Religious organizations have been at the forefront of the nationwide “Move Your Money” movement, a campaign to get consumers to move their money from Wall Street financial institutions to community banks and credit unions. Before Thanksgiving, churches moved $55 million away from Wall Street banks and pledged to move at least $100 million more. In late February, a San Francisco coalition moved $10 million from Wells Fargo.
More churches are now joining the movement as a way to observe Lent. As congregations across the country observe the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter by sacrificing and repenting, religious leaders are asking big banks that have wrongfully foreclosed on homeowners and exacerbated the pain of the housing crisis to do the same, the New York Times reports:
And [Rev. Ryan Bell] has committed his congregation to one other religious obligation. He is withdrawing the church’s money, several hundred thousand dollars, from its account with the Bank of America. By the April weekend when Christians mourn Jesus’ crucifixion and celebrate his resurrection, Mr. Bell said, he will have moved the assets to a local bank as a protest against Bank of America’s role in mass foreclosures and to issue a call for its repentance.
“To right the wrongs of the world is as much a part of the Lenten experience as to repent ourselves,” Mr. Bell, 40, the pastor of Hollywood Adventist Church near Los Angeles said in a phone interview this week. “During this season, when we individually are examining our lives, we think it’s appropriate for the institutions that affect us to examine theirs.”
According to consulting firms, the nation’s 10 biggest banks could lose $185 billion in customer deposits because of customer defections. Bank of America, which could lose $42 billion in deposits, is the most vulnerable, and it has faced pressure from religious organizations to decrease foreclosures and offer more loan modifications. As part of a mortgage settlement with the federal government and state attorneys general, Bank of America will offer 200,000 loan reductions in the coming months.
Bank of America has become a prime target for consumers and Move Your Money campaigns because of questionable and potentially illegal foreclosure practices, including using fraudulent robo-signers, improperly foreclosing on military members, speeding up its rate of foreclosures, and foreclosing on homeowners it had previously approved for modifications. In response, religious leaders like Bell and Rev. Robert Rien, a California priest, have continued efforts to move money away from the bank. “It’s a grain of sand to Bank of America,” Rien, who moved $135,000 from Bank of America, told the New York Times. “But we needed to send a message that you can’t do this to people.”