Freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders continue to cite the biblical justification for their proposed Stop Loan Sharks Act, challenging religious people on both sides of the political divide to support their efforts to limit the interest rates banks may charge in the United States, Newsweek reports.
The far-reaching legislation would cap interest rates on credit cards and essentially eliminate the payday loans industry as it currently exists, in addition to reforming some other aspects of the financial services industry. In addition to creating rules meant to curtail high interest rates, the proposed legislation would also create a framework in which post offices could provide simple financial services to those in need, further cutting potentially predatory banks out of the equation.
In an effort to make the case for the bill, Ocasio-Cortez recently implored the religious right to support their efforts on biblical grounds.
“Usury – aka high interest – happens to be explicitly denounced in the Bible (& in many other religions). Looking forward to having the religious right uphold their principles + sign onto my bill,” the congresswoman tweeted, punctuating the statement with an angel emoji and then adding a final, more biting, line. “Unless of course they’re only invoking religion to punish women + queer people.”
Sanders had expressed a similar sentiment during the live stream in which the pair presented the proposal. He pointed out that major religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, have condemned usury.
“It really is disgusting. I really don’t know a better word,” Sanders said during the live stream. “If somebody is desperate and you say…’I am going to lend you money, but it is going to be at an outrageously high interest rate.’ That is what Wall Street has done.”
— Pastor Mark Burns (@pastormarkburns) May 18, 2019
In the Jewish Torah and the Christian Bible, there are quite a few references to the lending of money. In many cases, the Bible does, in fact, encourage lending and borrowing, but it is clear in condemning exorbitant lending such as lending to the poor at high interest rates. The books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy are particularly clear on these topics.
Within Islam, the rules are even more strict, and more clear. The religion prohibits the charging of any interest at all, even at modest rates. As a result, a modern system of Islamic banking has emerged in adherence to the Muslim faith, where financial institutions broker transactions in compliance with such rules.