A minority-owned bank that is at the center of an ethics probe involving Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., has come under criticism for threatening to foreclose on a 194-year-old African American church in Boston.
According to combined media reports, the Charles Street African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Boston's Roxbury section may lose its sanctuary to a foreclosure auction by OneUnited Bank. The Charles Street AME Church reportedly failed to pay off a $1.1 million balloon mortgage from OneUnited Bank that came due in December 2011. The church says that it was unable to pay off the mortgage on time because of a legal dispute with the bank over a $3.6 million construction loan for an adjacent community center that OneUnited cut off in 2009, leaving the project unfinished and the church in significant mortgage debt.
OneUnited Bank is at the center of an ongoing congressional ethics probe of Waters. The bank received $12 million from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Waters lobbied for the TARP funds by arguing that the bank's capital was ‘all but wiped out’ due to its heavy investing in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Waters, however, did not tell the U.S. Department of the Treasury that her husband was a former director of OneUnited Bank and held $350,000 in its stock.
The Charles Street AME Church was founded by free blacks in 1818 and was a major center of the abolitionist movement prior to the Civil War. According to the church's website, prominent anti-slavery leaders including William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth held rallies at the church, which was also a haven for slaves using the Underground Railroad to seek freedom in the Northern states and Canada.
(Photo courtesy of Harvard University's Heart of the City)