Our Core Principles
God governs in the affairs of man.
- Human flourishing depends upon the Creator's benevolence and living within his order for pursuing the good life.
- For national and civic well-being all law and public policy should be in agreement with principles of Natural Law --universal ethical norms of right and wrong.
- The American constitutional order (including its ideal of the "rule of law") is premised upon the existence of Natural Law.
God endows every person with inherent dignity.
- This God-given dignity is the foundation for natural rights or "inalienable rights" of life, liberty, and the pursuit of a well-ordered soul (what the American founders called "happiness").
- The inherent dignity of the human person as created in God's image demands that all persons (and especially the unborn, physically infirm, mentally disabled, and elderly) regardless of their social and economic status ought to be welcomed in life and their rights protected by law.
- All persons have responsibilities (duties, obligations) corresponding to and incumbent upon their rights.
Humankind is inherently social and created for community.
- The natural family is the irreducible unit of society and is thus prior to the state.
- The marriage bond between the male and female sexes is a natural and normal order for the regulation of relations between the sexes and the rearing of children.
- Notions of human autonomy, individualism, and selfishness are antithetical to the common good and to the American founders' vision of a virtuous republic.
- Mankind is his "brothers' keeper."
Civil government is limited by its nature and purpose.
- The state is instituted principally to secure and protect the God-given dignity of the human person and to foster the common good. It does not grant human rights, nor is it to be equated with or to comprehend society.
- The state's legitimate function to these specific ends is the guiding principle of its own limited sphere of authority.
- The state is further limited by the existence of the social institutions of family, church, and society, which have their own delineated spheres of authority and independent jurisdictions.
Religion and morality are essential foundations of good government.
- In the words of George Washington, religion and morality are the "indispensable supports" and "great pillars" of political prosperity.
- Without faith in God and belief in a transcendent moral order there is ultimately no security for property, reputation, or life.
- Morality can only be effectively maintained and sustained by religion.
- In the words of John Adams, "Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people…." It is therefore essential to the success of the American system that the national government promote positive neutrality toward all religions that cultivate public virtue in their adherents.
- Of all the religions that cultivate public virtue, Christianity might rightly be considered as the most-favored because of its positive and historical role in shaping American culture, ideals, and institutions.
Christianity fosters and cultivates American Democracy.
- Christianity's teaching on the sacred dignity of all human persons as well as their capacity for evil is conducive to democratic political theories of freedom, government, and human rights.
- Christianity shaped and defined Anglo-American legal principles that are essential to democracy including ideals of justice, equity, equality before the law, proportionality in punishment, and restitution for victims.
- Christianity was the historical religious and cultural context for the emergence of American political ideals and founding of the republic.
- Christianity has proven itself to be a seedbed of the public virtues necessary for sustaining American constitutional order.
- The future well-being of the American republic depends upon a vibrant Christian faith to inform its customs, mores, ideals and institutions.
Freedom of religion is America's first freedom.
- In the words of the Magna Carta the "church shall be free, and have her rights entire, and her liberties inviolate." It is the right of the church to remain free and independent of state interference and control.
- The dignity of the human person, as created in God's image, assures the right of conscience to freely worship God.
- The free exercise of religion is a right enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution for people of all faiths and none.
- Without freedom of religion authentic political expression, dissent, and other democratic values are jeopardized. In other words, freedom of religion is the first freedom because it typifies and safeguards democratic values.
- The state should apply equal and exact justice to all persons regardless of race, creed, or religion.
The right to ownership and private property is essential to the inalienable rights of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
- The creation of wealth is a moral imperative for every society.
- The freedom of trade, exchange, and commerce, bridled by universal ethical norms such as the Golden Rule, are essential to the prosperity of families, communities, and the nation.
- Economic self-interest and avarice are not morally equivalent.
- Economic self-interest and the common good are reconcilable within a free-market economic system that is constrained by moral order.
Government has a fiduciary stewardship of the public trust.
- Public spending should be exercised with economy.
- Public credit should be used sparingly.
- Excessive accumulation of public debt should be avoided for its deleterious effects on the state and its citizens' economic way of life.
- A government's revenue should be raised with a minimal tax burden upon its citizens and their farms, businesses, and industries.
- The expansion of economic activity and the material prosperity of the state and its citizens is enhanced by a minimal tax burden.
- The power of the state to tax and spend can be most effectively restrained by representative government.
Principled public leadership is leverage for good government.
- Just as governments are made by leaders, so by them they are ruined as well; therefore, good government demands good leaders of high principle.
- Leaders are made, not born. Although there is natural talent in abilities and skills, leadership arises from character that is forged by family, education, training, and crucible experiences which try the soul.
- The spiritual, moral, and intellectual formation of a country's leaders is the best hope of its future political prosperity.
- The first principle of public leadership is selfless service.
- Principled public leaders are naturally inspired and instructed by the great heritage of leadership in our civilization's storied past.
The John Jay Institute embraces and affirms the historic ecumenical creeds of the Christian faith. It fosters an educational climate and dialogue that warmly welcomes Evangelical Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox believers to explore questions of public affairs in the context of first things.