Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

Table of Contents | Cover Page  |  Editors  |  Contributors  |  Introduction  |  Web Version

A tactic used in the pursuit of social change, often connected with religiously based activism. Current use is rooted in the writings of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., and is usually related to commitments to nonviolence.

Civil disobedient actions deliberately violate existing laws to demonstrate conditions of injustice. For example, African Americans in the U.S. civil rights movement protested legal segregation by sitting in "whites only" sections of lunch counters and public buses. Antinuclear demonstrators have deliberately "occupied" nuclear power and weapons sites. Participants allow themselves to be arrested, further reinforcing the message that the laws, not their actions, are immoral.

Rhys H. Williams


B. Epstein, Political Protest and Cultural Revolution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991)

M. L. King, Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail (San Francisco: Harper,1994)

A. Morris, The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement (New York: Free Press, 1984).


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