Law: Demonstrating a Political and Moral Position

Working thesis: Breaking the law is justifiable when demonstrating a political or moral position because without political demonstrations citizens can fall under government control. A problem occurs when a law strikes us as violating a moral principle and when it hasn’t been changed despite some significant efforts to do so.

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Significance: This topic matters because people should be able to challenge the law and express their views. We should be able to think for ourselves and always demand the truth. It is an essential for the political health of the state and therefore a demonstration of good citizenship by the protestors. Citizens must have a right to political participation. Martin Luther King, Jr. is the prime example of why this topic is important and the reason why everyone has the right to protest unjust laws.

Summary of sources:

The majority of the sources discuss disobeying the law for moral reasons or simply supporting the law out of fear. All in all, most of the articles talk about following the rules and obeying law for the sake of order. They also suggest if we are willing to break the laws we should be willing to face the consequences.there is little doubt that for vast numbers of people on countless occasions it is the fear of fines, imprisonment, civil liability, and other sanctions that is the dominant factor in producing genuine obedience to law”in causing behavior that is as it is precisely because of the law, in contrast to behavior that is the product of other and law-independent motivations, but which just happens to be consistent with the law. Another prime exampleMartin Luther King believed, for example, that he had an obligation to obey the law, but believed as well that in some circumstances the moral urgency of taking an action inconsistent with the law provided an even stronger reason, and thus a stronger obligation, going in the opposite direction. From any single action inconsistent with the law, therefore, we cannot infer that the actor had no reason to obey the law, or perceived herself as having had no reason to obey the law.


Frankel, Charles.Is It Right to Break the Law? The New York Times, The New York Times, 12 Jan. 1964,

Preview information: Charles Frankel was New York Times writer. He published the article,Is it right to break the law? in 1964. He must have been a very good and well-respected writer to have published in the New York Times. This article was published in the 60’s when protesting of the Civil Rights movement was happening. Acts of racial discrimination were at its all-time high in the United States. The audience he was targeting was Americans who were witnessing so much violence and hate from unjust laws. He explains in his article that at the end of the day nobody has the right to break the law because it defeats the purpose of law itself. Even though he does sympathize with minority groups, he believes we all have a moral responsibility to obey the rules.

Relevance of the source: This source will be very helpful for my essay. Even though this source doesn’t agree with my thesis it has many powerful points of civil disobedience from history.

Schultz, Katie.Is civil disobedience justifiable? Kalamazoo Gazette, 7 March 2009,

Preview information: Katie Schultz is a senior at Portage Northern High School and is a member of the Gazette Young Editorial Staff. Her articleIs civil disobedience justifiable? was published in 2009. Her article talks about the relevance of disobeying the law today. She believes that anact of civil disobedience must meet three standards: righteous intention, nonviolent means and the desire to communicate the need for change. The article goes on to discuss civil disobedience in history and how events like the Boston Tea Party and the civil rights movement have helped achieved equality.

Relevance of the source: This source is helpful because it is refreshing to see a young person’s views on this topic. The source talks about historical achievements made by disobeying the law. Also, this source agrees with my thesis.

Love, Samantha.I just don’t, its illegal Oxford Royale Academy, 4 April 2014,

Preview information: Samantha love read law at Merton College, Oxford, and is currently following the BCL course. She wrote this article for the Oxford Royale Academy in 2014. This article talks about the importance of laws and whether we should all follow laws simply because the law says so or because it is the right thing to do morally. She talks about how obedience to the law may be motivated by fear of the consequences not because we want to follow the laws. She talks about how it is more important for influential people to keep the rule of law than non-influential people. This article talks about both views of law. Whether there is moral obligation to obey laws or whether it is wrong to simply follow the law because it is simply a law. Samantha writeseveryone must decide for themselves, and whatever we might like to think we would say our true opinion will best be shown at 3am at an empty crossroads. She is referencing at an empty crossroads at 3am if there is a red light and nobody on the road would we break the law or not.

Relevance of the source: This article will be useful for my essay because it brings up both views of law and why we should or should not break the law. The writer doesn’t really have an opinion but instead gives perceptive for both views.

Schauer, Frederick.The Political Risks (if any) of Breaking the Law Oxford Academic, 11 July 2012,

Preview information: Frederick Schauer wrote this article for a conference on Political Risks and Public Law for Harvard Law School. Frederick begins the article by suggesting majority of the people obey laws simply because of their moral values. He writesthere is little doubt that for vast numbers of people on countless occasions it is the fear of fines, imprisonment, civil liability, and other sanctions that is the dominant factor in producing genuine obedience to law”in causing behavior that is as it is precisely because of the law, in contrast to behavior that is the product of other and law-independent motivations, but which just happens to be consistent with the law. He writes about many examples of breaking the law in the past and present and simply tries to educate his readers about law and whether obeying the law is more than just taking a risk.

Relevance of the source: This source will be very helpful to my essay because it has enormous educational information on law and why people break laws. Also, talks about the consequences of people breaking laws in the past and present.

Bedau, Hugo A. “”On civil disobedience.”” The Journal of Philosophy 58.21 (1961): 653-665.

Preview Information: Bedau was a civil rights and anti-Vietnam war activist. On his journal about civil disobedience, Bedau tries to distinguish civil disobedience from other types of political actions such as unlawful protests. He also gives his thoughts on justice and the legal consequences of disobeying the law. The journal provides a discussion on civil disobedient and lawful protest both with the aim to correct unlawful actions and their moral convictions.

Relevance of the source: this source will provide me with knowledge of how to justify civil disobedience. Though giving alternatives to claiming political positions, it eventually supports civil disobedience.

Dworkin, Ronald. Sovereign virtue: The theory and practice of equality. Harvard university press, 2002.

