A group of Christian clergymen say payday loans, like those peddled behind these signs in Chattanooga, prey upon the poor. (Photo wrcbtv.com)

A group of Christian clergymen say payday loans, like those peddled behind these signs in Chattanooga, prey upon the poor. (Photo wrcbtv.com)

NASHVILLE, Feb. 13, 2017 — The Tennessee Pastors Network announced today the results of a large survey of Tennessee ministers regarding the ethics and morality of pay day loans and title loans and their effects on their congregation.  This follows a recent resolution, adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention, condemning such loans as predatory and un-Christian.

In addition, the survey is believed to be the first in the nation to pose questions specifically regarding so-called “tote-the-note” loans.  While much attention has been given to the “pay-day loan” industry, the “tote-the-note” or “Buy Here, Pay Here” loans comprise nearly twice the volume of payday loans.

Over 3,500 Evangelical, Protestant and Catholic ministers in Tennessee were invited to participate in the online survey.

“Various pastors and church members brought this to our attention, so we decided to try and see just how prevalent these sort of lenders were in Tennessee,” Tennessee Pastors Network President Dale Walker noted.  “The results were disturbing.”

The survey revealed that 55 percent of the pastors said that payday loans were a problem in their communities.  “Tote-the-note” loans awareness was reported by 36 percent of the pastors.  According to news reports, tote-the-note loans comprise nearly twice the dollar amount of total loans as compared to payday loans, yet the awareness of these more prevalent loans is much lower. We surmise that this is the result of much greater advertising for the “traditional” payday loans,” Walker said.

Tennessee pastors expressed a great desire (81 percent) to have more information and resources to address predatory loans.  This was significantly greater percentage than those pastors surveyed in a nine-state questionnaire conducted last year.

Walker said the Tennessee Pastors Network Survey was inspired by the similar multi-state Christian survey conducted by LifeWay Research of Nashville in the Spring of 2016. That survey focused on pay-day lending among Christians in 30 states.  The results were similar among Tennessee pastors.

The ubiquitous lender Check into Cash is based in Cleveland, Tenn.

The ubiquitous lender Check into Cash is based in Cleveland, Tenn.

Counseling urged

Some excerpts from the LifeWay Research survey:

➤ Overall, 17 percent of Christians have taken payday loans — 20 percent of Protestants and 12 percent of Catholics. Half of African American Christians (49 percent) and a quarter of Hispanic Christians (24 percent) say they’ve taken out a payday loan.

➤ Most Christians believe the law should protect borrowers. Eighty-six percent agree when asked, “Do you believe laws or regulations should prohibit lending at excessive interest rates?” A similar number (94 percent) say lenders should only make loans with reasonable interest that can be repaid within the original loan period.

➤ Christians say churches should give counseling about payday loans. More than half (56 percent) want to see their church offer guidance to those with financial needs. And a quarter (27 percent) want churches to give gifts or loans to those in a financial crisis. But Christians are less interested in sermons about fair lending (17 percent) or advocacy (18 percent) for changes in laws or regulation.

‘Powerful comment on predatory lenders’

“Without a doubt, this is a powerful comment on the predatory lenders in general, but particularly on the questionable practices surrounding the used car auto loan business as practiced by numerous independent auto lots that appear to be multiplying rapidly in our communities’ most vulnerable neighborhoods,” Walker said.

Walker encouraged pastors to reach out to their congregations to offer help and guidance on dealing with those who have become entrapped in such loans and who may be too embarrassed to share their situation.

“We found these loan companies don’t care if you are Baptist, Catholic, Presbyterian or Church of God.  They prey on the most vulnerable of our society – the very people who our ministries are dedicated to helping,” Walker said. “If we don’t speak up for the victims of these predatory practices then we are abandoning them.”

— SourceThe Tennessee Pastors Network (www.tnpastors.net) is a non-profit association of pastors from across the State of Tennessee. For more information, contact Dale Walker, President, Tennessee Pastors Network, at 931-260-5301.

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