When confronted with an injustice — an evil — such as slavery, what can be done? Can the civility that makes living in society possible, ever be reconciled with disobeying the law? Can it be civil to defy prevailing norms of social decorum, that actually protect an unjust status quo?.In the introduction to The Soul of Civility: Timeless Principles to Heal Society and Ourselves, we explored insights from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” about why civility supports civil disobedience or the principled, intentional breaking of laws and norms..Sometimes people break individual laws and norms that undermine the overall rule of law and basic human equality.. Alexandra HudsonAlexandra Hudson .On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks broke Chapter 6, Section 11 of the Montgomery City Code in protest of a specific Jim Crow law that discriminated against persons of colour and was subsequently arrested..Counterintuitively, her lawbreaking action manifested respect for the rule of law, because the law she broke violated the rule of law in the first place..The paradox of civility is sometimes breaking laws and norms is an important way of respecting the equality of all persons, supporting the rule of law and promoting the democratic project. Parks broke a law with the intent of making the law more just for Americans..In democratic republics such as America, where all citizens are equal under the law, the right to protest is a duty of citizenship when the right to equal justice under the law is withheld from certain members of the population. When the equality of some citizens is not recognized, civil disobedience is necessary..Indeed, civility — the duties of citizenship — sometimes requires disobedience.. Soul of civility .America’s right to disobey and protest is enshrined in its founding documents. Americans are entitled to certain rights and with those rights come the responsibilities of citizenship. Sometimes, as the 19th century politician Edward Coles said, protest against unjust laws or norms is a duty of citizenship..A truly civilized society is one where legal institutions and the habits of citizens, are oriented toward respecting the inherent dignity and equality of all. A civilized society depends on the character — the civility — of its citizens. Recognizing equality means recognizing inherent human dignity. It is what promotes humaneness in human com munities..When certain members of society are deprived of basic rights — either through formal, legal institutions or through informal norms — it is the responsibility of other members of society to protest that unjust deprivation..As Dr. King wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, throughout history people have challenged prevailing laws in loyalty to a higher, moral law..From Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s rejection of the laws of King Nebuchadnezzar, to early Christians who were willing to face the lions rather than renounce their faith, to those who participated in the Boston Tea Party, protest and civil disobedience can illuminate the soul of civility..How do we determine when such action is warranted?.Dr. King offers us a framework for understanding when the duties of the civis require disobedience to prevailing norms and laws..He wrote in his letter, “How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law or norm contradicts moral law.”.He continues, “An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.” It is at times our duty as citizens to disobey immoral laws and norms that deprive — that violate the rights of other citizens and degrade the human personality..Civility obligates conduct befitting a citizen of the civitas. Civility at times requires being impolite or rude or even offending people. But civility always respects the basic personhood and dignity of others..Born in Los Angeles, raised in Vancouver and now living in Indiana, Alexandra 'Lexi' Hudson's book ' The Soul of Civility: Timeless Principles to Heal Society and Ourselves' was published 10th October. This extract is reprinted with permission.