Coolmusc1 saidSo what have you learned from what you read? And what conclusions have you come to based upon the words in the text? Do you read them all literally? Is it easy to figure out what their literal meanings are?
The Constitution is - despite the limitations and the generally evil bent of humanity - is as good a guiding document as ever was to frame a government upon.
The Founding Fathers were largely familiar with the shortcomings of the human race (to wit, the 3/5 compromise) of its time, as well as anticipating to a limited degree what issues would confront the new Republic, at least into the following generation (the one born in the 1780s-1800s) and possibly the one thereafter (1800s-1820s), which would reach public maturity (that is, the age at which those generations would enter policy-making role in the nation), beginning in the 1820s and reaching forward as far (potentially) as the 1860s).
This is not to say that they "got everything right", for they too, despite their relative excellence as men in their time, suffered from the same things that afflict us - partisanship, differences in how they thought best the government should be administered (strong Hamiltonian federal centralism vs Jeffersonian loose federalism, i.e. more power vested in the states) among other things.
Taken literally, the Constitution is for the most part, easy to glean its meaning, when taken as a whole.
Coolmusc1 saidLet's start with the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Are laws forcing people to say the pledge of allegiance "respecting an establishment of religion?" How about laws creating currency with "In God We Trust" on them?
1) the Pledge of Allegiance is - as far as I know - not a federally mandated speech that we must make. In fact, the Pledge contained no reference to God or Deity until the 1950s, when through much lobbying by the Catholic service organization, the Knights of Columbus, got the "under God" verbiage added to it. It is noteworthy to add that this occurred during the time of McCarthyism and the Red Scares, when atheism (or rather the lack of acknowledging God) was considered a mark of Marxist and/or Communist sympathies.
2) If we were following the constitution more faithfully, there would likely be no such abomination as the "federal Reserve" or its worthless paper currency. The Constitution limits the Congress to minting silver dollars and gold eagles (as the proper name for coined gold specie).
As for putting "in God we trust" on the money (coin or currency) - this could arguably be a violation of the Establishment cause, although a far-fetched one, since the person of God is not clearly established. It could as easily refer to Indra, or Kali, or Allah or Jesus or even Neptune... even if "god" is commonly understood to refer to the Judeo-Christian notion of God.
Moreover, the motto does not compel anyone to observe any religion in and of itself.
If the motto on the money said "In Jesus we Trust", or some other named Deity, that would be grounds for a more serious consideration of whether or not this is a violation, and no doubt this was a matter of discussion when the parties involved in passing whatever laws govern putting that motto on the coins.
Coolmusc1 saidAre laws preventing people from yelling "fire" in a crowded place "abridging the freedom of speech?" How about laws saying one can't burn the American flag? How about laws preventing students from wearing t-shirts which say "kill all the ___________ (insert the name of a group of people in here)?"
The Constitution does not forbid this speech, but I will agree with the above posters who have said that the while the Constitution doesn't prohibit speech, it doesn't have regard for civil or even criminal penalties against speakers for the effects of that speech (i.e. "fighting words", libel, etc.)
In other words, to not ban a person from wearing a "kill the rabbit" shirt because some poor lagomorph might be offended, but to perhaps impose a penalty for someone "inciting to riot" when he walks into a crowded bar full of said lagomorphs.
Coolmusc1 saidAre laws prohibiting protests in the middle of high-traffic streets "abridging the right of the people to peacably assemble?"
Arguably, blocking traffic in a high-density transit area could be construed to be a non-peacable action.
And at the same time, there may be a necessary level of discretion that local law enforcement bodies need to exercise, depending upon the nature of the activity and its likely protesters: a G-20 summit is likely to turn up all sorts of anarchists and other rabble-rousers whose intent has been proven to be anything but peaceable, whereas Tea Party protests have been for the most part, very peaceably assembled.
I do disagree with the notion of "free speech zones" that place areas where protestors may assemble inordinately away from the site of the activity they wish to protest.