Activity 1: Law, Crime and Punishment

Activity time: 5 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint, markers and tape

Preparation for Activity

  • On a large sheet of newsprint make three columns. Write the word "Crime" over the first column, "Mild Punishment" over the second and "Harsh Punishment" over the third. In the "Crime" column, write these examples of behavior that would be considered breaking either a covenant or the law:
    • Stealing a pencil
    • Stealing your parents' car
    • Stealing a stranger's car
    • Robbing a bank
    • Stealing retirement money from elderly people
    • Stealing someone's land
  • Leave room to add others the children may contribute.

Description of Activity

Children begin thinking about the "gray areas" of rule-breaking. This activity helps prepare them to be open to forgiveness.

Briefly discuss the concepts of law (rules we all agree to follow), crime (a harsh action that breaks the rules) and punishment (a penalty or price for breaking the rules). Mention that in many religions, cultures and legal systems, the penalty must fit the crime - for example, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth (Exodus 21:23-27); no cruel or unusual punishment (the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution).

Ask the children what they believe should be the mildest and harshest punishment for each crime listed on the newsprint. There may be some debate about appropriate punishment; you might suggest a quick vote among the group. Write their responses on the newsprint. Let the children know they will have an opportunity to revisit this list later in the session. Keep the list posted-or put it aside to use in Activity 4, Write a Letter of Forgiveness.

For more information contact religiouseducation@uua.org.

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