First and foremost is the conviction that all persons possess transcendent human dignity, and that consequently each person must always be treated as an end, never as a means. The U.S. Founders, drawing upon the secular reasoning of the Enlightenment as well as upon the fundamental religious claim that all persons are created in the image of God, affirmed as “self-evident” the idea that all persons possess equal dignity. The clearest political expression and result of the belief in transcendent human dignity is democracy.
Second, following closely from the first, is the conviction that universal truths (what the Founders called “laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”) exist and are accessible to all people.
Third is the belief that, because our individual and collective access to truth is imperfect, most disagreements about values call for civility, openness to other views, and reasonable argument in pursuit of truth.
And fourth is freedom of conscience and freedom of religion - the twin freedoms which many people, from George Washington to today’s finest historians, believe to be the foundation and precondition of all individual freedoms.