When are you morally justified to break the law?

Less hypothetical scenario, more full frontal discussion: When are you (in a Democratic society)?

Think about it. The law, even if you do not endorse a law, is still (if you live in a Democratic country) there because it has been put there by elected officials. So who are you to disobey it, just because you do not support it on a personal level?
If everyone went breaking laws they did not like, we wouldn't have a functioning society.

So; When are you?
And how far can you break it?
Is Civil Disobedience allowed, even though it is technically just a (nicer) way of breaking a law because you don't like it, and letting people know that you do.
In most countries, in order to have a demonstration, one must apply for a permit. Is that the basis, that if you apply, but are refused over and over again by a corrupt/indifferent government (or one that simply do not share your views), you are morally allowed Civil Disobedience?
And what if a demonstration do not cut it? How far can you go?

And, are you ever morally obligated to break the law? If something goes so far against your code of ethics, can you just "shrug it off" with knowing that it is part of a democratic society?

This is going to be controversial but I say you're justified to break the law whenever you morally disagree with it. Law and order is one of the greatest achievements of humankind but every law was written by a fallible mortal, even those in a democratic society. There are so numerous examples of past and current laws which have been and are wrong that I don't even have to list any.

Personally encountered a case like that. We were sheltering a victim of sexual abuse by her stepfather, the mother had agreed, but suddenly withdrew, and the guy (with a fucking firearms permit even) called that they "We're coming for you now". Victim went against the roof in panic of course. Shitty situation. So we decided to make some calls, found an uncle willing to provide an unkwown shelter adress, and brought her there.

So they showed up, mom answered the door, and I was behind it with a rather heavy piece of wood in case he decided to bring his rifle or barge inside, but fortunately it was unneeded and they went away upon hearing their victim was no longer there.

Technically it's withdrawing a child from custody, and Christian child protection services threatened to press charges for kidnapping, but shut up rather quickly when they got back that that was their right, but if they'd like it if they found that story across all newspapers we could reach by tomorrow. (child protection here has a policy to discourage victims of sexual abuse from pressing charges, and keep them in the family no matter what, courtesy of our Christian 'minister of the family' at the time. Black page in Dutch history if you ask me)

Police was informed of course, they had a very different tune and were totally okay with it, only commenting that custody decisions were not their work, but unfortunately child protection's. Oh well, in the end the drama just went on and on for years, but at least the victim was saved from being forced to go back home.

Technically it's breaking the law, but to hell with that if the law does the bidding of Christian zealots who want to protect child rapists.

Plus it's not America, so we could be reasonably sure that if such a batshit insane situation occured, you wouldn't find any policeman or proscecutor crazy enough to actually go after us.
:-)

JoJo:
This is going to be controversial but I say you're justified to break the law whenever you morally disagree with it.

So when I take my bible (after all many religious people see their religion as a source of morals) and read "A man or a woman who acts as a medium or fortuneteller shall be put to death by stoning" (leviticus), it's okay for me to go out and murder the weather forecasters?

I'd say a little more is needed than that.

Realitycrash:
Less hypothetical scenario, more full frontal discussion: When are you (in a Democratic society)?

Democracy doesn't make much of a difference. I'll follow sensible dictatorial laws, and I won't follow stupid democratic laws.

Realitycrash:
Think about it. The law, even if you do not endorse a law, is still (if you live in a Democratic country) there because it has been put there by elected officials.

That really made me think about this video someone linked too...

To take life is murder, to take liberty is slavery and to take property is theft. It is the same whether these actions are done by one person acting alone, by the many acting against the few or even by officials with fine hats.

Realitycrash:
So who are you to disobey it, just because you do not support it on a personal level?

Who are you to impose your laws, with force, on my life?

Realitycrash:
If everyone went breaking laws they did not like, we wouldn't have a functioning society.

"You know, the world isn't run by the laws written on paper. It's run by people. Some according to laws, others not. It depends on each individual how his world will be, how he makes it. And you also need a whole lot of luck, so that somebody else doesn't make your life hell. And it ain't as simple as they tell you in grade school. But it is good to have strong values and to maintain them. In marriage, in crime, in war, always and everywhere"

Realitycrash:
So; When are you?

I'll follow laws with a sensible justification. I won't follow those that lack them, or even cause harm.

Realitycrash:
In most countries, in order to have a demonstration, one must apply for a permit. Is that the basis, that if you apply, but are refused over and over again by a corrupt/indifferent government (or one that simply do not share your views), you are morally allowed Civil Disobedience?

Depends on the demonstration and the reason why they are not allowed.

Realitycrash:
And, are you ever morally obligated to break the law?

Oh yes certainly. In the Netherlands we've got something called "noodweer", a juridical concept that allows you to break the law when you are assaulted for example.

