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Alternate Activity 2: Debating Capital Punishment

Activity time: 15 minutes

Preparation for Activity

  • Decide how to conduct your group's debate.

Description of Activity

This activity gives youth the opportunity to explore their feelings about capital punishment.

Announce a group debate about capital punishment. Capital punishment means punishing somebody for a crime by putting them to death. Some people think that it is the right thing for governments to do; some people think that it is the wrong thing. What does your group think?

Divide the group into pro and con subgroups. If possible, arrange chairs so the two sides face each other.

Announce rules for the debate. It is probably easiest to keep things informal and to give each side thirty seconds or a minute at a time to speak and then go back and forth until time or ideas run out. Encourage the teams to listen to each other and to respond to specific points made. Remind participants to be respectful.

As the debate progresses, have a leader moderate to keep things going smoothly and without rancor.

Be sure to save time to process the debate. Several questions you might ask include:

  • If you debated a position that you do not believe in, was it difficult?
  • Capital punishment is an extremely controversial topic. Is it easier or harder to debate a controversial topic than one that is not controversial?
  • What authorities did participants refer to in defending capital punishment? What authorities did they use to argue against it? Could the same authority, such as, perhaps, your religion, be used to defend both sides? Is that one reason why capital punishment is such a controversial topic?

Make sure the group does not become so involved in the debate that it feels divisive.

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For more information contact religiouseducation@uua.org.

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