Not obeying every little aspect of civil law?


is it a sin?

for example, i mean things like eating on public transit or feeding animals in public parks. technically they are illegal


Jesus accepted death for a law he never broke.

But the authorities said he was guilty.


Frankly, not all laws are just and all laws are meant to be changed if need be. But if the laws make sense for the basic welfare of all others they should be obeyed. Still I understand needing to eat while traveling and about feeding animals. I plead guilty to both.

However, you might think of these aspects of the two examples you give: Eating on public transit is usually banned due to the mess it creates and the cost of cleaning the trains or buses etc. So you could say you are causing a financial hardship on the transit system. Personally, I think people should have more common sense and clean up after themselves, rather than prohibit people from eating if they need to.

As for feeding animals in public parks, this can cause an imbalance in the population of the particular animal in question, and thus result in disease problems, for all the animals in the park as well as the humans. In addition, wild animals can become too people friendly and you may actually be contributing to their eventual death because they bite someone and have to be destroyed.

Like I said I am guilty of both of the above, more so in the past than now. It is hard to ignore an animal that seems to be hungry, but nature is nature and history shows that the more "mankind’ meddles with it, the worse things seem to get. As for the eating, there are some medical conditions that make it impossible for some folks to ignore this, so I feel less guilty about that.


whatever will we do with you? you’re a born criminal.


It would take more than what you described to make minor technical violations of very minor laws sinful.


Keep in mind that Man’s laws are not God’s laws. Some things like not stealing are the same, but often things are different.

If someone passed a law about not giving money to the homeless, would you follow it? If you lived in a country where praying was illegal, would you stop praying? Sometimes you have to break a law.

But for little things like not eating on public transit it’s not a sin, but you have to ask yourself if breaking the law does any good for people.


I remember being a tourist in Franco’s Spain. My brother and I were walking through a park in Barcelona when a civil guard with cloak and triangular hat shouted at us and gesticulated wildly. We had no Spanish and just shrugged our shoulders. He then pulled a sub machine gun from under his cloak and pointed to a sign “No walking on the grass.”
I have always understood the value some have in every little rule and have not fed a squirrel for years.


Some laws are pretty silly and have outlived their usefulness. I think it’s still against the law in Michigan to have your hair cut without your husband’s permission…?? Just look up a list of strange laws.

But as far as feeding animals in parks, please never feed animals at least in a National Park. As a ranger, that’s something that really bothers me. It’s destructive for a lot of reasons, not least of which because it encourages the animal to be around people and perverts the integrity of the natural environment we’re trying to protect. In the worst examples, if you’re feeding carnivores, fatality is often the result. One photographer baited a bear to get photos, and after becoming acclimated to people because of the photographer, this same bear attacked three men sleeping in a tent and killed two of them.


One way that prohibited conduct can be classified is “Malum in se” versus “Malum prohibitum” (Something that is “wrong in of itself” versus something that is “wrong because it is prohibited”). “Iussum quia iustum” versus “iustum quia iussum” (Something that is “commanded because it is just” versus something that is “just because it is commanded”).

A law that is “iustum quia issum” that creates conduct that is “malum prohibitum” is something that I think is a legitimate topic for debate…and where disobedience does not approach any degree of gravity…depending upon the circumstances.

(Just to stress, I am not saying that a person should try to justify conduct that is “malum in se” by claiming a law is “iustum quia issum”)

A lot depends upon the circumstances surrounding the incident.

For example, blowing through a red light at high speed would definitely be “malum in se” – as you are endangering yourself and other people on the road. However, let’s say you stuck at a red light for 5 minutes in the middle of the night with no traffic coming in the other direction (i.e., perhaps the circuits controlling the red light are broken). It is still against the law to go, but you clearly wouldn’t be endangering others if you carefully proceed?

