Letter From Birmingham Jail

Just and unjust laws

What is the difference between what just law and  unjust law were in king's letter

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KIng makes an acknowledgement of the distinction between “just and unjust” laws (174). He insists that everyone has a “legal” and “moral responsibility” to follow just laws, but that one equally “has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws” (174). He cites St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas to justify this latter claim.

He provides definitions to distinguish between just and unjust laws. A just law conforms to the “moral law or the law of God,” while an unjust law is “out of harmony with the moral law.” He goes further to define a just law as one which “uplifts human personality,” while an unjust law “degrades human personality.” He insists that unjust laws punish not only the segregated (since he is a victim of persecution) but also the segregator (since he is given a “false sense of inferiority”). Citing Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, Dr. King notes that segregation turns people to “things,” and hence degrades all personality (175).