Day for All People

January 19, 2012

On Tuesday, I participated in the "Day for All People," which is the annual lobby day of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. A few hundred people from across Virginia came to Richmond to meet with state legislators (the photo is one I took of state Senator Ralph Northam, who spoke to our lobby group). I visited the offices of Senator Mark Obenshain and Delegate Tony Wilt to urge them to support legislation that would create greater regulations on predatory lending (payday and car title loans). Hopefully our state legislators will act to help stop these institutions from stealing from our neighbors. Although Virginia has made some progress in recent years, more work is needed to close loopholes and further improve the laws.

Faith leaders in other states are also working to transform laws concerning predatory lending. Churchnet has been working with other groups in Missouri to change legislation and to get an initiative on the November ballot. The efforts in both Virginia and Missouri include trying to cap annual interest rates at 36 percent. Groups like Missouri Faith Voices are working to raise awareness and organize support. It is good that religious leaders are leading the efforts to reform state laws since the predatory lending industry is spending lots of money to stop any limits on their usury. Despite all their money, predatory lenders must be worried that religious leaders could defeat them--like David beat Goaliath--because several churches in Kansas City received threatening letters that inaccurately claimed the churches could get in legal trouble for helping collect signatures for the ballot initiative. Such bullying seems only to confirm the what critics say about predatory lending institutions. Unfortunately for predatory lenders, churches will not be so easily moved from their moral stance.