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COMMENTARY
Oilfield Prayer Day
A pump operates just south of the Oklahoma State Capitol on Lincoln Boulevard. (Josh McBee)

Dear Gov. Mary Fallin,

You have declared Oct. 13 to be Oilfield Prayer Day. You have invited us to, “thank God for the blessings created by the oil and natural gas industry and to seek His [sic] wisdom and ask for protection.”

As an ordained Christian minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I just can’t.

Gov. Fallin, Oklahoma’s oilfields are fine. It’s our public policies that need divine intervention.

Oklahoma lawmakers have spent decades enticing oil and gas companies to stay in Oklahoma with low taxes and tax credits. The numbers are staggering: $400 million in tax breaks to oil and gas producers per year, $18.1 million in rebates for other forms of production and $188.6 million in deferred rebates. Despite this corporate welfare, oil and gas companies are firing our friends and family left and right, while giving million dollar bonuses to top executives.

All of those tax breaks and tax credits have had a traumatic effect on tax revenue, resulting in devastating cuts to public education and services.  We have so little confidence that you and our legislators will fix this problem that Oklahomans are considering a penny sales tax to secure badly needed funding for our classrooms, even though it will be another burden on our working families and the elderly, who are on fixed incomes. This is a failure of leadership.

We know from other oil and gas-dependent states that responsible legislation means that during the lean years, per-student school funding can actually increase instead of plummet.

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Reasonable taxes on an industry that uses public natural resources — the ones you describe as created by God — is not, well, unreasonable. It’s making sure that those “natural resources created by God” are used to provide our kids with a free and quality education and give our public school teachers a well-deserved raise — all possible without burdening the most vulnerable among us.

So while you pray for our oil fields, I’ll be praying for you.

I’ll be praying that God grants you the wisdom and courage to work for the public good, not just the wealthy and powerful. After all, it’s the Christian thing to do.

Prayerfully,

Rev. Lori Allen Walke

(P.S. — As theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether noted, “When God is male, male is God.” Be mindful of pronouns. This could be why it took us so long to elect a woman to the highest office in Oklahoma, not to mention the presidency.)

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Rev. Lori Allen Walke serves as an associate minister at Mayflower Congregational UCC in Oklahoma City. She has studied political science, health care administration and law, earning a juris doctorate from the Oklahoma City University in 2009. An Oklahoma native, she earned her Masters of Divinity from Philips Theological Seminary in 2011.