Constitutional Conflicts: A Role Play
These role plays use a talk show format to facilitate group discussions on the topics we will be using for the mooting assignments in this course. Each group will create and engage in a mock talk show focusing on an issue related to the specific legal question of their assigned moot. The situations are set in Germany.
- Understand the general conflict raised by the legal issue in the moot by talking about a similar situation that took place in Germany.
- Become more comfortable with using English to express yourself regarding the assigned topic.
- Practice your ability to use English spontaneously.
- Explore this topic from both a legal and non-legal perspective.
- Each team will be given a topic for their “talk show” and a brief summary of the issue that has made it a controversy. (see below)
- Teams should brainstorm who the role play characters will be. Think about who is impacted by the issue or who would be advocating on behalf of one side or the other in this controversy. Role play characters can range from experts, to advocates, to people directly being harmed by the issue.
- Each participant should prepare a very short introduction of who their character is. You will be asked to introduce yourself at the beginning of the “show.”
- Each participant should consider the positions their role play character will take in this discussion. Come prepared to discuss the topic generally and support your positions.
- Each role play will take up to 15 minutes.
- Each group will have four participants (unless otherwise noted) and a moderator (the instructor)
- The moderator will introduce the topic/participants and then start by posing a question to one of them.
- The format is relatively open. Similar to that used by Anne Will, Sandra Maischberger and the other hosts of the various current events talk shows on German TV.
Group 1 – Christian Symbols on State Property: Proper in a multi-cultural society?
The state of Bavaria has ordered Christian crosses be placed on the entrance of all government buildings. Bavaria’s conservative government says the crosses should not be seen as religious symbols, but are meant to reflect the southern German state’s “cultural identity and Christian-western influence.” Crosses are already compulsory in public schools and courtrooms in predominantly Catholic Bavaria. But some of Bavaria’s Christian leaders have expressed concern. Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising, said displaying the cross should not be mandatory and that he feared the law would create “division, unrest and adversity.” Others have claimed that this is nothing more than a political stunt to attract anti-immigrant voters, as well as a violation of the state’s obligation to remain neutral. What should we make of crosses in state buildings? Is this a violation of neutrality or a natural expression of Germany’s cultural roots?
Group 2 – Krippen, Christmas Markets and Our Changing Culture
Christmas trees, mulled wine, stands with goods, and an overall holiday spirit, these are things most people associate with Christmas Markets. And in Iserlohn: add a life-sized nativity scene to that list. That is until this year. Residents were recently stunned by the announcement that Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus would no longer be a part of Iserhohn’s yearly tradition. City officials talked about “moving in a new direction” using words like openness and multi-cultural in explaining the change. To critics of the move, this is nothing more than political correctness. Said one resident, ” what is Christmas without Jesus?” Is this a sign of the times? A sign that as Germany becomes more multi-ethnic and multi-religious, old traditions will give way to new one? Should our traditions, and even concepts of religious freedom, be moving in a “new direction?” Or is the status quo just fine, even as the face of German society begins to change?
Group 3 – Should People Being Praying in School?
A school board in Switzerland recently came under heavy criticism for allowing teachers to use its elementary school classrooms for Pentecostal (pfingstlich) prayer activities. While the Board claimed that such activities did not “endanger the religious neutrality of the school or the school’s working and school climate,” critics claim that the presence of such activity on school grounds by its teachers negatively impacts the school’s atmosphere. “What kind of message does this send to young, impressionable children,” asked one concerned parent. A school in NRW was also recently faced with the question of whether prayer in school should be allowed. This time the praying individuals were Muslim students, and their act of praying on school grounds was characterized as “provocative.” Said one school official, “the ban of praying in a provocative manner in public is intended to promote peaceful coexistence and secure school peace.” In a religiously diverse society, can the act of praying be considered so provocative that banning it is necessary to maintain peaceful co-existence. And what role should the rights of the praying person play in this debate?
Group 4 – Too Much Speech? Defining the limits of student speech rights in schools
Individualism is all the rage in today’s teen culture. Looking different, dressing different, making a statement. This is what today’s teen seemingly is aiming for. For schools, this poses potential problems, and many schools have reacted by creating quasi dress codes. A school in Sauerland recently passed a rule prohibiting exposed belly buttons, exposed cleavage, short pants and skirts. Another school near Augsburg tells its students, “School is not a disco and certainly not a beach” in an effort to have them dress sensibly. In Cologne a school policy that bans t-shirts with a racists, sexist or anti-democratic message has caused a stir among the student body. How far is too far, when it comes to regulating how students dress in school?
Group 5 – Can Students be Punished for Off-Campus Speech?
Can a student be suspended from school for something she writes in a WhatsApp group while sitting in her bedroom? That was the question before a Stuttgart court recently in a case concerning a 5th grader who was suspended from school for three weeks after it was discovered she had written offensive things about the school’s principal. The offending chat contained passages such as: “Someone needs to teach Ms. Smith a lesson. I swear, Ms. Smith should fuck off . . . . Someone should stab that little whore.” The Stuttgart court upheld the school’s decision saying that such language in a WhatsApp school class chat group, even when written and viewed from home, causes a substantial disruption to the school atmosphere. But should we be comfortable with schools being able to punish children for speech they engage in outside of school?