Could a teacher or the university be legally liable in this situation? In which countries? Could the teacher be reprimanded by the university?

The situation is the following: A teacher wants to show students that what's legal is not always ethically right. As an example, the teacher tells the students that to free slaves was illegal. Therefore, the teacher says, sometimes to break the law would be the right thing to do. So the teacher is literally and directly telling the students that sometimes the right thing to do might be to break the law.

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    It doesn't seem reasonable to me to scope a question on legal issues so broadly.
    – Bryan Krause
    Oct 13, 2020 at 18:21
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    Ethics are subjective, the law is not. I cannot believe the teacher would say, "sometimes to break the law would be the right thing to do", he is far more likely to say that breaking the law can be considered ethically right - but it is still illegal. If you are drawing from a real-life situation here I think some artistic license has been employed.
    – C26
    Oct 13, 2020 at 18:37
  • @C26 Law can actually be pretty subjective and often contains a lot of subjective language.
    – Bryan Krause
    Oct 13, 2020 at 18:55
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    @C26: I can totally believe it - there used to be laws which everybody in today's western world would see as ethically wrong. Laws like "killing those kinds of people is okay" would today be seen as wrong and in no way subjective. Indeed I had a teacher who said "sometimes to break the law would be the right thing to do" (quoting the Nazis regime as an example). And even today, there are dictatorships with questionable laws..
    – user111388
    Oct 13, 2020 at 18:58
  • @Captain Emacs There is currently no country with legal slavery. Oct 13, 2020 at 23:17

1 Answer 1


The questions seems purely hypothetical and a bit recursive. If a country has repressive laws, as some do, then it could well be that discussions of breaking the laws, even unjust ones, could lead to legal jeopardy.

A strange story recently came out of Thailand, where a person was threatened with jail for leaving bad reviews online about a resort. Saying bad things about Royalty there is very dangerous and so, I would guess, would be discussions of breaking such laws. Not to single out a single country, though. And, while the story is "strange" to me, as a US person, it might seem totally normal to someone else.

When laws are unjust, who can say where it ends. You can't depend on free-speech guarantees unless there is at least a strong societal norm protecting them. And even then, some people are willing to break norms, as I'm sure you can notice all around you.

Was it once true in the US that discussions of ending slavery were forbidden in some jurisdictions? I seem to recall that it was.

In any case, if a jurisdiction has unjust laws, making discussion of breaking them illegal might well be an additional unjust law. Unjust laws all the way down.

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    That's why I specifically asked in which countries. Oct 13, 2020 at 19:28
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    Hmmm. And it might be that those with personal knowledge can't answer without putting themselves in legal jeopardy. Catch 22. And beware of blasphemy laws wherever they occur.
    – Buffy
    Oct 13, 2020 at 19:44
  • Good point, Buffy! Oct 13, 2020 at 19:46
  • Those who know and love Thailand were not at all surprised by that case and mostly agree with what happened.
    – gnasher729
    Oct 15, 2020 at 9:58
  • I disagree with "Hmmm. And it might be that those...". Human right organizations have data about bad human right situations. And for a westener, to point at this data and conclude that e.g. the situation of the question was the case in North Korea would be possible and no Catch 22.
    – user111388
    Oct 15, 2020 at 13:59

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