Politics & Policy

My Guiding Principle: The Dignity of Life

Our founding fathers and the Bible agree on the sanctity of human life.

I have been asked many times, from town-hall meetings in Iowa to diners in South Carolina, to articulate what I believe in — not just about a given issue, or even something as fundamental as the role of government, but about life and reality. Folks want to know what frames my understanding of how things are and how they ought to be, my “worldview,” in order to have insight into what will guide my decision making if the American electorate chooses me to represent them in the White House.

There are two texts in particular that have framed my worldview, my fundamental belief system, as it relates to my role as a public official. One is political and the other Biblical, and both foster an orienting belief that, more than any other, directs my decision making: the dignity of every human being.

#ad#First, I hold these truths to be self evident: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I can’t begin to count how many times over my public life I have quoted this foundational statement from the Declaration of Independence. It is the worldview that was held by and oriented our founders. It is a worldview that has been challenged for over two centuries, and even now is under attack. But it is this radical notion of God-granted rights and equality that set our course apart from other nations whose revolutions asserted that rights were derived from the will of either the majority or a small, enlightened elite. Our founders understood that human nature is deeply flawed and that over time, and without safeguards, government and other powers will exploit rather than protect life.

The second text is from Genesis 1:27: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” We do not just have rights granted to us by our Creator; even more radically, the rights we have reflect that we have been created in God’s image. Each person has been made by God’s own hand with a purpose, each with an eternal destiny, and each with equal value, dignity, and worth. Human life must be protected at all costs, as there is nothing else of equal or greater value in our created universe.

Some may discount my appeal to a Scripture passage, but not our Founding Fathers. George Washington in particular affirmed the necessity of religion to the sustenance of democracy, in a 1796 speech:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness — these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

These beliefs are essential to the foundation and future of our nation. As Dostoevsky wrote in The Brothers Karamazov: “If you were to destroy in mankind the belief in immortality, not only love but every living force maintaining the life of the world would at once be dried up. Moreover, nothing then would be immoral, everything would be lawful.”

I have become a radical believer in every person’s human dignity. It is the driver of my worldview, and therefore in conclusion I believe:

‐Every person, whether the baby in utero, my little girl Bella with her challenges, or the AIDS orphan in the inner city, has inherent dignity, and we must do all we can to preserve and respect that dignity.

‐Government has to be strong enough to protect human life, but limited enough to never exploit it.

‐As our founders recognized religion as an “indispensable support” to the health of society and necessary for the understanding of human life, government should never inhibit or discourage its role in the public square.

My greatest concern is that we are at a crossroads of deep consequence regarding the role of government in the lives of the American people. Without correcting course, the road we are on will lead to the further devaluation of the inherent dignity of our citizens and their ability to live in freedom and safety. I am committed to doing everything possible to respect and protect that dignity, and opposing and reversing any policies and programs that undermine it.

— Rick Santorum is a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and a Republican presidential candidate.

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