Critical Essay - Letter From a Birmingham Jail

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“…there are two types of laws: there are just laws, and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "An unjust law is no law at all.” – Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail In his letter Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. responds to the clergy whom have spoken against his demonstrations. In his letter he makes clear that the ultimate law is that of God and the moral code provided by God and that any law which is unjust does not belong in a righteous society therefore the law must be disobeyed if one is to be morally correct under God. Although I do not share the religious faith that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has, I do agree that one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws because an unjust law by definition does not coincide with moral code. What is an unjust law? An unjust law according to Dr. King Jr. is one that “degrades human personality.” The clergy men, in their letter, urge the “Negro citizenry to observe the principles of law and order and common sense.” Addressing their argument Dr. Martin Luther King expresses his thoughts on the laws. He agrees with the clergymen, that laws are meant to be followed, but then goes on to say that just because something is a law does not mean that it is just. “For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used t maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.” Using simple logic, he strengthens his argument by saying that a law, that violates a person’s rights under the First-Amendment, is not just at all. Furthermore, the segregation laws which Dr. King Jr. was demonstrating against are degrading to the African American citizens. As Dr. Martin Luther King

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