The Importance Of Disobeying Unjust Laws In Martin Luther King Jr.

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Can a society be termed just if the laws that govern that society are unjust? Well in a society that viewed African Americans as inferior, Martin Luther King Jr. advocated nonviolence and the defiance of unjust laws in pursuit of political, economic, and social equality for African Americans. Kings belief in breaking unjust laws in a peaceful manner to achieve equality can be seen in his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” when he says, “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws”. Taking ideas from St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther King Jr. states that the segregation laws in place were not actually laws because they allowed White Americans …show more content…
King however is not advocating complete anarchy against the U.S. government but is instead suggesting that we, whether affected by them or not, have a moral obligation to oppose those laws that devalues the human personality. The Actions in Sophocles play Antigone will serve to help provide a better understanding of why King feels that disobeying unjust laws is needed for a just society to exist. Similar to the Athenian empire, Creon is portrayed as a tyrannical ruler that is driven by his own self-interests. In an attempt to solidify his new position as king, Creon imposes a law that prevents the burial of Polyneices body. This forces Antigone to choose between her legal obligation to obey the law set forth by her king and her moral obligation to follow Divine Law. Antigone would agree with St Thomas Aquinas’ belief that “an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law”. Therefore Antigone feels she is obligated to do the just thing and bury Polyneices body in order to fulfill her moral responsibility to god. After Antigone disobeys his law, Creon asks her why she did it and in response she says, “Nor did that Justice, dwelling with the gods…ordain such laws for me. Nor did I think your edict had such force that you… could override the gods” (Sophocles 82). This serves to provide the reader with Antigone’s logic behind her decision to disobey Creon’s law and bury her brother’s body. Both Antigone and the story of the Melian people not only serve to illustrate Kings belief on unjust laws, but also that subjugated individuals will do whatever it takes to escape the injustice of those

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