Posted by Eugene Volokh to Volokh.
I have a piece on the subject in National Review Online this morning. Here's the introduction:
Recent years have seen a set of requests by Muslims for exemptions from generally applicable laws and work rules. A Muslim policewoman in Philadelphia, for instance, asked for an exemption from police-uniform rules so that she could wear a Muslim headdress. A few years ago, a Muslim woman in Florida asked that she be allowed to wear a veil in a driver's license photo. Last year, a Muslim woman in Michigan asked that she be allowed to testify veiled in a small-claims case that she brought.
All these claims were rejected by courts, and likely correctly, though the arguments for the rejection are not open-and-shut. But some of the public reaction I've seen to the claims suggests that people are seeing such claims as some sort of special demands by Muslims for special treatment beyond what is given Christians, Jews, and others. And that turns out not to be quite so: While the claims are for religious exemptions for Muslims, they are brought under general religious-exemption statutes that were designed for all religions and that have historically benefited mostly Christians (since there are so many Christians in America).
The Muslim exemption claims are plausible attempts to invoke established American religious-exemption law, and they deserve to be treated as such -- even if there are good reasons for rejecting them, as American religious-exemption law recognizes. Let us briefly review this law, so that this becomes clearer....