What are some current examples of laws that you think are unjust by King's definition in "Letter from Birmingham Jail?"What are some current examples of laws that you think are unjust by King's...

What are some current examples of laws that you think are unjust by King's definition in "Letter from Birmingham Jail?"

What are some current examples of laws that you think are unjust by King's definition in "Letter from Birmingham Jail?"

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dr. Martin Luther King defines unjust laws in the following way:

An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law...Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.

The educators above have noted several laws that degrade people, rather than granting them the rights every human deserves. There are several such laws. For example, several states have passed "anti-Sharia" laws, though it is difficult to define what Sharia law is. Sharia is the code of conduct that Muslims follow, but it is not a legal code. In addition, banning people's religious beliefs is unconstitutional, as individual religious beliefs are protected by the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution). Immigrants are entitled to all the protections in the Constitution, and this protection extends to both undocumented and documented aliens. These types of laws are unjust, as they are meant to degrade people. 

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is, of course, a matter of opinion.  I would argue that laws against gay rights are unjust.  I would argue that they fit with King's definition of unjust laws as seen in this letter.

King argues that laws that uplift human personality are just and those that degrade it are unjust.  If you accept the idea that homosexuality is inborn and not chosen (and I realize that many do not accept this), then it is a part of human personality.  If it is part of human personality, then a failure to give equal rights to gay people is a way of degrading their personality.

I am not claiming that King himself would have supported this point of view.  He might have held to the belief that homosexuality is contrary to God's law.  However, I believe that homosexuality (or heterosexuality, for that matter) is an inborn part of human personality and that laws that deny rights to gays are unjust.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would agree with post #2.  There is a specific passage in King's Letter which talks about "difference made legal" and "sameness made legal".  He phrases it in terms of unjust and just laws when he makes that reference.  He further talks about how all segregation laws are unjust because they degrade the personality and distort the soul.  Legal differences in terms of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Americans are today still more or less accepted by the public at large (though this is changing) yet we are similarly talking about Americans who are denied equality because of their identity, because of who they are.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If we choose to extend King's ideas into the modern day political arena, especially focusing on his belief that just laws should uplift personality, and, in contrast, unjust laws degrade humanity, then certainly we might want to think about the standing of both homosexuals and immigrants in the USA and how they are treated and viewed by the laws. I don't think it is possible to argue that current legislation in some states actually can "uplift personality" when it comes to homosexuals.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
I agree with the above poster. I think the recent Arizona law targeting people suspected of being illegal also qualifies. Whether or not you agree with illegal immigration, the idea that police are required to stop people based on thief ethnicity is unjust. It's degrading and tragic from a human rights standpoint.

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