Ortega, Lilette 12
March 25, 2013
Martin Luther King’s Philosophy of Justice
Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” was written in response to a public statement of concern and caution issued by eight white religious leaders of the south. His inspiration for writing the letter was the clergymen’s unjust proposals and the letter allowed him to present his rebuttal. In this letter, King explains his philosophy, which includes his views of “just laws” and “unjust laws.” He also explains his views on the morality of breaking laws , and which laws can be broken.
To start off, Dr. Martin Luther King’s view for an unjust law is “a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.” (King 4) He believes that any law that degrades human personality is an unjust law. An unjust law is basically a code that inflicts on minority that is not binding itself. A concrete example of an unjust law is basically difference made legal. Another explanation of an unjust law by Dr. King is “An unjust law is a code inflicted upon a minority which that minority had no part in enacting or creating because it did not have that unhampered right to vote” (King 4). In King’s letter, he describes how the segregation law in Alabama was not democratically elected. He does this by stating that throughout the state of Alabama there are many methods used to prevent Negroes from voting, or even becoming registered voters. He also explains how there are some states and countries without a single Negro registered to vote despite the fact that Negroes constitute a majority of the population in most states and countries. Dr. King stated in his letter that he was arrested for a charge of parading without a permit. This is an example of a law that is just on its face and unjust in its application. Of course, the law is the law and there is nothing worng with the ordinance on parading without a permit, but when the ordinance is used to prevent just,...
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