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Will We Obey Unjust Laws?

Written By: Walter Williams  |  Posted: Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Let's think about whether all acts of Congress deserve our respect and obedience. Suppose Congress enacted a law and the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional requiring American families to attend church services at least three times a month. Should we obey such a law? Suppose Congress, acting under the Constitution's commerce clause, enacted a law requiring motorists to get eight hours of sleep before driving on interstate highways. Its justification might be that drowsy motorists risk highway accidents and accidents affect interstate commerce.

Suppose you were a jury member during the 1850s and a free person were on trial for assisting runaway slave, in clear violation of the Fugitive Slave Act. Would you vote to convict and punish? A moral person would find each one of those laws either morally repugnant or to be a clear violation of our Constitution. You say,

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