Sometimes, more than incense and candles are burned at Church.
Last Sunday, members of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in New Jersey gathered to burn mailed credit card offers following church services in an act of protest against predatory lending, myCentralJersey.com reports. The group was led by Rev. DeForest B. Soaries Jr., an outspoken activist against aggressive lending practices and a proponent of debt-free living.
Soaries has been teaching his parishioners about financial planning for seven years, according to the Star Ledger. He was even featured on CNN’s Black America: Almighty Debt in 2010, a special that primarily focused on the debts of black Americans stemming from the foreclosure crisis.
Mortgage lenders like Countrywide Financial have been accused of pushing high-interest rate loans on blacks and Hispanics in poor neighborhoods, then levying huge fees when borrowers often fell behind. Bank of America, which bought Countrywide in 2008, ultimately paid $335 million to settle claims that the nation's largest subprime lender used predatory lending practices against more than 200,000 minority borrowers.
Now Soaries is concerned credit card companies may be taking advantage of low-income Americans, whose poor credit can result in higher interest rates and stiff late payment fees. Recent data supports his claim: Credit card companies issued 1.1 million new cards to borrowers with poor credit in December, an increase of 12.3 percent from the same month last year, The New York Times reports, citing data from Equifax.
Soaries' says his parish members are being tempted by so many credit card offers -- one church member received 38 offers in a four-week span, he claims -- when many are already in debt for other reasons, such as a mortgage, car loan or debt from payday lenders, myCentralJersey.com reports.
Payday loans in particular have had a significant impact on low-income Americans. These short-term loans can have interest rates as high as 400 percent, ThinkProgress reports. A recent report found that payday lenders take at least $3.4 billion from borrowers each year in fees alone.