Or speeding. It would definitely be “malum in se” to drive at a high rate of speed through a neighborhood with children; but I would submit that driving with the traffic on a freeway, even though that speed was 10 miles per hour over the posted limit, would fall squarely in the category of “malum prohibitum” and would not come close to the threshold of something needing to be confessed. Again, a mature evaluation of the circumstances is important.

Again, let me stress that laws that are iussum quia iustum, the violation of which would be malum in se…that falls into one category. But laws that are iustum quia iussum, where violation of conduct would be malum prohibitum…a lot depends upon the intent and the circumstances…and common sense should prevail.

(Is it truly a mortal sin to use a #3 pencil on a government form commanding that a #2 pencil be used?)


The Michigan haircutting example can be distinguished on the grounds that there is good reason for honestly believing the law to be unconstitutional. If you can honestly believe that, you are not violating the law or dishonoring the state.

I think the fundamental value here in deciding whether it is immoral to disregard laws that are not intrinsically evil is the fact that you can be said to not honoring the state that God allowed to be in power over us. There’s a bit of “honor thy father” in this preferred behavior. Still, and though I could be wrong, I think this concern is satisfied when you feel you have some justification for the minor trespass, you’re not likely to cause scandal (speeding 10 mph, for example, almost certainly won’t), and (most importantly), you are still willing to humbly submit yourself to the criminal justice system if you are caught and prosecuted (e.g., pay your fine unbegrudgingly). This attitude and course of action still appears to show the necessary respect that would satisfy the commandment. It still shows, in my mind, the necessary deference to state and, analogously, to God. With this attitude you don’t have to be overly scrupulous with minutiae that could otherwise consume your peace.


Well, I’m not going to confess cutting off the “Do Not Remove” tag from my mattress!




I think we need to distinguish between rules and laws. It probably isn’t unlawful to eat on the bus - just a rule the bus company put in place for their own reasons. I don’t think it’s necessarily a sin to break a rule. Breaking the law, though, it depends. If breaking the law endangers someone or can potentially endanger someone, it probably would be a sin. If it’s some old law like you can’t eat ice cream on Sunday, then best to ignore it.


Id say listen to your inner self (conscious) this will let you know if you are doing anything wrong, remember Gods laws trump mans laws, so I wouldnt be too concerned about mans laws…thats the way I live anyway, and have never had any problems, and can sleep well at night too.


Those actually have fairly decent reasons. As SighGuy pointed out do not feed animals in a national park, it is bad for them and you.


A conscience needs to be well-formed too. Part of that formation is respect for authority. If a law does not make any sense to you, your first assumption should be that you may not know or understand the reason for that law. Your first assumption should not be that authorities are a bunch of idiots who sit around making up nonsense laws. The “feeding the animals” law is a case in point, as Joie de Vivre pointed out. Only in the case of a clear violation of Church teaching are we allowed, in fact required, to ignore the law.


One must also consider that these officials create SOME laws that are nothing more than ‘money grabs’, such as the new red light cameras, thankfully most cities are taking these down and recognizing they are nothing but money grabs by law enforcement, but there are many other laws intended solely for generating revenue…I believe this is 100% wrong. Law enforcement in a sense RELIES on a certain number of people committing these offenses so they can write citations, and bring in money.

The very definition of INSANITY is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results, this is exactly what law enforcement has done for many years with a great number of laws, such as drinking and driving, they have laws against this, but DUIs continue to happen, so the laws are not working, it is not enough to deter people from committing the crime, yet law enforcement comes up with no alternative that would solve the problem…WHY NOT? Seems to me they do not truly want this to stop, as they would loose alot of revenue, same goes for people speeding, if everyone suddenly stopped speeding, law enforcement agencies all over would be in a real pickle, and be loosing millions of dollars, I think they would come up with another law to make up for this loss as a result.

The same can be said about a number of other laws, over the years, they are proven not to work, as they have not slowed down or stopped the crime…so why not create a new law that would, that seems like a logical step imo.


