Religious Freedom or Bigotry?

Beware. This post contains many pictures. Videos too!

As you might have heard, Indiana's governor Mike Pence recently passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The law states precisely this:

Religious freedom restoration. Prohibits a governmental entity from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless the governmental entity can demonstrate that the burden: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling governmental interest. Provides a procedure for remedying a violation. Specifies that the religious freedom law applies to the implementation or application of a law regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity or official is a party to a proceeding implementing or applying the law. Prohibits an applicant, employee, or former employee from pursuing certain causes of action against a private employer.
— https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2015/bills/senate/101#digest-heading

On its face, the law appears to protect the rights of business owners to defer to their religious preferences when deciding how to engage in business (e.g., who they will or will not serve). Seems nice, right? Except that no. It's not. Although the law itself does not specifically mention same-sex customers, that's precisely who the law is intended to discriminate against. Governor Pence, in the face of the backlash against the law, is trying to "clarify the intent of the law."

This makes Governor Pence a liar. Let's consider this for a moment. Here's Governor Pence passionately supporting Eric Miller and his lobby group Advance America:

To Governor Pence, Eric Miller is an inspiration. To anyone with any sense, he's a bigot. While Governor Pence seeks to sugercoat the intent of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, here's Eric Miller's revelation about its true intent.

Churches, Christian businesses and individuals deserve protection from those who support homosexual marriages and those who support government recognition and approval of gender identity (men who dress as women). SB 101 will help provide the protection!
— http://www.advanceamerica.com/pdf/Religious-Freedom.pdf

Thanks for the clarification, Mr. Miller. He makes the intent of the law abundantly clear. It's not to protect religious freedoms; it's to protect the rights of religious people to blatantly discriminate against the LGBT community. So far, I haven't linked to a single liberal outlet, which I'm pretty happy about. It's best to hear what people believe from their own bigoted mouths.

But maybe Governor Pence got confused, supporting Eric Miller despite his beliefs about LGBT couples. Nah. Here's Governor Pence being asked about marriage. Pay particular attention to the question he's asked at the one-minute mark:

And then there's what he said to the House of Representatives at a hearing at the 108th Congress:

Mr. Speaker, after weeks of legal and moral confusion, from Massachusetts to California, today President George W. Bush called on this Congress to adopt a constitutional amendment defining marriage historically and culturally as it has ever been, as the union between a man and a woman. In so doing, President George W. Bush brought moral clarity to the debate by calling for this amendment banning gay marriage, in his words, preventing courts from changing that most enduring of human institutions.
— http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r108:H24FE4-0011:/

His intent is clear. From his own mouth. Not from anyone trying to disparage him by claiming that the intent of the law is anything but what it is. He says it himself.

Twenty states—most recently Arkansas—have passed similar laws allowing for businesses to discriminate against LGBT couples and individuals. This is unfortunate because this issue was already decided upon. Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that...

All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, and privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.
— http://library.clerk.house.gov/reference-files/PPL_CivilRightsAct_1964.pdf

So what's a "place of public accommodation," you ask? Well, the law does a good job of defining it:

Each of the following establishments which serves the public is a place of public accommodation within the meaning of this title if its operations affect commerce, or if discrimination or segregation by it is supported by State action:

(1) any inn, hotel, motel, or other establishment which provides lodging to transient guests, other than an establishment located within a building which contains not more than five rooms for rent or hire and which is actually occupied by the proprietor of such establishment as his residence;

(2) any restaurant, cafeteria, lunchroom, lunch counter, soda fountain, or other facility principally engaged in selling food for consumption on the premises, including, but not limited to, any such facility located on the premises of any retail establishment; or any gasoline station;

(3) any motion picture house, theater, concert hall, sports arena, stadium or other place of exhibition or entertainment; and

(4) any establishment (A)(i) which is physically located within the premises of any establishment otherwise covered by this subsection, or (ii) within the premises of which is physically located any such covered establishment, and (B) which holds itself out as serving patrons of such covered establishment.
— http://library.clerk.house.gov/reference-files/PPL_CivilRightsAct_1964.pdf

Yes, that includes bakeries and florists and any other place that is run by racists, sexists, people who'd love to discriminate against members of other religions and nationalities. Why doesn't it include homophobes? Because that's the civil rights issue of our time. If you're a business owner whose spiritual beliefs include the belief that the sons of Ham and the sons of Seth shouldn't mix, you can't use your religious beliefs to discriminate against that interracial couple.

