No, “it’s” not about religious freedom. Religious freedom means there will no established national religion in the United States of America, or in Nevada, or in wherever USA. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” [Amendment I] There will be no national church, nor shall anyone be prohibited from his or her own free exercise of his or her religion. That doesn’t mean that he or she may impose his or her religion upon others in the public sphere. Some people appear to be operating on the delusion that their private sanctuary extends to the horizons.
If a person’s religion requires keeping one’s head covered before God but mine doesn’t, then who am I to require that they remove the yarmulke in my place of business? Asking a man to remove his keffiyeh or tagiyah makes no more sense. That these gentlemen are wearing a yarmulke, a keffiyeh, or a tagiyah, or a turban, in no way impinges on my belief that the head covering is unnecessary.
I should no more require a woman to remove her hijab…her sheila…or her doa guan before being served than I should tell a nun to remove her habit. If seeing a person in a yarmulke or a hijab makes me uncomfortable, makes me feel like “others” are invading my personal “religious” space, then I should reflect very carefully on where their space ends and mine begins.
What I am not free to do in my place of business in the public sphere is to hang up a sign reading “Keffiyeh, yarmulke, turban, hijab, mitpachat (aka tichels), doa guan? No Service.” I am free to exercise my religious beliefs — by not wearing a head cover; however, I am not free to require others remove theirs in my presence. Nor can I “exercise” my religion in the public sphere by discriminating against others of different faiths.
If I were to believe that life begins at conception then I would not approve of an abortion for myself or the members of my family over which I have direct control. However, if my neighbor believes that life doesn’t begin until the infant takes its first independent breath, I have no right to impose my religious tenets upon my neighbor. That family is just as free to function in terms of its own religious freedom of conscience as I am to function within the framework of mine.
One of the more interesting features of the contemporary “religious freedom” argument is how members of the predominant faith in this nation have somehow come to believe that they are a set-upon minority battling the forces of secularism and plurality. They are beset by attacks — on Christmas? on Life? on Easter? At least if they watch enough cable television from a certain unmentionable network clamoring for ratings they might appear to be. In the pride they take in being the Cincinnatus At The Gates of Modern Morality, they seem to have forgotten (1) they aren’t really under attack, and (2) that the state, the public domain, is not constituted for their comfort. For more thoughts on this subject see the post here.