There are a number of issues about relationships between ethics and laws. Among them are whether the government should reflect on moral principles, should bad laws be ignored, and whether laws should enforce morality? The issues between the conscience and the law are sometimes difficult to navigate. Some laws are trivial that a second thought is not given. When a law is broken that has a legal ramification, those are hard to ignore. So, when does the accountability to choose law over conscience enter into things?
Our conscience makes us feel guilty when we do bad things, while our consciousness is merely our awareness of our existence or surroundings. Since conscience is our inherent guide of right and wrong, the moral question is raised, what happens if our conscience is instructing us to act in a way that is deemed wrong by the law? Should we first follow our conscience and secondly follow the law? Asking if the law will recognize a defense to a criminal charge if you claim a moral code allowed the act, the answer is no. If some people feel justified in committing prohibited acts, but still suffer the consequences, the answer is yes.
Sometimes conscience motivates people to violate the law. During the civil rights struggle, peaceful protesters who practiced civil disobedience were condemned by some for disobeying the law, but today most people recognize that these heroes forced our nation to deal with racial prejudice. That these protestors were willing to go to jail for their beliefs gave them added credibility.
Take for example Dr. Kevorkian, an euthanasia activist. He thought assisted suicides where morally right. He did not feel assisting someone who was terminally ill was committing murder. In this instance he went with his conscience. Consciously he chose to break the law which held a prison sentence and did not think of the ramifications of his actions. Do most people think he was right in what he was doing?...