Preview information: Dworkin is a well-known contributor to contemporary legal and political philosophy who also engages in public debates. Several journals have published his interpretations of equality as a political ideal. In this article, the Sovereign Virtue, he answers the question: what is equality? He talks about how governments should act to better the lives of their citizens and show similar concerns to all. He discusses the concept of justice and freedom.

Relevance of this source: Dworkin is an advocate of equality. His ideas are of much help to me in understanding his stand on the civil disobedience issue. This reference will help strengthen my thesis as Dworkin is against governments denying their citizens equal opportunities.

Rawls, John. A theory of justice. Harvard university press, 2009.

Preview Information: John Rawls is a professor of philosophy at Harvard University. Before the appearance of. A Theory of Justice in 1971, he wrote many articles on the concept of justice. A Theory Justice provides the core of tradition democracy (justice and fairness). Rawls says that the idea of social contract is more satisfactory because of fundamental rights and liberties of people as fair and not even a whole society can override this justice.

Relevance of this source: this theory agrees and supports my thesis. It will help me in proving how correct my argument is.

Sunstein, Cass R. “”Public Values, Private Interests, and the Equal Protection Clause.”” The Supreme Court Review 1982 (1982): 127-166.

Preview information: Cass is currently a law professor at Robert Walmsley University. He has written many articles and books concerning the American law. In this article, he discusses The Equal Protection clause as directed at the legality of classifications. He talks about the different ratings that the provision considers heightening its scrutiny.

Relevance of this source: The Equal Protection Clause is a constitutional directive in the United States. This clause is of much help as it entirely supports my thesis.

Lawmakers come up with the guidelines with the intention of using it to influence, control and coerce the outcomes of its communities and individuals both in public and private spheres. The current authority applies these laws, which may be legitimate or illegitimate. However, we perceive moral jurisdiction as right, just, and fair. Moral authority prompts us to make decisions or act based on moral rights (Schauer). However, these reasons differ from person to person depending on one’s beliefs. As such, we all behave in our own morally prescribed manner that makes us claim or act in defense of our moral stands. If one was to live in a community, where he/she is forced to accept the ethical determinants of the majority, then that is enslavement. Therefore, this servitude alone gives the affected individual the right to civil disobedience. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil disobedience expert and regularly used it to change segregation laws in the 1960s. He argued that public disobedience was not only morally justified but also ethically imperative when a law is unjust (Dworkins).

In a democratic nation, certain types of moral behaviors emerge. Democracy will tolerate some moralities and at the same time have intolerant to some. In such a country, civil disobedient is about taking not only illegal public actions but also legal and moral obligations. This is why there is a moral autonomy in civil disobedience (Love). Individual dissenters are most of the times autonomous when making a moral claim through being disobedient. Currently, within a democratic sphere, an individual who feels that his freedom of speech is compressed may opt to incite civil disobedience against his country.

Schultz describes that the present civil disobedience differs from the historical one. Currently, people fight for specific civil rights such as environmental protection and foreign policy. In the past, people fought for freedom and equality. A good example would be the Boston Tea party and the Civil Rights Movement. Also in 1995, Rosa parks’refused to surrender her seat on a city bus (Schultz). In an article that appeared in the Daily Nation in 2016, Nic Cheeseman tells of current governments, which have bad laws and wonders how people should respond to them. He further states that Oxford University celebrated one Bram Fischer for saving Nelson Mandela from death by breaking the law. Though he later says that Fischer’s action cannot be justified in a democratic system, Nic supports the idea that Fischer broke the law to save Mandela (Cheeseman).

In the United States, Dworkins provides three possible results of civil disobedient. First, he offers two dimensions of civil disobedience; the legal and moral aspects. Secondly, the United States social norms expect that every law should equally apply to all citizens and aliens within its sovereign. Finally, Dworkin relates the Vietnam War to the moral distaste resulting from political intrusion into foreign nations (Dwokins). When the US tries to impose its political ideology on other countries, a self-claimed moral right arises (Frankel). However, as the only superpower in the world, the US has a moral obligation to itself, and the world and not every illegal act is civil disobedience. Illicit acts that put life and property in danger are not civil disobedience, and that is why as the superpower, the US will try to stop such actions even in foreign states.

John Rawl’s Theory of Justice provides that justice is the first virtue of political society but still accepts the importance of morality and rational thinking. However, in this case, morality is the primary virtue of a civic community because, without it, freedom, authority, and justice will fade with time. The theory of justice defends civil obedience as long as it is within the constitutional democracies and supports the theme of justice (John). Bedau, on the other hand, declared that all public disobedience demand illegal actions. The law cannot protect such activities, and any rider who violates the law should not be exempted from prosecution. Bedau further states that since no government considers such a provision, there is no harm in extending legal protection to civil disobedience (Bedau).

The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment also supports civil disobedience. The clause states that everyone living within the laws of the United States must treat everyone the same as others in similar conditions. This provision has a moral basis, and that is why it applies to all federal and state laws. The clause offers merely equality of access and opportunities. This clause in the 14th Amendment provides justification of civil disobedience only if denial of equity by a state to individual results to that particular person taking public action against the state without causing any loss of life or damage to property (Sunstein).


There exist moral bases in civil disobedience and a determination of when an individual may or may not break the law to protect their political and moral grounds. Civil disobedience is vital in the exercise of civil rights and expression of individual rights against illegal state laws. Therefore, public disobedience is not in any case defiance for the sake of rebellion but the purpose of political democracy as long as there is no loss of life or damage to property. I, therefore, hypothesize that breaking the law is justified to demonstrate a political or moral position.

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Law: Demonstrating a Political and Moral Position. (2018, Dec 28). Retrieved February 2, 2023 , from

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