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Natural Law as a Threat to Justice

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Who could forget the famous words of the unforgettable Martin Luther King Jr., “Injustice everywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. This theme is expressed throughout King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail conveying his legal naturalist attitude in contrast to that of the white clergymen. “For years now I have heard the word ‘wait’. It rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This ‘wait’ has almost always meant ‘never’”, spoke King in the defense of his direct action against what was and had been the written law. Natural law, a moral code that is somehow interwoven within the framework of human existence, is quite different from physical laws written by legislatures and local ordinances. King’s speech is unmistakably in support of the principle of natural law.

King did not willingly break the law; he was not even in complete disagreement with it. In fact, he preceded his direct action with many attempts to negotiate and politically change what was the status quo. Even his attempts to get assembly permits were failed undertakings due to that nature of his group and their cause. King expresses his discouragement with those of Birmingham by stating, “I have been gravely disappointed by the white moderate…who is more devoted to order than to justice. Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than that of absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will”. These bystanders are acting in a way which is positivist: they realize what the law says and they do not wish to agree to any type of assembly or direct action plan to make greater strides towards changing policy, unless it is through the filing of paperwork and the gathering of permits in a very systematic, lawful manner.

King also makes a great parallel to an example in history where positivism trumped moral code, “We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’…it was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. But I am sure that if I lived in Germany at that time I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal”. The point King makes is that what the Nazi soldiers in Germany were doing was perfectly legal; they were following orders and abiding by what was physical written law. Similarly, the lawmakers of Birmingham, unwilling to stand up for the Negroes of the community, are acting just the same. Both parties blindly follow code before what will bring justice and equality to those who are unfairly oppressed.

King uses the principle of natural law to rationalize civil disobedience, “…one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws”. A portion of the letter is a reaction to fellow leaders of the church whom he believes have failed to act ethically, “I must honestly reiterate that I am disappointed with the church…I have heard numerous religious leaders of the South call upon their worshippers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear the white ministers say, follow this decree because it is morally right and the Negro is your brother”. He thoroughly articulates his reasoning for disobeying the segregationist laws by explaining that two types of laws exist, “there are just and unjust laws…and an unjust law is no law at all”. King adds that moral laws follow a human ethical code in line with the code of God, and an unjust law does expressly the opposite. King’s message relates that human law is invalid if it contradicts natural law; and the most fundamental law of nature is that all people, regardless of skin color, should be considered equal. Thus, any civil law must reflect this fundamental natural law.

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Natural Law as a Threat to Justice. (2018, December 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 28, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/natural-law-as-a-threat-to-justice/
“Natural Law as a Threat to Justice.” GradesFixer, 11 Dec. 2018, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/natural-law-as-a-threat-to-justice/
Natural Law as a Threat to Justice. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/natural-law-as-a-threat-to-justice/> [Accessed 28 Sept. 2022].
Natural Law as a Threat to Justice [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Dec 11 [cited 2022 Sept 28]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/natural-law-as-a-threat-to-justice/
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