Political Science majors debate in second week of First Amendment on Trial

Photo Credit: (First Amendment on Trial)

Photo Credit: (First Amendment on Trial)

Michael Delehanty, Contributor

MOON TOWNSHIP – The second of the four First Amendment on Trial debates was held in the Academic Media Center at Robert Morris University, Thursday afternoon. The debate was based on the second part of the First Amendment, “freedom of speech”.

Debaters Kristen Davis and Rachel Pracht examined The Supreme Court case, Morse v. Frederick.

Morse v. Frederick was a case that questioned a student’s right to freedom speech in an academic environment. Joseph Frederick held up a sign at a school-sanctioned event that read “Bong hits for Jesus.” Deborah Morse, a staff member for the school, was upset by the sign and removed it from the student.

Davis argued in support of the school while Pracht defended the student.

“We had learned about the case in class before the time came to sign up to do this,” said Pracht. “When we chose it, we already had some background on it. For my research, I looked into the case decisions that I read out of the book and I found the transcript from the actual Supreme Court case.”

Both Pracht and Davis had the opportunity to research the case and form their own opinion on the case in which a decision was already made.

“I really enjoy stuff like this because it’s interesting to have to take your own look at a lot of the cases,” said Davis. “What we’re debating is something that has already been decided, but it’s interesting to have to dive back into it and really have to argue it from your own perspective.”

Along with getting to research and learn more about the cases, the debaters had an opportunity to experience what it would be like to present a case in a courtroom setting.

“Initially, I was a little scared to do it, actually. Professor Jamison is great so I was willing to help with that,” explained Pracht. “I’m also interested in going to law school, so this was a good chance to get some experience with researching a case and presenting it in front of people.”

The debaters found the event really fun and a great opportunity to hear different opinions from the other side of the case.

“I think the most exciting part was hearing Kristen’s side and having the back and forth and having the chance to do the rebuttal, which I was really nervous about. But, it was really exciting to hear what her perspective on the case was,” Pracht said.

After both sides got the opportunity to present their cases and defend their opinion, the audience was allowed to vote.

Students from local high schools watched the event through a Facebook live stream and were also able to vote on the winner.

The final decision determined that Rachel Pracht was the winner of the debate.

The next First Amendment on Trial will take place in the Academic Media Center on Nov. 14 at 1:30 p.m.