Moral Responsibility

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Naina Navni
Professor Adams
UCWR 110
21 October 2010
Moral Responsibility
America would not be where it is without the laws that have been placed and the citizens who follow the laws. In order for this to happen the knowledge and acceptance of the laws are needed to establish order. African Americans had been secluded in the past through harsh laws of segregation. Although many believe disobeying the law is morally wrong and if disobeyed a punishment should follow, Martin Luther King’s profound statement, “One has the moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws” (King 420) leads to greater justice for all which is also supported by King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Jefferson’s “ The Declaration of Independence,” and Lincoln’s “Second Inaugural Address.”

"I am in Birmingham because injustice is here," wrote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail" (King 416). Eight Alabama clergymen composed a statement urging restraint in the Civil Rights movement and the discontinuance of demonstrations in Birmingham. The clergymen explained that progress could best be achieved through negotiation and through the court system and suggested that direct action would only make the situation worse. In response to this statement, Martin Luther King, Jr. composed his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” to explain why he was active in civil rights demonstrations, primarily because of the failure of the courts and negotiation to address the issue of civil rights effectively. One of King's most important and most extended arguments begins with the distinction between just and unjust laws. He begins by stating one has a legal and a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. "I would agree with St. Augustine that an unjust law is no law at all" (King 420). A distinction is made that an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law and by contrast, any law...
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