What We Believe

Washington crossing the delaware

The Henry Dearborn Institute for Human Rights (HDI) does not have a strict set of ideological dogmas that all members of the association must believe, but it does hold fast to a set of important principles it believes to be essential for the advancement of human rights.

First, HDI’s mission is to promote human rights in all aspects of life, including individual liberty. This doesn’t mean HDI supports anarchy, of course. Government has an important role to play in ensuring all people’s rights are protected. For example, good government should maintain a fair judicial system, employ impartial law enforcement officers, guarantee free speech, limit corruption, and ensure that public institutions are not imposing racist or sexist policies.

Second, HDI is a strong defender of religious freedom. Government shouldn’t involve itself in the affairs of churches, regardless of the religion, but this doesn’t mean government should ban religious expression in public arenas, either. All people have a right to worship God (or not to worship God) in whatever way they choose, so long as they don’t violate the rights of others in the process.

Third, HDI believes that freedom without a virtuous society inevitably leads to tyranny. A free people must always strive to be a “good” people, and although “good” may not be easy to define, it is essential people continue exploring morality and absolute truths about “good” and “evil”—both because it is a core part of the human experience and also because liberty cannot survive in the long run in a nation that is not virtuous.

Fourth, HDI supports, whenever possible, free, uncorrupted markets. There are two reasons we take this position: (1) free markets have been repeatedly shown to produce healthier, happier, safer, and more prosperous societies than those that are governed by bureaucrats, despots, kings, or other forms of tyranny; (2) when government consistently inserts itself into markets, the result inevitably ends up being corruption and suffering. However, in cases where government is already heavily involved in a market, HDI believes it is vital that regulations protect the rights of individuals above all others.

With these principles firmly established, as is often said in many churches throughout the world, HDI embraces the following motto: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”

PHOTO: Washington Crossing the Delaware River. Painting by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze. Provided by Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo is in the public domain in the United States.