I found this this editorial via The Center for Arizona Policy, a group I've agreed with approximately never. So it's notable that in this case, I agree with them. (Write this down in your calendars! It might be another sign of the apocalypse...)
The Arizona Republic editorial, which CAP and I agree is ridiculous, espouses the view that faith rammed down others' throats is not a good thing.
Yet these days, people don't just want to practice their religion, they want to slap you in the face with it. They demand society's reverence for acting on personal religious convictions.
Okay, I agree with this in theory--I don't like people slapping me in the face with religion, either. But then she goes on to describe things like Muslims wearing burqas and Jews wearing yarmulkes as "religious exhibitionism." Uh, no it isn't. It's a requirement of that faith. Asking a devout Muslim woman to expose her hair would be like telling me I have to walk around topless. Do we really want to be in the business of telling people they're not allowed to dress modestly?
The writer goes on to say that people sometimes need protection from religion and cites the Warren Jeffs case. Come on. Is she really making the case that a Muslim woman covering her face infringes on my personal rights the same way someone else forcing me to marry him when I'm only 13 would? Are we really so easily offended that someone else wearing religious garb in our presence is a threat?
Yes, there are some things that religion should not force on us. It shouldn't require us to wear religious garb, for example. Tell me I'm required by law to cover my face with a burqa and I'm gonna get testy. But not allow someone to choose to do so? That's absurd. I can handle seeing a man in a yarmulke without feeling like he's shoving his Jewish faith down my throat, thankyouverymuch.
We need to be reasonable. People of faith--like everyone else--have a responsibility to be sensitive to others who don't share that faith, but we all have a responsibility to not be so oversensitive that a mere sign of a faith not our own is an affront. Let Muslims have their burqas and Jews their yarmulkes and Wiccans their pagan symbols and atheists whatever symbol of their views they want and I'll keep wearing my cross (when I get around to fixing its chain, that is). If we can't make the distinction between something I merely disagree with or don't think is necessary and an actual infringement on my personal rights, we as a society are in serious trouble.