Why ‘Obey the Law’ is an Inadequate Response from Christians on Migration

Embed from Getty Images
Millennial writer Meghan Clark writes:

A just law is one that upholds human dignity and is directed at the common good. For St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, laws that fail to do so are unjust and improper. An unjust law is not binding upon Christian consciences. Movements for justice often invoke this basic Christian tradition challenging unjust laws and structures. During the violent and repressive military dictatorship in El Salvador, Oscar Romero urged members of the police and military to disobey unjust orders and stop the repression. Preaching days before his assassination, Romero reminded the faithful, “The law has to be at the service of human dignity and not focused on legal details that so often can trample people’s honor.” Any law that dehumanizes or violates human dignity is unjust…

Conflating law and justice requires ignoring history. Slavery and segregation were legal but they were never just. In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” King reminded his critics that “everything Hitler did in Germany was legal” and it was illegal to “aid and comfort” a Jewish person in Hitler’s Germany. King broke unjust laws and organized others to do so as well. Civil disobedience as practiced by King exemplifies a deep respect for rule of law while refusing to idolize a particular legal system. Laws matter, but they must be just in both form and application.

King noticed the greatest opposition to dismantling unjust laws often comes from those “more devoted to order than to justice” and those who have a “shallow understanding” of the situation…

For those fleeing violence, persecution, and poverty, there are no good options. Everyone agrees the current system is broken, yet political will to create a just system continues to elude the nation. As Christians, we are called to distinguish between what is legal and what is just, to challenge unjust laws, and to prioritize dignity over order.