Lex iniusta non est lex

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Lex iniusta non est lex (English: An unjust law is no law at all), is a standard legal maxim.

Originating with St. Augustine,[1] the motto was used by St. Thomas Aquinas[2] and quoted by Martin Luther King Jr.[3] during the Civil Rights Movement to describe racial segregation and discrimination against African Americans.

This view is strongly associated with natural law theorists, including John Finnis and Lon Fuller.[4]


  1. ^ The Encyclopedia of language and linguistics, Volume 4
  2. ^ Norman Kretzmann, Lex Iniusta Non Est Lex: Laws on Trial in Aquinas' Court of Conscience, 33 Am. J. Juris. 99 (1988). Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 96, a. 4, c.
  3. ^ "Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.]". www.africa.upenn.edu.
  4. ^ Brian Bix, "Jurisprudence: Theory and Context", (Sweet&Maxwell 2009) 70