Christians and 85 percent of Evangelical Christians think predatory lending is sinful. Ninety-four percent of Christians believe that lenders should only extend loans at reasonable interest rates based on an ability to repay. In an example of a faith community in action, leaders in Garland, Texas drove predatory lending from their community after many were ensnared in payday debt traps. And coalitions of religious organizations such as Faith for Just Lending are making their voices heard across the country.
Providing stronger protections in areas such as payday lending are precisely why the President worked with Congress to create a new, independent agency focused solely on consumer protection as part of financial reform, and to ensure it had the authority to address abuses in this space. Last March, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) took steps toward a rulemaking to curb abusive practices involving payday loans and other short-term lending.
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. So, today was an important reaffirmation that diverse religious leaders and thousands like them are making clear why the independent CFPB has such strong moral grounds for addressing abuses in payday lending. We are grateful to these religious leaders for their commitment to serve their communities and look forward to working with them in the days ahead.