The Importance Of Unjust Laws

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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…
The island of Melos was not the first nor was it last of the people the Athenians subjugated, but the events that occurred here were some of the most unjust in Thucydides text. Similar to Kings beliefs, the Melians tried to use peaceful means to maintain their neutrality and liberty but Athenians, knowing they have the strength to do so, took the unjust route when they gave an ultimatum demanding either complete submission to Athenian rule or war. The Athenians, like White Americans of Kings time, believed that they had the right to subject the Melians to these unjust laws because they were the superior people. The Melians however, demonstrating Kings ideals, refused to tolerate this injustice and responded to this ultimatum by saying, “we wil not…give up the liberty in which our city has remained for the seven hundred years since its foundation…and we will do our best to maintain our liberty” (Thucydides, 108). From this quote it is clear that the Melians feel they are morally obligated to resist Athenian subjugation in order to maintain their freedom and to prevent the degradation of the human personality that will occur if they submit to Athens’ laws. From this it is also evident that, again similar to King, the Melians would agree with St. Augustine’s statement "an unjust law is no law at all." The story of the …show more content…
Similarly, the book of Exodus from the Old Testament demonstrates the idea that individuals have a moral and religious obligation to disobey any law that is not in accordance with that of God. In a land populated by the descendants of Jacob there arose a new king of Egypt. This new king feared the might of the people of Israel and therefore decided to cripple them before they could become a problem. As a final resort the king told the midwives “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women… if it is a son, you shall kill him” (Exodus, 48). The midwives disobeyed this unjust law because they know that in the eyes of God, the taking of another life is one of worst sins that a Christian can commit. The people of Israel regained their strength and numbers as a direct result of the midwives just action. In response to this disobedience, the Pharaoh again tries cull the Hebrew people by commanding his people to throw every male child born into the Nile River. One Hebrew woman could not abide this injustice so she sent her son down the river where the Pharaohs daughter discovered him. Although the midwives and Hebrew woman disobeyed the laws set forth by the king of Egypt, God still rewarded them because they did the morally responsible thing in disobeying the unjust

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