Realitycrash:
If something goes so far against your code of ethics, can you just "shrug it off" with knowing that it is part of a democratic society?

You mean, can I do immoral stuff because the majority tells me it's justified? Of course not.

Blablahb:

JoJo:
This is going to be controversial but I say you're justified to break the law whenever you morally disagree with it.

So when I take my bible (after all many religious people see their religion as a source of morals) and read "A man or a woman who acts as a medium or fortuneteller shall be put to death by stoning" (leviticus), it's okay for me to go out and murder the weather forecasters?

I'd say a little more is needed than that.

You're right, I need to clarify my position a bit more. I believe that the law and morality are separate, the law is a fairly decent attempt to encode morality but something being against the law doesn't automatically make it immoral and vice versa. The example you give is immoral because people end up killed unreasonably, not because that act is against the law.

Whenever it benefits another person without harming another person more, or when it doesn't make a significant difference.

Most people here will have broken several laws, but very few people here will have actually caused someone serious harm because of this.

In my opinion, when breaking that law harms no one but yourself.

I would say it is justified to break the law if doing so has an undeniable positive outcome.

The law and morality are separate entities. They often overlap (murdering an innocent person in cold blood is wrong morally and lawfully), but not in all cases. To be somewhat tautological, breaking the law is morally justified when the unlawful action you take is morally justified. Is it moral, for example, to steal a loaf of bread when you can't afford to feed your family? Yes. Therefore, it's also moral to break the law in doing so.

Only if there's a pressing reason to do so that will result in a better overall situation.

I don't think we should simply break laws we disagree with, even if they are stupid, without good cause because not everyone will get laws they like anyway. So if it's just an inconvenience I think we should generally put up with it simply because society and laws work better if people do so.

In a Democratic society: when the three following three conditions are simultaneously correct:
1) When you personally believe the law is immoral,
2) when any to any reasonable person the good of you breaking the law is greater than the ill caused by breaking it,
3) when you are willing to break the law openly, taking no action to conceal your crime, and making no effort to protect yourself from the legal consequences of violating the law.

In a Fascist, Authoritarian, or society under any other form of tyrannical rule, (3) above is no longer required.

i pretty much agree with Katatori-kun...kinda.

there's a quote from one of the enlightenment thinkers (possibly Ben Franklin) that goes along the lines of "when law is absolute there is no freedom" or something like that.

basically freedom to break the law is still a freedom and indeed somewhat necessary for society to be able to adapt and change as the people (who are supposed to be the source of the law) see fit.

just look at many of the major pivotal "political events" of the last 300 years from The Boston Tea Party to Rosa Parks, from The storming of the Bastille to the Stonewall riots and chances are what you're looking at is people who at the time were breakin' the law.

Katatori-kun:
In a Democratic society: when the three following three conditions are simultaneously correct:
1) When you personally believe the law is immoral,
2) when any to any reasonable person the good of you breaking the law is greater than the ill caused by breaking it,

Are not these two points more or less the same? The hypothetical person you deem to be reasonable is likely to be one that agree with your reasoning.

I am completely indifferent to the law and have no qualms in breaking it as and when i feel necessary. I doubt there is a person alive that hasn't at some point broken the law although some would be without knowing it.

As far as morality goes there is nothing to stop you from what i can see. I don't need a law to tell me that rape or murder is wrong...i don't need a law telling me that drugs are bad when they aren't. I tend to think of laws being there for people with no common sense to abide by...and also to fine the crap out of people in a sly and disingenuous way.

Also i think the law has been kept deliberately complicated so as to keep lawyers in ridiculously overpayed jobs and to stop poor people from being able to bring justice to the rich. Basically i see it as a lie to keep us under the heel of those that want to control us.

You are morally justified breaking a law when you disagree with that law(though you should keep in mind that the rest of society may not see it the same way as you). Laws are neither morally wrong or right.

It all comes down to that whole "perspective" matter. If you were in an oppressive society (in today's standards, however, remember that what "oppressive" means changes over time) you might have to break the law to just leave your own home. But against today's society, from what I've seen if something is viewed by an injustice by the greater community, they'll stir something up about it. There's a lot of question marks over self-defense though. That'd be a little too finely balanced for my liking. Don't envy the judges.

Rom 13:1-4 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
"We must obey God rather than man".

God said, "Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth....To you it will be for meat." ... And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1:29-31) The Bible predicts some herb's prohibition. "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times, some shall ... speak lies in hypocrisy ... commanding to abstain from meats which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. (Paul: 1 Timothy 4:1-3)

Marijuana is good,prohibition is evil. the start of the end of evil prohibition Nov 6 2012, Vote yes to legalize the cannabis plant, Washington,Colorado,and Oregon!

