Foundations of Catholic Social Teaching

Chapter 5: Civil Disobedience (Martin Luther King Jr.)


Martin Luther King Jr. Speech Civil Disobedience and Obeying Just vs. Unjust Laws

Film Focus Point: This is a fascinating television interview from “Meet the Press” conducted with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In it, journalists ask him about the acceptability of breaking established laws such as what was happening in the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.

Text Focus Point: Pages 162-163

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does Martin Luther King, Jr. distinguish between just and unjust laws? How does this determination involve conscience?
  2. Why does King see conscience as the ally of the civil rights movement? What does he mean when he speaks of arousing the conscience of the community? 
  3. What does King mean when he states: “I don’t think any society can call an individual irresponsible who breaks a law and willingly accepts the penalty if conscience tells him that the law is unjust…” 

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