Posts Tagged ‘religion’

It’s Not Easy Being Green, Thank God for God.

November 3rd, 2014 No comments

By: Katherine Snyder

Blog Category: Religion & Race

Predatory lending practices target members of minority races disproportionately, leaving them disproportionately vulnerable.  Ads for cash-now pay check advances that have hefty interest rates and short repayment time periods are conspicuously absent from areas where affluent white people live while opportunities for reasonable interest rates and mortgages with banks as opposed to subprime lenders are harder for people of color to attain.  Different communities have started to fight back against these unfair practices, many centered around faith-based initiatives.

People of Latino/a heritage are familiar with the tradition of lending circles, called tandas or cundinas in Mexico.  African Americans and people from almost every culture have different names for these groups all over the globe.  Churches and faith-based service initiatives can be the foundation for the Latino and Black communities as well as for recent immigrant communities alike.  These lending circles allow people from the community to come together, contribute a set portion of their paycheck to a common fund managed by one member of the group.  In turn each member of the group takes turn receiving the proceeds.  Depending on where your name falls on the list it acts as a loan or a savings account.  People are held accountable by the valuable good will they have established within the community before the transaction and in following through with the payments.

The success of these small community programs is widespread and can provide a person with the shot in the arm they need to make ends meet and keep moving forward while helping them avoid taking on debt and entering an agreement that could trap them in a perpetual cycle of borrowing.  Unfortunately, many laws in this area are unclear on their application to this type of lending leaving these people with their credit in limbo.  Some non-profits have sought to organize these lending circles in order to give the loans and repayment cycle legal credence so that people are building their credit and actually getting credit for their responsible payment plans.  This legitimacy often triggers a licensure requirement and creates more barriers for these people because the non-profits have to require more from the participants and do not have the resources to achieve a lending license.

The Baptist churches as well as Catholic Charities have taken the initiative to combat this issue in several ways.  First, the Baptist churches have come together to create a united front in order to lobby for a change in the laws that are allowing predatory lending.  The Baptist churches are also seeking to work within their own communities to support their congregations and create opportunities for positive lending opportunities as well as education for borrowers.  Catholic Charities has started some domestic microloan projects designed to help people break out of the cycle of borrowing from high-interest payday lenders.  Finally, California Sen. Lou Correa has a really innovative approach to regulating these lending circles: if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.  He sees the wisdom in allowing people to start building their credit with baby steps without requiring them to jump through giant hoops simultaneously.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.  


Aaron Weaver, At Summit, Baptist Leaders Announce Action Covenants on Hunger, Literacy, Predatory Lending, General CBF (April 24, 2014), available at

Anita F. Hill, Women and the Subprime Crunch, Gender Discrimination (April 24, 2014), available at

Beth Newberry, Multiplying Loaves, Sojourners (April 24, 2014), available at

Brian Dakss, Loans To Avoid at All Costs, (April 24, 2014), available at

Manny Fernandez, Study Finds Disparities in Mortgages by Race, N.Y./Region (April 25, 2014), available at

Tim Logan, Church, Housing Groups Sue Gov. Brown Over Mortgage Settlement Money, Business (April 24, 2014), available at,0,5927040.story#axzz2wBUjSRCL.

Sarah Ennis, CCHD: Catholic Charities of Salina Expands Microloan Project, (April 26, 2014), available at

Shereen Marisol Meraji, Lending Circles Help Latinas Pay Bills and Invest, Morning Edition (April 2, 2014), available at

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How Race and Religion is Affecting the American Electorate.

October 6th, 2014 No comments

By: Lauren Zrillo

Blog Category: Religion & Race

There has been recent debate within the American electorate regarding the cause of the stark divide between coalitions who support the two major parties. This debate is centered on why the Republican Party has been unable to win a presidential election in the past two elections. The answer can be boiled down to two crucial factors—race and religion.

Over the past several decades there has been an increase in racial diversity and a shift in moral values. Today, Democratic and Republican voters are far more divided by race, moral beliefs, and policy preferences than in the past fifty years. It is well known that the Republican Party has a major demographic problem—the party is struggling to attract growing demographic groups in America, these groups include young and minority voters.

One problem the Republican Party is having with attracting voters between the ages of 18-33 (young voters) is the shift in moral and religious views the American culture has had in past decades. There has been a drastic decrease among voters who would classify themselves as being religiously observant and most voters between the ages of 18-33 are more likely to vote democratic when it comes to social policies. For example, the dramatic shift in American culture has prided itself on individual autonomy. Therefore, unless the Republican Party changes its outdated views on religious and moral issues young voters will continue to join the Democratic coalition.

