In one of the largest outpourings of concern about a public policy issue by the Louisiana faith community in recent memory, a large cross-section of religious leaders release an "open letter to legislators" to urge them to support reform of the state's payday lending laws.Members of the clergy will hold a news conference on Wednesday, April 23rd, at 1:30pm on the front steps of the State Capitol.

The letter endorses a compromise measure to cap the number of payday loans at five per year, lower than the ten-loan cap currently in Senate Bill 84, but less stringent than the interest-rate cap that was amended out of the legislation earlier in the session.

Mount Canaan

"We do not believe it is an acceptable or responsible course of action for our legislators to pursue reforms that amount to a public relations gesture," the letter states. "Our community faces a real crisis, and that crisis demands real reform."

The clergy are singling out one proposal in particular for criticism -- a proposed change to SB 84 being pushed by the payday lending industry to cap the number of payday loans at two-at-a-time, instead of ten per year.

State-chartered banks and credit unions in Louisiana are limited to offering between four and six payday loans per year.

Two loans simultaneously, each for a two-week term, amounts to a cap of fifty-two payday loans per year.

"Fifty-two loans per year is not reform," said Rev. Errol Domingue, pastor of Elm Grove Baptist Church. "That's a license to continue predatory lending." Signatories to the Open Letter include leaders of many of the major religious denominations in Louisiana, including:

Dr. Harry Blake

Rev. Harry Blake, Vice President, National Baptist Convention

Rev. Fred Luter, National President, Southern Baptist Convention

The Rt. Rev'd. Morris K. Thompson, Jr., Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana

Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey,Bishop, United Methodist Church, Louisiana Annual Conference

Rob Gorman, Director of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux

Dr. C. S. Gordon, Jr., President, Louisiana Missionary Baptist State Convention

Bishop Robert J. Taylor, Louisiana State Bishop, Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship

Rev. Samuel C. Tolbert, Jr.,President, Louisiana Home and Foreign Missions Baptist State Convention

Rev Dr Ron Sutto, General Presbyter, Presbytery of South Louisiana

Rev. Reid Doster, Louisiana State Coordinator, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

Dr. Jesse Bilberry, Moderator, 4th District Missionary Baptist Association