[eDebate] The Topic

Dallas Perkins dperkins
Fri Jun 2 09:58:16 CDT 2006

I apologize for coming to this discussion late, but I only returned from
abroad yesterday.

I would like to make an appeal for the inclusion of one or more "area"
topics.  I think freedom of religion would be a good one, although I don't
think it would necessarily be the best, and it certainly is not the only

I propose:  Resolved: That the USSC should substantially change the law of
First Amendment religious freedom by overruling one of more of its
decisions regarding establishment or free exercise of religion.

This is not too broad.  There will be some cases you won't predict right
now, but there won't be a huge number, and by the end of October,
everybody will know what nearly all of them are.

This is fresh.  We have never debated religion before, and while people
are very interested in the subject and the controversies, most college
students know little about the cases and controversies involved.

 There is INEVITABLY strong negative ground.  ANY rule that limits
establishment, liberally construed, will in some way limit free exercise.
And any enshrining of a right to worship smacks of establishment.  I have
not done any research lately, but my memory from law school is that there
was not a single "easy" case on religion.

I believe the topic should include both free exercise and establishment,
and I admit this is "bidirectional."  That's good.  It makes the negative
learn about both sides of the issues, so they have to have at least two
generics.  Also, it lets affs choose their side;  if Liberty feels
strongly that free exercise should triumph, they can support that.  If
Pagan U wants to say the government should get out of the business of
protecting religious exercise in the labor market, they can support that.

What would be included?  Relying merely on memory, with no current
reading, I would say that there would be a lot of education cases
(parochial school support, vouchers, etc,) a lot of labor market
accommodation cases, and a smattering of other interesting issues.
Big Love (polygamy) comes to mind.  Creeches on public property.  The Ten
Commandments in Courtrooms.  In God We Trust on the Money.  The Pledge of
Allegiance case.  Prayer in public schools.  Peyote(!)

As I say, I'm sure there will be surprises, cases I can't remember and you
won't discover in a day.  But that is the fun of a topic developing over
time.  And there just are not that many cases, this really can't get out
of control.

One more thing.  I know the topic committee thinks that it can say the
word "overrule" and name a famous case and know what the debate will be
about.  This is TRAGICALLY misguided, as Ms. Harrison has so vividly
illustrated.  My topic COMPELS the aff to change the law of religious
freedom, inevitably creating strong and predictable negative ground.  I
GUARANTEE I can write affs on your list topics that you have never heard
of and won't find predictable or useful or manageable with your generics.


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