Red light and speeding camera fines fall clearly into the category of “iustum quia issum” (just because it’s commanded) as compared to “Iussum quia iustum” (commanded because it’s just). Getting tagged by a speeding camera is definitely “malum prohibitum” (‘evil’ because it’s prohibited).

(BTW, interestingly, though many jurisdictions are removing red light cameras, in DC, they just recently added 150 more cameras around the District…specifically for the purpose of raising more money – and the District government openly admits as much)


Why is it necessarily wrong? Government needs revenue to operate. Which is better - to raise taxes on everyone or fine people who are breaking the law? The law that says you have to pay your taxes is also “solely for generating revenue”. Do you contend that all laws about taxes are unjust?

Law enforcement in a sense RELIES on a certain number of people committing these offenses so they can write citations, and bring in money.

I agree this is a real danger, because human nature being what it is, police departments are not incentivized to discourage lawbreaking when that very lawbreaking brings in revenue. For example, a road sign that says “Red Light Ahead” might increase public safety, but also lower revenue from fines. So municipalities might be reluctant to put up such a sign. Another example is taxes on cigarettes. They are supposedly meant to discourage smoking. But when government relies on these particular taxes so much, they are going to feel strong pressure to accommodate big tobacco in other ways, and so undermine the very purpose of the tax.

But does this mean it is moral to run red lights or buy cigarettes on the black market?

The very definition of INSANITY is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results, this is exactly what law enforcement has done for many years with a great number of laws, such as drinking and driving, they have laws against this, but DUIs continue to happen, so the laws are not working, it is not enough to deter people from committing the crime, yet law enforcement comes up with no alternative that would solve the problem…WHY NOT?

You picked a very bad example. There is no reason to suppose that lawmakers are so callous that they actually want to see more people killed by drunk drivers just so that they can generate revenue from DUI fines. Yes, DUIs continue to happen. But it is very reasonable to conclude that accidents from drunk driving would be even worse if there were no laws about drunk driving. The next time you get on an airplane, think how you would feel if there were no laws about the alcohol level of your pilot.

The same can be said about a number of other laws, over the years, they are proven not to work, as they have not slowed down or stopped the crime…

This is getting a little off topic, because the question at hand is not which laws we should have. It is which laws we should obey. In particular, the question has been raised that if you do not think a law is good, are you morally obligated to obey it? My point was that the average person, giving only armchair consideration to the facts surrounding a law, is not in a position to pass judgement on a law that was likely written with more facts in hand. The word “little” appears in the title of this thread. I think that means we are not really talking about laws against drunk driving. We are talking about spitting on the sidewalk and such. And for most of those laws, I again say that it is arrogant of us to assume we can morally disregard those laws.


I understand what you are saying and you do make some good points.

Although Im still wondering why, being that people are committing such dangerous crimes as DUIs, and yet the laws about this crime are about the same, yes, they make it tougher here and there, usually by increasing the amount of the fine or length of suspended driver license, but NONE of this has worked, people still drink and drive, no matter what the penalty is, the amount of DUIs go up or stay the same, point is, they are not going down…this is exactly what laws are intended to do…make crime numbers go down. I would think seeing this, our law makers would commission smart people to come up with something that would discourage people from doing this…why have they not done this?I find it hard to believe in this day and age, when we have some extremely smart people coming up with solutions for all kinds of things, NO ONE can come up with 1 single alternative to the current DUI laws that would actually reduce the number of crimes? LOL

After all, people dont seem to be too concerned with going to jail over this, this means they are willing to take the risk, its time to come up with something that they will not take the risk over. I think the problem is our lawmakers use the same thing over and over, jail, prison, fines, taking something away…this has NOT worked…DUH! all prisons are busting at the seams, so that alone proves people are willing to take the risks and the punishments are not enough of a discouragement to them…I would think our law makers would be intelligent enough to think, “well maybe its time we think of something else to try”…Ya think! LOL


If you want to discuss this topic, I suggest you start a new thread about it. The topic of this tread is ***not obeying every little aspect of civil law

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