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Conference of Churches sets Day at Legislature

On Monday the Oklahoma Conference of Churches will conduct its 33rd annual Day at the Legislature. 

"To be a responsible citizen means being informed about major issues before the Legislature," said the Rev. Dr. William Tabbernee, the conference's executive director. "Our annual Day at the Legislature gives people of faith that opportunity."

This year's program will highlight two focus areas: the environment and criminal justice and corrections. Bryan Welch, a rancher and former CEO of Ogden Publications, an information resource serving the sustainable living and rural lifestyle, will be keynote speaker on environment. His topic is "Be the Change: Business and Faith for a New Millennium." Welch will address participants in the House Chamber of the state Capitol during the day's first session, which starts at 9 a.m.

The second keynote speaker is Terri White, commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Her criminal justice topic is "Untreated and Under-Addressed Mental Health and Substance Abuse Needs: The Impact on Oklahoma."

At 11 a.m., participants will have the opportunity to visit the offices of their own representatives and senators or to take a guided tour of the capitol.

Lunch and the afternoon sessions will be at St. Paul's Cathedral in downtown Oklahoma City. Lydia Polley, former co-chair of the conference's Day at the Legislature Committee, will be presented with the OCC Advocacy Award during the luncheon.

Workshops set

The workshops include sessions on two state questions: SQ 776 regarding the death penalty, conducted by former state Sen. Connie Johnson, and SQ 777 on the "Right to Farm" by former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson.

David Prater, Oklahoma Country District Attorney, will discuss "Alternatives to Incarceration." Kris Steele, former House speaker, will address "Criminal Justice Reform," and Douglas Parr, Oklahoma City attorney, will talk about "Injustice in Our Justice System."

Ilinda Jackson, of Oklahoma Department of Corrections Victims Services, will present a workshop, "Sista-Sista: How Incarceration Affects Women, Families and the Community." The Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr., from East Sixth Street Christian Church, will speak on the "Expansion of the New Jim Crow Laws," revisiting and updating some of the issues which he presented as one of last year's most popular workshops. Kris King, from VOICE, will present on "Restorative Justice."

Workshops and relevant environmental issues include "Sustainable Wind Energy" led by Johnson Bridgwater of the Sierra Club and "The Church and Climate Change" by Pat Hoerth of Turtle Rock Farm. There will be a book discussion reviewing Elizabeth Kolbert's "The Sixth Extinction," one of the New York Times' 10 best books of 2014. This workshop will be led by the Rev. Dr. John Regan of First Christian Church, Edmond.

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