An article in today’s New York Times “Full Faith and Credit: Christian Groups Unite Against Predatory Lending” discusses an option to the current set of payday lenders that I overlooked last week:  churches, synagogues and mosques. While the focus in on Christian groups there’s no reason that any faith couldn’t offer its members a hand up during their time in need. For example:

Galen Carey, the vice president for government relations at the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents about 40 Protestant denominations, said that many evangelical churches had established funds to help poor congregants who might be tempted by short-term, high-interest loans. Now, he said, they are working specifically to counter the payday loan industry.

“There are a few cases where churches have set up no-interest or low-interest loans people can tap into and pay back, and then it’s reused to help other people,” Mr. Carey said. “When people are in a community, there is some accountability for programs like that to work pretty well.”

With approximately 300,000 churches in the U.S. compared to about 20,000 payday loan locations the religious have numbers on their side along with simply being right.

Carl Ruby, another pastor in Ohio, said that nearly every Christian he had spoken with was against payday lending — once they learned what it was.

“They have never thought about it,” Mr. Ruby said, “but when you put the facts in front of them, they all react in disgust. This is an issue that cuts across political parties.”

Another option would be the more than 30,000 post office locations which would probably require an act of Congress. Never mind that one.


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