To Follow or Ignore: That is the Question

Suppose there is a law that you believe is unjust (either due to moral reasons or because it is against your religious ideals). Are you supposed to follow it? This is a question that is highly debated, and for good reason – your answer to the question all depends on your beliefs (relating to the government, religion, and moral values). I believe we do have a moral obligation to follow the law. However, I also believe in the ability to protest in order to change the law.

As an aside, it is necessary to note that I am not religious. It is important for me to say this because I do not have other laws that I feel “obligated” to observe. An example of a law that is often tied to religion is abortion. I think it should be legal to have an abortion. If I were religious, my view could possibly change due to the definition of birth and when a baby is viewed as being alive.

While there are many reasons why we do have a standing obligation to follow the law, there is one reason that I believe stands above the rest – safety. A simple example of laws that are designed specifically for our own safety are the rules of the road (speed limits, stop signs, yield signs, etc.). These laws should be obeyed no matter what just so our safety is not jeopardized. Even if we may not be the ones getting hurt, as human beings, we should have a universal moral obligation to not hurt others – by not follow laws that are meant to keep us safe, we are not putting others at risk. An easily relatable example is by not following the speed limit or rolling through stop signs, we are putting others at danger.

Some will try to argue that there are laws that have nothing to do with our safety and well-being. I would disagree; I believe that all laws have been made for our protection. This includes laws that protect our assets, gun-laws, stealing of information (or property), and essentially every other kind of law. Therefore, it would be hard for even the ultra-religious to believe they do not have an obligation to follow the law. If all religions believe in the general safety of mankind (thou shall not kill, steal, etc.), laws should not be viewed as open to choice and, instead, we should believe that we have a standing moral obligation to follow the law.

 

Having the ability to protest laws is very important because it gives us the ability to have input on the laws being made. However, if you chose to do this, then the laws still must be followed until they are changed. If they are not, even though you may disagree with them, you are still breaking the law and putting people at danger.

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2 thoughts on “To Follow or Ignore: That is the Question

  1. I think it’s a pretty bold assertion that all laws are made for our safety and well-being. Perhaps you can say that all laws have that intention (although again, I would would disagree) but in practice I don’t think that is the case. I would especially disagree with regards to laws that make some kind of moral judgement. Laws against gay marriage for example I don’t think are for our protection (although some have certainly made that argument) and I would even go so far as to say other such victimless crimes like prostitution for example fall in that category.

    Regardless, one thing I think we have learned is that laws aren’t always morally right and as such I don’t understand how you can vaguely claim that we should follow all laws because of some safety concern. How did laws in Nazi Germany or Jim Crow laws make the broader community safer?

  2. I find the last comment of your post particularly interesting. You make it clear that all laws should be followed, even if you disagree with them. It is, however, okay to protest the laws you disagree with as long as you are not breaking those laws. I never thought about it like that. I would normally think it to be contradictory to follow a law that I actively am fighting against. But I guess it is possible to be obedient to the law while still trying to change it. Isn’t that essentially what policymakers at the capitol are doing? They are trying to change laws that they and their constituencies do not like. Just because wealthier taxpayers may want Obama to make more tax cuts does not mean they will simply refuse to pay higher taxes. By simply disobeying the law, only you face the consequences of the punishment. By protesting against a law you don’t like, however, you are more likely to make a change.

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