BECKER, Minn. (RNS) — A Minnesota couple is suing a debt collection agency for putting the initials “WWJD” on its collection letters, arguing that it breaks an anti-harassment law by portraying debtors as hell-bound sinners.
Sara and Mark Neill of Becker, Minn., received three letters from Bullseye Collection Agency, Inc. in 2008 with the letters “WWJD” — an acronym commonly understood to mean “What Would Jesus Do?” — printed in the upper right-hand corner.
The Neills claim the phrase invokes shame or guilt and portrays “the debtor as a sinner who is going to hell,” according to court documents, and thus violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which outlaws abusive or harassing collection tactics.
Recently, Judge Joan Ericksen of the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota denied a motion to dismiss the Neills’ claim.
Mathew Staver of Liberty Counsel, a religious freedom firm based in Orlando, Fla., that is representing Bullseye, said the phrase simply means the company adopts Christian principles.
The “WWJD” is standard on Bullseye letterhead and is “the furthest thing possible from harassment,” he said.
“It’s not like it’s a fish symbol or specific Christian statement; it can be interpreted in a lot of different ways,” Staver said.