Release: Sanders to Religious Leaders: Usury Is a Moral Issue and Outrageous Interest Rates Must End

WASHINGTON, April 14 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today addressed a Capitol Hill meeting of faith leaders and community organizations about his proposal to cap credit card interest rates.

Sanders remarks came as Massachusetts’ treasurer announced at the same event that he would pull state funds from banks that refuse to obey a state law limiting interest rates.

In the senator’s speech, Sanders talked about what major religions teach about usury.  He cited passages from the Bible, the Torah and the Quran during a speech to more than 300 leaders of the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation, a network of more than 450 congregations and community based organizations.

“Let's be clear,” Sanders added. “When credit card companies charge over 20 percent interest on credit cards they are not engaged in the business of making credit available to their customers.  They are involved in extortion and loan-sharking.”

Saying that more than one-quarter of all credit card holders in this country are now paying interest rates above 20 percent, Sanders told the cheering crowd he plans to offer an amendment to cap interest rates at 15 percent during the upcoming Senate debate over financial reform legislation.

Also at the rally, it was announced that Massachusetts State Treasurer Timothy Cahill will withdraw more than $231 million in state funds from a Bank of America account because the lender refuses to cap credit-card interest rates at 18 percent. A $9 million Massachusetts account with Citigroup and $3 million deposited with Wells Fargo & Co. also are being moved. The banks had refused to meet with the Greater Boston Interfaith group.

And the Rev. David Benke, president a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod division, announced that his denomination’s money is being shifted into community banks and credit unions.