Today, American society would like to believe that racial segregation is no longer a crucial problem and all men are treated equal. However, American society remains deeply divided among racial lines especially when it comes to political affiliation. Historically minorities collate with the Democratic Party, while whites collate with the Republican Party and the same is true today. This creates a twofold problem for the Republican Party moving forward. First, African American and Latinos continue to face an uphill battle when it comes to equality with white Americans. These minorities continue to experience poorer education, inferior housing, higher unemployment, and a higher incarceration rate than white Americans. The experiences that minority voters have with these issues sculpt their beliefs about the role the government should have in helping citizens, spending on social services, and taxation. The Democratic Party caters to these issues, which is why minorities continue to join the Democratic coalition. Second, This creates a future problem for the Republican Party because the demographic make-up of the United States is changing. There are more minorities voting then ever before. This is largely due to the large-scale immigration from Latin America and Asia, in addition to the fertility rate being higher among African Americans and Latin Americans. This boils down to a simple realization for the Republican Party—minorities collate with the Democratic Party and the number of minorities voting is growing with each presidential election.

In order to lessen the stark divide between the two coalitions and have a shot at a Presidential seat in the future, the Republican Party must “re-brand” themselves with the issues of race and religion in mind.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.


Alan I. Abramowitz, How race and religion have polarized American voters, The Washington Post  (Jan. 20, 2014, 12:27 PM), available at

Katie Glueck, Report: How the GOP lost young voters, Politico (Jun. 3, 2013, 6:00 PM), available at

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Freedom of Religion? Not if You are a Practicing Muslim and Live in Newark, New Jersey

September 8th, 2014 No comments

By: Marcia Leach

Blog Category: Religion & Race

Hassan v. City of New York, filed on June 6, 2012 in federal court in New Jersey, was brought on behalf of several New Jersey plaintiffs who were targeted and surveilled by the New York Police Department (NYPD) solely because of their religious affiliation.  Among the eleven Plaintiffs are a decorated Iraq war veteran, current and former Rutgers University students, the parent organization of the Muslim Student Associations of Rutgers University (Newark and New Brunswick campuses), a coalition of New Jersey mosques, and the owners and proprietors of a grade-school for Muslim girls.  The plaintiffs share just one characteristic: their Muslim affiliation.  That fact alone led the NYPD to target and surveil them in clear violation of U.S. constitutional principles.

On Febuary 20, 2014, U.S. District Judge William Martini held that plaintiffs in Hassan v. City of New York lacked standing because they alleged no injury in fact, which “requires more than a subjective chill, and even if the plaintiffs had met that element, they had not shown causation.”  Martini found that the stigma, career damage and other harms alleged did not flow from the surveillance itself but from the Associated Press’s unauthorized disclosure of the spying program.  Further, Martini held, the plaintiffs failed to state a religious discrimination claim because “the more likely explanation for the surveillance was a desire to locate budding terrorist conspiracies.”

Martini reasoned that because the Sept. 11 attacks were perpetrated by 19 Muslims, who were members of al Qaeda “[t]he police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself.  While this surveillance Program may have had adverse effects upon the Muslim community after the Associated Press published its articles; the motive for the Program was not solely to discriminate against Muslims, but rather to find Muslim terrorists hiding among ordinary, law-abiding Muslims.”  Additionally, Martini pointed to the fact that the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office announced in May 2012 that a fact-finding review of intelligence-gathering in New Jersey by New York police revealed no evidence that it broke any of the state’s civil or criminal laws.

The New Jersey Muslims will continue to fight for the right of Religious Freedom by appealing the dismissal of their federal court suit.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. 


Hassan v. City of New York, 2014 WL 654604 (D.N.J. 2014).
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The Influence of Race and Religion on Voting Trends in the United States

August 11th, 2014 No comments

By: Olivia Italiano

Blog Category: Religion & Race

Over the past several decades, the United States has seen significant cultural and societal shift of increased racial and ethnic diversity, as well as a stark divide of moral and religious values.  In the political sphere, Democrat and Republican supporters are drastically more divided by religious beliefs, ideological orientations, and race than in the past.  Since the 1960s, the racial and ethnic population of the United States has changed drastically, resulting in more non-white voters, including African American, Asian American, and Hispanic voters.

