Re the “religious freedom” craze in the USA: there was no crisis of religious freedom, no immediate threat to religious freedom in Indiana. At least not until Indiana’s state-wide ban on same-sex marriage was overturned in the courts. The political response to the court ruling was the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” a compensatory bone thrown to religious conservatives by conservative legislators and Indiana’s Republican governor.
It seems to me that the defense of religious freedom is trivialized when it is applied to catering weddings or taking wedding photos.
If the discussion of religion as an “essential identity” is meant in an essentialist way, I’d respond by saying that what is “essential” about us is what we either choose to construe as essential or what is imposed on us as being essential (e.g., by other people, especially parents, and by institutions, such as the school, the church, and the state).
Of course, how we understand what is “essential” about ourselves could be a combination of both choice (freedom) and imposition (necessity). It is frequently the case that individuals make a virtue of necessity, thus resolving the tension between choice and imposition.