N E W S L E T T E R
DECEMBER 2016
Churches and society are confronted by many issues such as poverty, the environment, immigration, education, health, and criminal justice. By working together, individuals, churches, and communities can share information, organize efforts, and share resources. The OCC Social Justice Ministry Network gives us a vitally important tool enabling us to do this.


How does it work? Each representative is kept informed by OCC of important issues, including the work of the OCC  
IMPACT 
Committee as it tracks Oklahoma legislation. Where appropriate, we will produce relevant statements and recommend responsible action. Network representatives will then determine how best to disseminate this information to members of their own congregation and other interested persons. To join the Social Justice Ministry Network, send an e-mail to SJMN@okchurches.org.
 
Click on the embedded links in the paragraphs below for more in-depth information on each topic.

The election is over, and the people have sp o ken on several issues of interest to OCC's Social Justice Ministry Network.  Where do we go from here with the results of the various State Questions voted on November 8, 2016? 

Education

State question 779 failed, which would have provid e d a sales tax mechanism to help fund pu blic education. The need for increased funding rem a in s  a top priority in the new year. SJMN strongly supports the work of both the executive and legislative branches of state government in develop-ing sustainable funding to meet the educa-tion needs of students throughout the state. Educational success directly relates to decreasing po verty and attracting new and better jobs to the state. Failure to provide an adequate salary for t eachers results in the loss of many Oklahoma teachers to other states which pay significantly higher wages. The loss of well-trained teachers impacts the quality of education. A sustainable answer to this problem must be found. 


Criminal Justice

The passage of State Question 780, Prison Sentencing Reform, and 781, providing treatment for substance abuse and mental health, are excellent first steps in turning our criminal justice system around. Much more work is needed. Lack of funding is a major problem in our criminal justice system. The IMPACT Committee will be closely following and posting information on legislation designed to undergird restorative justice.


Environment

SJMN opposed State Question 777, known as the "Right to Farm," because of the limitations it placed on the legislature's ability to address future environmental issues. Its failure to pass results in the legislature retaining the ability to provide oversight regarding such things as clean water, waste water disposal, clean air, and energy efficiency. These areas remain SJMN priorities.

In March 2016, OCC created and com-missioned a Committee on the Environment to explore and develop ways for OCC to connect, educate, and motivate stewardship of the Earth, looking at environmental issues through a theological lens. Working with this committee, the SJMN will continue to track legislation related to the environment and keep members posted on any actionable issues.


Death Penalty

OCC opposed State Question 776 regarding the use of the death penalty in accordance with our Theological Statement in Opposition to the Death Penalty. However, the question passed. While the passage of the question resulted in no changes to present policies, it provided credence for the use of capital punishment.

Oklahoma imposed a moratorium on the use of the death penalty while the Clayton Lockett case proceeded through appeals regarding whether his execution was cruel and unusual. On November 15, 2016, the appeals court ruled that Lockett's execution was not cruel and unusual. This ruling plus the public support of State Question 776 may open the door for the scheduling of more executions. Oklahoma has the highest execution rate of any state since the Supreme Court ruling reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Nineteen states have either abolished or had the death penalty overturned since then. Four additional states have a moratorium on its use. For more information on the use of the death penalty, click this fact sheet.

If you would like to receive regular legislative updates in 2017, send an e-mail to okchurches@okchurches.org and ask to be added to the Social Justice Ministry Network e-mail list.
OKLAHOMA CONFERENCE OF CHURCHES
301 N.W. 36th Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73118
www.okchurches.org    |  405-525-2928 
The Rev. Dr. William Tabbernee, Executive Director