There was a time when making your own mind up about something was paramount. The law didn't intervene unless you were shown to be directly harming someone else. You were allowed to buy laudnum, cannabis and take cocaine or heroin, smoke tobacco in public and even drink-drive.
Prohibition has been shown not to work for alcohol but is now used against narcotics in most Western countries. Gradually over time, laws have been created to curb non-narcotic actions that have secondary harmful consequences to others, such as banning smoking in enclosed public spaces or banning outdoor drinking in busy town centres and on public transport.
A religious person exercising personal belief, though creating a mental cage for themselves, harms no-one else directly. Fairly serious secondary harm can be caused however such as causing fear through threats of ostracisation from society, mental oppression, "brain washing", fund-gathering from the poor - impoverishing them further, denying contraception to followers, opposition of scientific developments and understanding, creation of conflict between followers of different groups, even up to denying adherent's children appropriate medical care.
Some wearing of religious talisman's and religious paraphernalia has been banned but I was disturbed to see one of these banning's being overturned in European Court. This makes me Cross. This was even after it had been upheld in a British Court.
Although the children's medical care issue noted above can be dealt with by a court order in the UK it is a struggle to get. Is it not time that religion were seen in the same light as narcotics. After all, religions alter reality for "true" believers. Is it not time that national laws were drafted to curb religion in society; to enforce secularisation in communal life, especially in multicultural societies, such as most Western democracies.
The only laws, in my opinion, that should be drafted are those which curb the privileges of religions. Namely, religious parents should not have the right to send their children to schools in which they will be indoctrinated. As far as the collection of money from the poor, and the denying of contraception to followers is concerned, I don't think these should be regulated against, since these people are making the decisions themselves. Granted, this is occurring under a discreet form of psychological duress, but regulation of such basic freedoms does not seem wise or ethically justifiable. What religious organisations should be compelled to do, however, is present information to adherents regarding opposition, so as to stave off 'brainwashing' in so far as that is possible.
The case of the woman wearing her cross in the workplace is exactly the kind of privilege that should be swept away, but there should not be a blanket ban; it should be left to the discretion of the institution, so that religious paraphernalia is treated in the same way as everything else. Hence, if employees are generally allowed to select their own jewelry, what they wear can have religious connotations if they so choose.
This is not to say that we shouldn't actively criticise religions in the public sphere. But I think the only role of the government should be to provide parity between religion and secular life. A parent who mistreats their child on religious grounds, or provides improper education, would thus be dealt with as harshly as any other neglectful parent. Enforced secularisation (if that means the prohibition of religion) is not a good idea. If, however, it means treating religion in the same way as everything else (thereby bringing it into the sphere of reasonable discourse), then I'm all for your suggestion.
I certainly don't mean the prohibition of religon, just the prohibition of public displays of religion, the prohibition of public preaching, the prohibition of dogmatic enforcement, within a rligious sect, against human rights.
I appreciate the liberal nature of your post but there are a couple of issues I have: 1. town centre preaching...there is a preacher who sets up his whiteboard in the place where there are benches and lots of young impressionable kids sit to eat their lunch on a Saturday in my city. He hasn't been criminal record checked, he hasn't been vet checked...he just appears there and hammers on every Saturday about how everyone should believe...his audience are mostly sub-18 kids sitting with mates and he is quite prepared (I've watched him) to shove leaflets into hands and invite them to meetings - where? a non-existent alien being lonly knows...
2. In the UK there is not a parity between secualr and religious life unless perhaps if you are CofE. There are law makers in the House of Lords who's only reference is that they are high ranking clergy...of the CofE. There are not equivalent Zoroastrians, or Chinese Shaman.