Despite significant improvement in race relations over the last 50 years, American society continues to reflect racial inequality with respect to economic, educational, and employment opportunities. For example, minorities overwhelmingly subjected to inferior housing, higher unemployment rates, and dramatically lower incomes than white Americans.  Unfortunately, minority voters are far more likely to experience prejudice and discrimination on behalf of public and private bureaucracies.

Differing life experiences and disproportionate opportunities are demonstrated through contrasting views on political issues, party identification, and voting behavior.  Morality based issues including abortion and same-sex marriage are frequently rooted in deeply held religious beliefs.  However, religion is not the sole or even primary factor that racial and minority groups rely on when voting.  For example, in the 2012 Presidential Election, the majority of Latino registered voters favored Obama, and stated that they identify with or lean towards the Democratic Party, regardless of their religious beliefs.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. 


Alan I. Abramowitz, How Race and Religion Have Polarized American Voters, (Jan. 20, 2014), available at

Additional Factors: Gender, Age, Religion, Race, and Ethnicity, available at

Latinos, Religion, and Campaign 2012, (Oct. 12, 2012), available at

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Catholic Leaders Among Supporters of Immigration Reform

July 21st, 2014 No comments

By: Morgan Davis  

Blog Category: Race & Religion

Immigration law reform is at the forefront of many political, legal, racial, and social debates. Supporters and opponents of various immigration reform issues use major platforms to express which side of the debate they are on. A group of Catholic leaders from across the United States received national media attention after they visited Arizona’s border with Mexico on March 31 and April 1, 2014. They are among the supporters of immigrants in the fight for immigration reform. The Catholic leaders are members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Committee on Migration, which supports undocumented immigrants gaining citizenship.  Their visit sparks the discussion, and bridges the gap between race and religion issues, as many of these immigration debates center on different racial and ethnic groups. In their visit to the border they stated their goal was to “highlight the human consequences of a broken immigration system and call upon the U.S. Congress to fix it.” Their concerns are prompted by the number of immigrants that die each year in an attempt to cross the borders into the United States. While their actions are “illegal,” many of the Catholic leaders note the majority of immigrants make this dangerous journey in hopes of finding a better live for their families and more job opportunities. The rising support for immigration reform has especially become more prominent with the increase of Hispanic Catholics over the last twenty years. As the political, social, racial, and religious debate heats up it will interesting to see if supporters of immigration reform will push Congress to take some action.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.  


Robert Ortega, Catholic Leaders Push Immigration Overhaul at Border, The Arizona Republic, (April 1, 2014, 4:31 PM), available at

Michael Lipka, Catholics, other Christians support immigration reform, but say faith plays small role, Pew Research Center (April 1, 2014), available at

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Is a Corporation Religious?

June 23rd, 2014 No comments

By: Joseph Chirdon

Blog Category: Race & Religion

The Supreme Court will soon decide whether for-profit corporations can deny female employees contraception based on religious beliefs. The lead plaintiff, Hobby Lobby, believes it should be exempt from providing certain contraception that they would be mandated to provide under the Affordable Healthcare Act (AHA), including IUDs and morning-after pills. One argument is that “the court has never found a for-profit company to be a religious organization for purposes of federal law.” The Justice Department argues that exempting corporations from commonly applied law would cause havoc with ramifications to child labor laws and mandates to serve racially diverse groups.

In 1990, the Supreme Court decided that as long as a generally applied law is neutrally applied it is constitutional despite religious opposition. In response Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Under the RFRA, if the law imposes a substantial burden on the exercise of religion, it must meet a high threshold for justification. Hobby Lobby’s burden – opting out of the AHA – comes with a 26 million dollar penalty. However, 26 million is less than it currently pays for employee healthcare insurance. Assuming the justices apply the RFHA test, they must decide whether the AHA penalty imposes a substantial burden on Hobby Lobby and whether sexual discrimination or other arguments made by the Justice Department meet the high threshold for justification.

Of the various arguments made, the writer found the argument of former Clinton administration Solicitor General, Walter Dellinger, most persuasive:

“Here the 13,000 employees of the Hobby Lobby corporate enterprise aren’t and should not be expected to share the religious beliefs of the Greens. What you really have is one family attempting to utilize their economic leverage to impose their religious beliefs on others.”

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.


Nina Totenberg, Hobby Lobby Contraceptive Case Goes Before Supreme Court, NPR (Mar. 25, 2014, 3:18 AM), available at