How a Texas Church Drove Out the Predatory Loan Industry

For one Garland pastor, living out the gospel means collective political action.
How a Texas Church Drove Out the Predatory Loan Industry
Image: Illustration by Seth Hahne

Payday lenders have been having a tough time in Garland, Texas.

Their storefronts have closed, their gaudy signs spray-painted over in black. In recent months, about a third have left the city of 230,000, situated 18 miles northeast of Dallas.

Nobody could be more delighted at their demise than Keith Stewart, senior pastor of Springcreek, Garland’s largest church. Springcreek will not tolerate what Stewart calls the “predatory loan business.” Stewart estimates something like a third of his congregation of 1,700 have been put through the wringer after they (or their family members) secured loans with interest rates easily within the range of 200 to 500 percent.

But Stewart says the interest rates are only part of the problem. Loan origination fees and penalty fees for non-payment are among the crippling burdens imposed on borrowers. And if a poor unfortunate really can’t repay, lenders are more than happy to offer new loans with a raft of new fees, forcing clients further ...

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