By Leah Libresco
Over the course of a few weeks in August, France’s coastal towns banned burkinis at the beach, considered a ban on nuns’ habits for the sake of consistency, and ultimately saw their burkini bans struck down in court. The controversy sprang from France’s commitment to laïcité, something a little more intense than “secularism.” The Deputy Mayor of Nice explained to the BBC that in France “religion is the affair of each one but each one at home, each one at church, not each one in the street.”
In the United States, burkinis aren’t banned, but there are still clashes about whether religious freedom means the freedom to worship privately at church or the freedom to practice your faith in public.
As a convert to Catholicism from atheism, I’ve been on both sides of awkwardness and discomfort around being religious in public. I usually decide what kinds of visible faith are too much based on my experiences from when I was an atheist, using them to make my best guess about how others feel. But that kind of guess offends my statistical sensibilities.
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