The Roman Catholic Church already has Vatican City, but isn't it about time for a winter home in Florida? If Domino's Pizza magnate Thomas S. Monaghan has his way, then the new town of Ave Maria will be governed by strict Catholic principles. The pharmacies won't carry birth control. The cable channels won't show porn. And doctors and clinics will be forbidden from providing abortions. Monaghan insists that the plan for Ave Maria is "God's will," and he is bankrolling it to the tune of $250 million.
According to the Associated Press, the town, about 25 miles east of Naples, is being built around Ave Maria University, the first Catholic University to open in the U.S. in 40 years. It will be set on 5,000 acres with a "European-inspired" town center and a "massive" church that will sport a 65-foot crucifix, the largest one in the nation. (Who knew there could one day be a town creepier than Disney's Celebration?)
Of course, there are all sorts of thorny civil liberties issues that need to be addressed before Monaghan can begin his reign. But since he was recently quoted in Newsweek saying that "all of history is just one big battle between good and evil ... I don't want to be on the sidelines," I have a feeling he's going to put up a good fight.
Some people might not think Monaghan's plan is such a big deal. After all, if you don't like his ideas, then you don't have to live in Ave Maria. Still, the idea of a religiously governed town in the U.S. makes me profoundly uncomfortable. Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, went so far as to tell the AP that Monaghan's concept was akin to Islamic fundamentalism. "This is un-American," Kissling said. "I don't think in a democratic society you can have a legally organized township that will seek to have any kind of public service whatsoever and try to restrict the constitutional rights of citizens."
But if Ave Maria comes to be, at least it will likely offer 24-hour pizza delivery.