Pajamas Media » Burka Bans Spreading, Though Shamefully Not in Britain
There is a legitimate public safety interest in banning masks in some circumstances. The old bans on the KKK hood usually included a prohibition against being part of an unlawful assembly of three or more people. The Klan like Islam claims to be a religious activity but that defense has not proven very convincing. The ACLU has had success in getting Federal Judges to strike down the ban on Free Speech grounds, notably in NYC.
Any restriction on face coverings would have to include provisions for exceptions, perhaps after petition to a court, for medical, commercial reasons, or community activities. A person suffering from Elephantiasis should be permitted a mask. An actor performing their job should be permitted a mask. Children on Halloween and adults at a fancy ball should all be permitted to wear masks without anyone thinking that the public safety is being threatened.
Why not ban the wearing of face masks on any public conveyance or in any public facility, such as a school, court, post office, or motor vehicle licensing station or in a public assembly or rally? That can be done without banning the wearing of a mask when engaged in peaceful private activity. That would protect against the real threat of terrorism in transportation and public intimidation. The question of access to private facilities should be explicitly left up to the discretion of the proprietor. If there was a real risk of the robe and mask being used to conceal a criminal or violent activity then the pressures of insurance costs and liability would induce the business owners to ban the burqa. If it was seen as a normal part of a local community that women adapted by their own free choice then they would be welcomed as customers.