I more or less echo Katatori-kun's view on this. There are circumstances where breaking the law is morally justified, but part of that is that you must be willing to accept that you have broken the law and undergo any punishment the courts hand down. Failure to adhere to the latter part strikes me as saying "I don't believe in the law full stop", whilst accepting the punishment is, on the part of the person committing the act, more likely to garner public sympathy and lead to change (I can think of more changes that have come about due to people being imprisoned than by those who are fugitives from the law)

This is a complicated and nuanced issue that requires a balanced and neutral approach; unfortunately, I'm not tactful enough to care, so I'll just use what I've got; you are morally justified in breaking the law when the law is fucked[1]

Here's the thing; just because something is a law doesn't mean it's a good law. Ever heard of Prohibition? When they tried to ban alcohol? Terrible, terrible law, and we're still feeling the repercussions of it being passed[2]. Also? Slavery used to be a law. No, really. Didn't you go over that in history? And OK, sure, those are old, old examples, but what about all this immigration crap in Arizona? What about The Patriot Act? What about SOPA?

Getting back on my original soapbox, the law can and has been used to oppress the people, and when that happens, the law becomes fucked. That's when you do something about it. Civil Disobedience is usually a good first step, but it needs to be well organized and needs to actually be disobedience; none of this self-congratulatory sitting-in-parks crap. Actual laws need to actually be broken, or you're just bitching.

[1] Also? TL,DR: You are morally justified in breaking the law when the law is fucked.
[2] Yeah, I know it was only active for thirteen years, but that thirteen years was long enough for ORGANIZED CRIME to crawl out of the sewers of Chicago. Barring the mob climbing back into the sewers with the rest of the world unaware, that's still a problem.

The simple answer is: when the law is unjust.

This goes beyond simply 'morally disagreeing with' the law, because, for example, I'm morally opposed to speed limits on roads, but I obey them because it is a just law.

However, infringements on speech are NOT just, and I absolutely support those that would disobey the law to express themselves.

As for what "just" means? That's a bit stickier, and something I may wait to answer until after I get out of class.

Realitycrash:
Less hypothetical scenario, more full frontal discussion: When are you (in a Democratic society)?

I don't follow the laws that are basically "I don't like to do something therefore other people shouldn't be allowed to do it either" or the other way around.
Basically, all the laws based on personal taste, rather than actual usefulness (that includes things that you can/can't do to your body, what you can/can't believe in, what words/phrases you can/can't use etc.)

Here in the states, there are 4 recognized excuses:

Insanity (not min control of one's own actions)
Coercion (forced by someone with an ability to cause greater harm than the crime committed)
Involuntary intoxication/incapacitation (you were drugged and therefore incapable of controlling yourself)
Self-defense (necessary to avoid harm to oneself or property)

Any of these will prove a solid to defense to excuse you in a court of law.

Agreeing with Kata on this, put would also like to add
4. When the law is preventing you from defending yourself/home/property.

Self defense/Family defense over law. Everytime.

laws can be changed and are always dependent on the consensus of the majority of a society whereby the fundamental orientation of a society depends on its moral matureness as a whole

the "Heinz dilemma" from Lawrence Kohlbergs theory of moral development is an interesting take on the sense of justice and value of laws for the individual

JoJo:
This is going to be controversial but I say you're justified to break the law whenever you morally disagree with it.

Not controversial at all, at least to me. I'm gonna restate in my own words, don't wanna be low-content.

OT: Whenever a law is not morally justified.

if your don't go to jail when it done

From the BBC

'Children are turning to shoplifting things like bread because of hunger, the police have told Newsround.

Inspector Andy Briers of Islington Police in London said: "They're not stealing sweets and chocolate and chewing gum, they're actually going out and stealing bread and food for themselves and their families."

He explained that they're tackling the problem by handing out food vouchers which can be swapped for three days' worth of food.

Charity Save The Children say that 3.5 million kids in the UK are living in poverty.

They found that one in eight children doesn't get a warm meal every day - apart from the one they might get at school.'

Now of course poverty is relative, but I don't believe the current trend that everyone claiming benefits is living the high life, and the cuts are hitting the weakest the hardest in the UK.

I actually think it's going to backfire, as putting someone in prison costs over 40,000, and that's where I imagine many people will end up when they're left with nothing and need to feed their families.

I think it's more a crime that massive piles of food gets binned on a daily basis, because it's ONE day out of date, due to food laws, when surely it could be transported very cheaply to food banks and could feed the poor and homeless. The supermarkets wouldn't have to pay for disposal, and they wouldn't be losing sales as those receiving it couldn't afford to buy it.

 

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