Ethical Debate #1: “That which is not just…”

Answering a critic who pleaded with him to follow the new Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, abolitionist author and spokesman William Lloyd Garrison responded by placing his personal morality above the laws of the United States… On the question of slavery, he said, “That which is not just is not law.”

Kim Davis, Kentucky Clerk, Held in Contempt and Ordered to Jail
(NBC NEWS, September 3, 2015)

A Kentucky clerk is heading to jail after a judge found her in contempt of court for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses to gay couples.

Kim Davis, a clerk in Rowan County, was found in contempt of court on Thursday morning by Judge David Bunning. Davis has said granting marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples would “violate God’s definition of marriage” and infringe on her personal beliefs as an Apostolic Christian.

Bunning said Davis would be released only when she agreed to follow his order and issue marriage licenses.

Davis was visibly emotional from the stand during the two-hour hearing… <read more>

RESOLVED: All citizens have the right to do as William Lloyd Garrison and Kim Davis have done—to judge whether to follow American laws based on their personal notions of right and wrong, just and unjust.

AGREE or DISAGREE?? After our discussion, please either: 1) add a new comment below; OR 2) respond * respectfully! * to one of your classmates’ comments; OR 3) clarify / expand on something you said in class.


About Dr. Ostroff
Head of Upper School at The Emery/Weiner School in Houston, TX

25 Responses to Ethical Debate #1: “That which is not just…”

  1. Turner Corbett

    Kim Davis Reflection Essay

    Kim Davis has been verbally abused by the media for following her religious and moral beliefs on marriage. An Apostolic Christian and a registered Democrat, Kim has not had the easiest last few weeks. As the majority of y’all know Kim Davis is a Rowan County Clerk in Kentucky who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples because she did not believe God would approve and was sent to jail for five days for doing so. I think Kim Davis did an incredible thing that day. She knew she was putting her job and career in jeopardy by denying gay couples the right to get married but she still had the courage to do what she believed was right. It is clear in the bible that marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman and when they marry they become one. What many left wing advocates have bashed Kim Davis over is that she has been married four times. She has held the same marriage since 2009 and in 2011 claims she had a religious awakening and a life changing experience. But why won’t people leave her alone? The liberal media is drilling her into the ground for denying gay marriage when marriage is solely supposed to be between a man and a woman. It has gotten so bad that armed guards have been hired to come protect her from belligerent protesters. People are actually trying to hurt her because of her Christian beliefs.
    Same sex marriage isn’t about getting married, it is about the destruction or marriage. It is about politically correctness and trying to bring down marriage as a whole. Marriage is about purity and faith between a man and a woman. People often say if you do not support gay marriage it doesn’t matter because it won’t affect you but that is false. It affects the whole country. If homosexuals wanted to spend their lives together they can live together and apply for a civil union. She did not deny them a civil union which is what they really should have been asking for. I fully support her standing up against same sex marriage and denying the right for them to get married.
    It is a slippery slope to disobey laws based on your religious beliefs but this is a very reasonable and acceptable opposition. There is no law that sends people to jail for denying marriage licenses. The law states that gay couples have the right to get married, not that gay couples have the right to send clerks that deny their marriage to jail. In the first amendment, people are given the right of freedom of speech and the access to deny service to anyone which are two things Kim Davis did, yet she was punished. I could understand Kim possibly losing her job over this but sending her to jail for five days was over the top in my conservative opinion. This incident has truly been blown out of proportion and I think Kim Davis did a remarkable thing. She knew what was right and followed her religious faith.

  2. Turner Corbett says:

    As much as I agree with doing what you think is morally correct, I don’t agree it is right to break the law over what you think is right and if you don’t like the law you should either protest or leave. If everybody is breaking laws because they don’t agree with it this country will have serious issues. I agree with everybody above who has called it “A slippery slope”. One bent law leads to another and so on. I do not have a problem with what KIm Davis did but we can’t let this escalate into other things.

  3. Sarah S says:

    I disagree with Garrison and Davis because even though they don’t believe in gay marriage they shouldn’t go against the law and take it out on their job. It is their job to license all marriages, whether it be gay marriages or not. They shouldn’t go against the law by what they believe in. If there weren’t certain laws then the world would be hectic.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I disagree with Davis and Garrison, because even though they believe in something it does not give them the freedom to go against the law. If we did not have certain laws to follow then our whole country would be filled with chaos.

  5. i disagree William Lloyd Garrison and Kim Davis because without laws it would just be a free for all which would cause disorder. I believe that a law is a law and it must be followed. Although i believe that people have the right to their own opinion, one shouldn’t break a law just because of ones personal beliefs. In order to distance our country from chaos people must obey every law even if they don’t agree with it.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I disagree with him as well because not all laws are just. Sometimes the innocent people are given charges because it is the law, that is not just. I also think that having laws is good because without them, everything would be chaos. I think that we should be able to test the law and change it sometimes.

    Mimi G.

  7. Jernee G says:

    I disagree because the law is something that is set in stone weather we believe it to be right or wrong. Free will and freedom of speech are two of our amendments, but sometimes we have to chose how we use that amendment.

  8. Walker R says:

    I disagree. There have been laws set in the United States for a reason, and those laws have been reviewed multiple times to assure that they are just. Laws are not meant to be broken. Even if someone believes that a certain law is wrong, since they have chosen to live in the United States, they must follow the country’s laws regardless.