But laws protecting the rights of interracial couples didn't used to exist. Here's the story of the Lovings:

The parallels between the struggles that the Lovings faced and the struggles that LGBT couples face may not be immediately apparent to the homophobes in the Indiana state legislature, but I hope they are to you.

Because I'm a writer. And I write gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender characters. I intend to continue to do so. If that's not your cup of tea, you might not want to read my stories. And that's totally fine with me.

I'm not alone. But if you do happen to disagree with me, here's a great video inviting you to visit the lovely state of Indiana:

I'm proud to see that Oklahoma didn't go the way of Indiana. Don't get me wrong. Oklahoma tried. Our 55th legislature introduced House Bill 1371 in February of this year. It was penned by Representative Chuck Strohm and had a very similar wording as the Indiana law:

In any action brought under the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act, neither the State of Oklahoma nor any subdivision thereof shall be
entitled to claim a governmental interest which purports to require any person to participate in any marriage ceremony, celebration, or other related activity or to provide items or services for such purposes against the person’s religious beliefs.
— http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/cf_pdf/2015-16%20INT/hB/HB1371%20INT.PDF

Then there's the genius of Representative Emily Virgin, who added a tiny amendment to the bill this month:

Any person not wanting to participate in any of the activities set forth in subsection A of this section based on sexual orientation, gender identity or race of either party to the marriage shall post notice of such refusal in a manner clearly visible to the public in all places of business, including websites. The notice may refer to the person’s religious beliefs, but shall state specifically which couples the business does not serve by referring to a refusal based upon sexual orientation, gender identity or race.
— http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/cf_pdf/2015-16%20FLOOR%20AMENDMENTS/House/HB1371%20FA1%20VIRGINEM-AM.PDF

And...that killed the bill. The House leadership pulled it from the floor, and Virgin's amendment wasn't even debated. I guess they were afraid that extreme conservative representatives might actually vote for the amendment, and the House leadership realized that it would adversely affect business interests in the state of Oklahoma. Smart move.

Now there's Josh Driver, the mind behind the Open For Service campaign. It allows businesses, individuals, and religious organizations to express their support for equality by posting stickers on their entrances or anywhere else. You can get your own, and all profits will go to SCORE, which supports small businesses throughout the country by offering assistance in management, organization, and marketing.

I'm getting one, the publishing company I work for is getting one, and you should get one too. It's a good cause, and you can support equality and small business all at the same time.

Tornadoes in Tulsa

I have two jobs right now. In one, I'm a case manager to youth with significant mental health needs. It's difficult work, but I've been doing it now for over a year and a half, so I've gotten pretty good at it. Then there's the second one: professional counselor to teenagers. I love both of them, but I adore the second one. Paperwork abounds, but it's so fun to talk with the kids and work with them.

But it's not without it's level of exhaustion. I've got one full-time job and one (right now) part-time job, and forty hours a week to complete both. That's not humanly possible. Fortunately, I have great and understanding supervisors who can help me transition. Unfortunately, I have this remarkable difficulty in asking for help. Still working on that. It's a thing.

Today was fun though. While the skies whorled in shades of gray and small funnels formed and dispersed, while lightning strikes showered the sky in a pale blue hue, I in my car, driving through the rain at a pretty chill pace. A silver speedster slipped past me with fury, slipping between cars like he was playing a faster version of Oregon Trail, where you're supposed to maneuver a rickety wagon along a river avoiding obstacles lest your oxen and passengers die horrible deaths.

I recently played Oregon Trail again.  There were only a few people with diseases, but no one died until that damn river minigame. To the driver in the silver car, I was a rock in the torrential rain striking the pavement. I found myself worried for the guy. And, oddly, wondering whether any of his passengers had typhus.

In the residential roads, people hovered on the grassy curbs, some with their cameras out, staring at the funnels forming over the downtown area.  One man, with pale white skin, a bald head, and a mullet that would make John Stamos cringe, watched the sky wearing only striped boxers. Now that's pride. Or a total lack of sense. Maybe he was so awestruck that he decided, "Screw dignity. There's tornadoes a'formin'!" If only we could all be so carefree.

