The gospel places service to vulnerable persons and work for justice at the center of Christian witness. This belief leads us to oppose state Senate Bill 975 regulating predatory payday lending.
Jesus said, "Just as you did it to one of the least of these ... you did it to me." His words strike at the core of God's call to Christians -- love God, and love our neighbors as ourselves. Presumably, loving our neighbors as ourselves means treating them as we would like to be treated. Exploiting our neighbors during difficult times fails that test.
We also find numerous Old Testament references against unfairly high interest, particularly when charged to the poor, because of high potential for exploitation. A desperate person with few credit options could easily fall prey to unscrupulous lenders.
In other states where payday lending is legal, interest rates top 300 percent, or even 400 percent, when all costs are factored in. Borrowers end up taking out additional loans to pay off earlier loans, adding costs each time. SB 975 does not protect adequately against this.
Pennsylvania's current laws already protect vulnerable residents from predatory lending. Legalizing this industry would place veterans, seniors and many low-income families at risk during tough times.
Promoting payday lending to vulnerable low-income persons at usurious interest rates exploits our less fortunate neighbors -- falling short of Jesus' call to love our neighbors. It is our love of neighbor that calls us to urge rejection of SB 975 or predatory payday lending in any form.
REV. SANDRA L. STRAUSS
Director of Public Advocacy
Pennsylvania Council of Churches