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While Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr is incarcerated in Birmingham Jail in April 1963, he defends civil disobedience as a tactic against unjust laws by writing the following: “How can you advocate bre
While Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr is incarcerated in Birmingham Jail in April 1963, he defends civil disobedience as a tactic against unjust laws by writing the following:
“How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. **Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.** I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”
Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages thepersonality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority.
Question 1: Is Dr. King’s claim in the starred portion of this passage justified by his argument? Why or why not?