So that was my day. How was yours?

Becoming Michael Fassbender

It feels like the time passes super-quickly. Pretty soon it'll be 2020, and I won't even have noticed.

This Friday, I officially turned in my application for LPC candidacy. A lot of people have asked me what LPC means: Licensed Professional Counselor. Yup--it's finally happening! The best part is that the agency at which I work, and the people in charge of counseling at said agency, are willing to supervise me. It means a few changes to my job description, but it also means I still get to keep working with the youth that I've been working with thus far. I like that. In just a short few weeks, I will officially be...

thecounselor

I've always wanted to be Michael Fassbender. Without the drug dealing. Or the fact that he's actually a lawyer. Okay, I won't be Michael Fassbender in The Counselor. Probably more like Michael Fassbender in...

adangerousmethod

Except without the sex with clients. Or the--you know what? I'm not gonna be Michael Fassbender at all. His characters are crazy. Oooh! I could be his counselor. That might be fun. Working to avoid transference in his case may be hard, but that's just part of the job.

It's Finally Here

Okay. It's only on Kindle for now, but that's still amazing. Beyond the Nightlight is the first book published by Adrean Messmer, although all we Crows had a part in editing the pieces that were submitted. It's our first official publication with authors other than ourselves. We had so many submissions, and many of them were so great that we decided we had to keep them--and move them to other anthologies that are still upcoming.

I don't know when it comes out on paperback, but the paperback versions usually get a little delayed. When it does come out in paperback, I'll post a link to it on my Publications page. Shannon and I both have stories in this anthology: this time only one each. Mine is called "The In-Between Places," so look for it and feel free to tell me what you think.

Thanks to all the contributors and to my fellow Crows for making this all happen. There's tons more coming up soon, so keep your eyes open for new news!

The Cold

I was sick all week. It all started on Sunday when a massive fever hit me, along with horrible aches and pains. I was lying in bed, writhing, wishing I could go to sleep but being totally unable to. So I took a day off of work, went to the doctor, and found out I had a cold virus. Not the flu and not ebola, so that was good.

A little Duraflu and a lot of chicken soup later, I'm starting to feel a lot better. And I learned a bunch of really cool stuff. I asked my doctor, "Why do you get aches and pains at all when you get the cold or flu?" And my doctor answered, "Interferons." The story that follows is what happens in the body when you get a virus because viruses are bitches and have to be fought off the good old fashioned way--by suffering through it 'till it's gone.

A virus infects a host cell by attaching to its membrane and sticking it with a needle, then spilling its DNA or RNA into the cell to attach itself to wherever they'll fit. Chicken soup is metabolized in the liver to create a series of proteins called interferons. Cells receive these proteins. When a cell is infected, it instantly releases a ton of interferons. Those little proteins attach themselves to the cell membranes of nearby cells, warning them that there's danger. So the cell membranes do their little membrane thing and start to protect themselves from infection from other nearby viruses--and from the viruses that spill out of the popped remains of the cell that died to warn all the others.

Interferons also call two types of other cells to the rescue: phagocytes and natural killer cells. The phagocytes roam the space between cells and suck up little cold viruses. Then they coat them in a little protein sheath, within which they're dissolved into little component parts. Then the phagocytes poop out what's left and other cells use the remains to create immunities. Natural killer cells are awesomer, though. They go around to infected cells, dissolve holes in the cell membrane, and then they throw little protein grenades into the infected cell. Then...BAM! The cell self-destructs in a blaze of fatty glory, killing all the viruses inside it.

So all of that's been happening all over my body. It's a story of invasion, sacrifice, self-defense, devouring, and with tons of explosions. Like a Michael Bay movie without all the short skirts. Unless...

shortskirtcold

You naughty, naughty virus.

Women in Fridges

The Purple Ink Writers recently wrote an article that sparked a lot of conversation among our Murder of Storytellers. It involves fridging, a trope that is exceedingly common but that, until the Purple Inkers wrote about it, I knew nothing about.

While fridging is not solely attributable to women, it's all too common for women to be left in the fridge simply to spur a main male character to act. Gail Simone put together a list of females in comic books who have been stuffed into the fridge, beginning with Alexandra DeWitt in the Green Lantern comic books.

