"We believe in the equality of all Americans before the law, regardless of creed or community. But we are both determined and unafraid to speak the truth about beliefs we have held for millennia," they stated.
Religious freedom is "the first of our civil rights," the letter insisted, and differences of opinion on matters of conscience is part of what should be a vibrant public square.
"The genius of American democracy is that it invites everyone into the public square, on the basis of full equality, to contend over the laws and policies that reflect our values and our understanding of the common good," the letter stated.
The government must not infringe upon this debate and refer to one side as bigoted, the leaders maintained: "Slandering ideas and arguments with which one disagrees as 'racism' or 'phobia' not only cheapens the meaning of those words, but can have a chilling effect on healthy debate over, or dissent from, the prevailing orthodoxy."
And religious beliefs cannot be a private matter, but can and should be brought into the public square, the leaders continued:
"Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King – indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history – were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause."
"So to say that men and women should not inject their 'personal morality' into public policy debates is a practical absurdity."
The commission's report also called for the repeal of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would result in a dramatic shift of jurisprudence on religious freedom cases.
When it was published, one of the commissioners dissenting from the report, Gail Heriot, issued a scathing rebuke of the report and of Castro's statements.
She stated that "the Commission majority takes a complex subject and tries to make it simple – far too simple. Not many legal or constitutional issues come down to good guys vs. bad guys."
"In some ways, I envy anyone who can dismiss those who disagree with him as mere hypocrites," she added.
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"Does Chairman Castro really believe that the Little Sisters of the Poor, whose case is currently before the Supreme Court, are just a bunch of hypocrites? Does he believe that they are making up their concern over being compelled to finance their employees' contraception? Does he think they really just want to save money?"