Some justify the burqa ban by insisting that fundamentalist Muslims who demand that women wear the full veil are misogynists. I certainly sympathize with concerns about what the burqa says about women’s dignity and rights. But we should not allow the government to act as a religious judge: keeping the government out of religion’s business is the historic heart of what church-state (or mosque-state) separation has meant. It never traditionally meant aggressive state-imposed secularism, at least not in the United States. Of course, we cannot tolerate religious violence ”” “honor killings,” terrorism, and other vicious practices of certain fundamentalist sects can never be accepted, as they cross the line from religious expression into criminal acts.
The ban on the burqa, at root, is about France’s discomfort with the increasingly visible presence of a disliked religious minority. France is catering to the tastes and comfort of the traditional French majority, composed largely of Catholics (many of them nominal) and secularists. But remember, when you do not honor religious liberty for one group, the freedom of all believers is in jeopardy.