So the question is, is this a feminist issue? The Purple Inkers think so. So does Simone. And so do I. Having a tragedy motivate a character is not unusual in storytelling, but that tragedy is all the more effective if the victim is a person instead of a McGuffin. List for yourself, however, the number of female non-characters who have been raped, killed, mutilated, etc., all to serve to motivate a male protagonist. Too many. That's the answer to that question.

I really suggest reading the Purple Ink Writers' article. Note, though, you may want to catch up on The Walking Dead before you read it. There be spoilers.

The Thirteenth

It's the thirteenth of November. Just three more weeks till the end of school. Till loans start needing to be paid, till I turn in all I need for my LPC application, till I turn in my last assignments and am finally free of the bonds of grad school.

Unfortunately, this won't be me:

Image taken from here.

Image taken from here.

I already graduated. Which is awesome, but it does make this whole thing a little bit less exciting. My schooling ends with a whimper. Although I'm not one to complain; the fact that I've already got my diploma has made these last three semesters significantly less stressful. I'm definitely grateful for that.

You know, now that I think about it, for neither high school nor undergrad nor grad school did I or any of my fellow nascent alums throw their hats in the air. I still have my undergrad hat. If I'd thrown it, I would've lost it, it might've been trampled. All terrible things. Who throws their hats? Have any of you? It's a total myth as far as I'm aware.

Three More Months

And I'll officially be done with school. Finally. With my master's degree under my belt, all that's left is for me to become able to get my LPC. I'll have completed all sixty hours required, and I'll be ready for my two-year supervisory period. Yay!

So what does this mean for my writing? Tons! Right now, most of my writing is relegated to non-fictional analyses of psychological issues, counseling practice, and multicultural competency. Thrilling subjects--for me--but not so much for people who prefer fiction over academic papers. Many of my Murder buddies have joined together to create a tabletop roleplaying podcast. There's this podcast planned regarding the long-time argument about whether hexagonal or square grid maps are better. I plan to bring the neuropsychology in: without boring listeners. That's hard. I like to fap about those things. It is my career.

After school, I'll be able to focus more on my fiction writing. Maybe finally get some novels out there that I've been working on forever, like Pyrrhic and Sam. And get my serial Navigator going. My weekday nights will be free, and all the other time I'm not spending in school will no longer be smothered by homework and papers. I'll have no excuses is what I mean.

I'm behind on Nanowrimo already. It's the sixth, and I'm not going to be able to do any work until at least Saturday. It'll be tough to catch up, but I've done it before. With school winding down--that is, at the tail end of its rising action culminating in its climax in the beginning of December--that will make Nanowrimo especially challenging. But I'd be remiss if I didn't try. I've won the last few years, and I hope to keep that streak going.

A Word and a Square

I always wonder what life holds for my websites. First, there was Burgos Online. Then Burgosian Innovations, JoVo Nexus, and finally we've come to this. Social networking has made it practically impossible to hide online--not that I was trying very hard since I used my last name for the first two sites I ever made. JoVo Nexus came to be because, at some point, I actually had a bunch of people posting and doing stuff on my site. We had a radio station, a comic (sometimes several), the works.

Eventually, I came to see my site as a reservoir of things I'd made. I guess, to some extent, I never wanted to give up on JoVo Nexus because it was my online home. Still. I haven't done anything with it in forever, and keeping up with a personal blog and an author site is absurd. I can barely do one well enough, and it's this--the author site--that I want to really keep up with. So JoVo Nexus is going away. Instead, there will be this.

Oh, I'll be keeping the domain. This site will be accessible from both jovonexus.net and jackburgos.com. Call it nostalgia.

Oh, right. The title of this post. You'll notice the site has changed somewhat. I decided that, given my need to focus on things other than my website and keeping it running without constant updates and faulty software, I'm gonna go ahead and change things around so that they're easier to maintain. Squarespace is promoted in almost any podcast I listen to. It's a good platform. Simpler than what I'm used to, but I don't have the time for constant maintenance. As I told the president of A Murder of Storytellers LLC, I'm not a staff. I am a single staff member: not enough to maintain a site 24/7. Thankfully, Squarespace is. I get to be the webmaster without having to stay up at all hours.

And, if this works out, Murder will be moving to Squarespace with me. That's a pretty cool deal. But we'll see how it works out for me first. So far, I like Squarespace, so this is all looking very promising.