  9. James B says:

    I disagree with this statement because the law is the law, like Hannah said above. You don’t get to decide what laws to follow or not follow based on your personal beliefs. I used this example in class and I will use it again here: the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue a same sex marriage license doesn’t get to decide who she issues a license to and who she doesn’t issue a license to just because it goes against her personal beliefs. The law is the law and in this country you are required to follow the rules, if you don’t, you go to jail. You can’t decide which laws to follow or not based on your notion of right and wrong.

  10. Noah M. says:

    I disagree with Garrison and Davis. Yes I understand that it might go againts their religious belief, but why should this stop you for giving out a marriage license to the same sex. Love is love, why would you want to stop that?

  11. Luke A says:

    I disagree with Garrison and Davis. Although I agree with what Davis was standing up for, the law is the law. One can’t go against the law due to personal belief. If everyone did what they felt was right whether legal or not our Country would be chaos. I know that personally there are many laws that I don’t agree with, but at the end of the day we need a set of laws to follow in order to keep peace to some extent.

  12. Jose G says:

    I strongly disagree with William Lloyd Garrison and Kim Davis, because laws have been established in order to protect the rights of citizens in a community. Laws still exist for a reason, they are set of rules that are meant to be followed and respected in order for a community to run accordingly. Let’s take the movie ‘Purge’ as an example. In the movie, the government allows citizens to have a a 12-hour period in which any and all criminal activity is legalized. If you have ever seen the movie or even heard of it, you know it doesn’t go too well because the community doesn’t have a set of rules to follow. So one acts as she or he wishes, which leads a catastrophic disaster. If that was the case today, no laws, the United States would be a disastrous place to live in.

  13. Kristin C says:

    I disagree with Garrison and Davis’ conclusion that personal morals are above the law. Society without laws would lead to destruction and chaos. However, sometimes the situation can be relative. For example, in Davis’ case, it was uncontrollable that the legalization of gay marriage happened far after she had her job; but that does not mean she is above the law. It all comes down to a choice between, in her case, religious morals or losing a job.

  14. Sophia I. says:

    I disagree with Lloyd and Davis because like other people said without laws there would be chaos. However there are certain laws there make no sense and are pointless. I think that we should obey all of the laws even if we don’t agree with them. The ones we don’t agree can be discussed with someone that is higher in rank and that law could potentially go away but otherwise I think that we should follow all of the laws.

  15. Allena H says:

    I feel that without the laws there would be some madness running through the streets but I also feel that of someone has a personal problem with something and they don’t want to distribute something to a consumer than that is there problem not the laws. They should change their job and get their priorities in check before they go telling other people what they can and can’t do.

  16. Alyssa R says:

    If the law is unjust to a group of people, then it should not be considered a law. Who ever is in charge should recreate the law so it includes everyone. Badically making the law equal.

  17. AmandaS says:

    I disagree with William Lloyd Garrison and Kim Davis because if everyone put their feelings before laws there would be no order in our society. Laws might not be fair, but they are for our safety and we must follow them. If people started saying they don’t follow a certain law because of they’re religious beliefs, others who don’t necessarily like that law might just start saying its against their religion even when it is not. The law is there to protect us and everyone must follow no matter your religious beliefs. If you cant do your job correctly don’t have that job.

  18. Abby C says:

    I think that without law there would be chaos; but I also think that we need to change and modify our laws to fit the time we are living in now and the social and economical defferences and problems that we face in this 21st century world.

  19. I agree with William Lloyd Garrison and Kin Davis. Firstly, some of the laws are unfair, like what they said, the laws of “slavery” are unfair. Secondly, law is absolute, people can not revolt laws in our society, there are lots of people who did not do the crime, but because of the law, they are forced to accept punishment, that shows the advantage of law. Thirdly, to make our society more better, the basic method is to change people’s thoughts, but some laws can not change the thoughts of people. Finally, laws constraint people.

  20. Dresden S. says:

    I disagree with Lloyd and Davis because without laws there would be chaos. The crimes would start out small but would escalate fast. People could decide not to do something and say it’s against their religion. We would start to get people using this in court as a defense for a murder case. We have laws for a reason and they can be changed, not because people refuse to follow them, because some need to be tweaked. If we lived in a world where people could do things saying it’s against their religion, I would not feel safe.

  21. Hannah B. says:

    I disagree with William Lloyd Garrison and Kim Davis. I understand their actions, but they knew there was going to be consequences for their actions. The law is the law, let’s say someone rear ends you because you were driving to slow in the fast lane, and that other driver drives off. The other driver drove off because he/she believed that it was your fault you were driving slow in the fast lane. BUT the law expects you to pull over and handle the situation like a responsible citizen even if it disagrees with what you believe in. The law is there to protect you and others, you don’t follow it when you want to because it’s not all about you.

    • Jose G says:

      I agree with Hannah, she sets up a good example of a possible everyday situation.. The law in this case is able to care of the situation accordingly. Laws exist to protect us, not to harm us in any way or form.

    • Mars says:

      I don’t agree with Hannah. It didn’t matter to Garrison or Davis that they would face consequences with the law, of course they knew. But the fact is they did what they believed, their own morals, what was right. However, in my disagreement I am not saying that them choosing not to follow the law is right, I am only stating that people are going to do what they believe is right, even if in the eyes of the government it is wrong.

    • Tanner R. says:

      I agree with Hannah. Laws are the law. If we let people slip on some laws then it’s a very slippery slope. It starts off with people just not giving marriage certificates then grows to something more.

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