The United States is homeland for millions of immigrants who risk their lives for a better existence. In Jefferson’s words, it is a nation in which “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights that among them are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness. ” Our nation is a country in which equal opportunity if provided for those in search of a better life and our law is meant to apply evenly to citizens and non-citizens alike. However, throughout history and even in our present day, Congress has undermined this utopian goal by passing laws which some may consider unjust.
Firstly, one must define what an unjust law is. According to Martin Luther King, an unjust law is “any law that degrades human personality” (King 179). In other words, it is a law that is directed against a certain group of people or is inflicted on a minority. He continues on by stating that “an unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself” (King 179), meaning that any law that causes a person to suffer simply because they do not agree with this majority is an incorrect and unjust law.
An example of an unjust law passed by Congress is the law, in 1993, which banned known homosexuals from the military, due to being convinced that their presence could undermine morale and discipline. This fits the definition of an “unjust law” due to it being directed against specific groups, which, in this case, are homosexuals. It is absolutely unfair to discriminate against them. Just because they are gay does not make them any less worthy or capable of fighting or defending their country.
The law was proven to be unjust because it was later changed to the policy of Don't ask, don't tell (DADT), which regarded gays and lesbians serving openly in the U. S. military, mandated by federal law. The policy prohibits anyone who "demonstrates a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts" from serving in the armed forces of the United States, because "it would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.
" In other words, as long as long as one does not openly state or act upon their homosexual desires while in the military, he/she can join it. Additionally, the USA PATRIOT Act, which was passed after the September 11 terrorist attack, can be considered an “unjust” law as well. The act increased the ability of law enforcement agencies to search telephone, e-mail communications, medical, financial, and other records.
It made it easier to enforce restrictions on foreign intelligence gathering within the United States and expanded the authority of the Secretary of the Treasury to control financial transactions, particularly those involving foreign individuals and entities. The act also enhanced the discretion of law enforcement and immigration authorities in detaining and deporting immigrants suspected of terrorism-related acts. This act is qualified as being “unjust” due to the fact that once passed, the FBI unfairly targeted minority and immigrant communities with its surveillance and enforcement efforts, basically causing an invasion of their privacy.
The FBI and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) rounded up over a thousand immigrants as “special interest” detainees, holding many of them without charges for months. A “Special Registration” program now requires tens of thousands of Arab and Muslim immigrants to submit to a call-in interview from which other immigrants are exempted. Thus, the act was directed against Muslims and Arabs in the United States as well as other immigrants and minorities, proving its unjustness. Furthermore, what may pose a question asking how one should approach an unjust law?
Should they rebel and disobey it? Martin Luther King Jr believed that one should act out against an unjust law by means of peaceful protest called civil disobedience. However, one should keep in mind that if one is going to openly express his ideas of disagreeing with an unjust law, he must be willing to accept the consequences. Martin Luther King Jr. demonstrated this acceptance of consequences by going to jail without repercussion. This shows that he truly believed in the eradication of such a law that forces them to do something that they do not want to do.
Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested for gathering with others to protest peacefully, which the police claimed was unlawful, because they were parading without a permit. Martin Luther King Jr. peacefully went to the county jail and served his time. He knew the consequences for his actions, yet went along and committed the crime. His crime was not vengeful or harmful against a living soul. However, it was a statement stating that the government cannot make anyone goes against his or her beliefs. To begin, however, I believe it is necessary to define an "unjust" law. According to St.
Thomas Aquinas, "Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. " (King, 3) According to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. , "An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority compels a minority group to obey, but does not make binding on itself. " (King, 4) The definition I will take is a combination of these two. I define an unjust law as one that degrades human personality through the unfair suffering of a minority group at the hands of a majority group. Keep in mind that a majority can be in either power or number.
A majority in number can be oppressed by a majority in power. Any law that causes a person to suffer simply because they do not agree with this majority is an incorrect and unjust law. Singer gives two typical arguments in favor of obeying these unjust laws. I will address these arguments one at a time. The first argument says that, "By disobeying [a law] I set an example for others that may lead them to disobey too. The effect may multiply and contribute to a decline in law and order. In an extreme case, it may lead to civil war. " (Singer, 297)