Consumer protection chief seeks allies in faith leaders

February 8, 2011

WASHINGTON (RNS) The architect of the Obama administration's new
consumer protection bureau met with faith-based groups Tuesday (Feb. 8)
in a bid to shape the agency's work as a moral crusade.

"The most recent financial crisis caused many to question the moral
underpinnings of our financial dealings with each other," Elizabeth
Warren, a former Harvard University law professor who was appointed last
year to start the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

"Our laws reflect who we are and they shape who we become. To pursue
regulatory change without reflecting on its moral dimension would be
wrong," she said.

Warren met Tuesday with about 20 Christian and Jewish religious
leaders to get their input on focusing the bureau's work, and to hear
stories of how the financial crisis has affected their communities.

Her meeting included representatives of the Progressive National
Baptist Convention, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism,
Sojourners and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

A former Sunday school teacher and a United Methodist, Warren said
moral and religious traditions have long informed rules about fair
lending. "The Bible speaks about not cheating people," she said.

She hopes the bureau's fledgling partnership with religious leaders
will eventually extend from the pulpits to the pews to educate Americans
on how to avoid becoming victims of risky financial schemes.

"They're not merely passers-along of information," she said. "These
are people who have thought deeply about a financial crisis that has
moral and spiritual dimensions. I want this agency to be informed by the
deeper thinking that they've brought to these issues."