A magistrate in Manchester has walked out of a court because a defendant refused to remove a full-face veil, and this seems to have caused some controversy. Admittedly the magistrate could have handled it better than just walking out, but his point remains valid. You can't turn-up in court with your face covered - you could be anyone. Whose word do we have to take that this is actually the person who it should be?

I don't know how the law stands on this. Could anyone turn up in court with their face covered and expect everyone else to go along with it? Somehow I doubt it, and if it's true for one person it should be true for all people. We can't give special permission for people to be exempt from laws and conventions because of some belief they hold. Where would it stop? If it is indeed the case, then hey, my brand new and convenient religion forbids me to appear in court unless I'm provided with beer and strippers! I'm being silly of course, but how is that any more silly than the demands of any faith? They are all essentially made-up to fit some possibly questionable historical anyway.

It's time for the government to put its foot down and state that no religious 'rules' are valid for any exemptions or special treatments in any walk of life. It doesn't matter what your magic book or man with super powers from the past says - we are all equal, and we all have exactly the same rights, along with the same responsibilities. The overriding motivation behind any of our actions should be for society, not because we're scared of some mythical punishment that might befall us when we die. A life that is lived well purely because we fear a supernatural punishment is not worthy of admiration at all. It is to be pitied.