Good and Bad in Florida's Catholic City

Domino's Pizza founder Thomas Monaghan has plans for a new community in Florida that will be governed by strict Roman Catholic principles. Monaghan, a longtime opponent of abortion, is putting $250 million of his own money into creating the city of Ave Maria. Satirist Brian Unger comments on the Catholic city and what will — and won't — be allowed within its borders.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

In today's Unger report, real estate. It's all the rage. One particular piece of real estate has caught the attention of Brian Unger.

BRIAN UNGER reporting:

Thomas Monaghan, the founder of Domino's Pizza, is starting a new town near Naples, Florida, a planned community governed solely by Catholic principles. In the town of Ave Maria stores will not sell pornography, pharmacies will not carry condoms or birth control, and cable TV will not carry X-rated shows. But you will be able to get a pizza delivered in under thirty minutes. Just a hunch.

Ave Maria will be quote "a values based community," with its own university and six residential neighborhoods with public schools. The pizza pioneer said, quote, "I think it's God's will to do this." And at the ground-breaking last month Governor Jeb Bush, a Catholic himself called it, quote, "a historic day, not only for Ave Maria University and town, but also for Collier county and the state of Florida."

After this historic day a series of statements followed. First, this one from the ACLU of Florida, warning the people of Collier county, quote, "You're in for a whole series of legal and constitutional problems and a lot of litigation, indefinitely, into the future."

Then Governor Bush's office issued a clarification, quote, "While the Governor does not personally believe in abortion or pornography, the town and any restrictions they may place on businesses choosing to locate there, must comply with the laws and constitution of the state and federal governments." That was followed by this clearer clarification on Friday from Domino's pizza founder and Ave Maria chancellor Thomas Monaghan himself. Quote, "I just misspoke. The town will be open to anybody."

Backtracking from his original vision, Monaghan said that a ban on pornography and birth control applies only to the university, though the town of Ave Maria will not allow adult bookstores or topless clubs.

Now later, to clear up the unclarity in the clarification, the developer of Ave Maria, Chief Executive Paul Marinelli, stated for the record the town's position on pornography and contraceptives. Quote, "We are going to request that they not sell that merchandise, but we are not restricting." Got it. He went further to reclarify the misconception that Ave Maria is going to be an all-Catholic town. He said, quote, "The town would welcome synagogues, as well as Baptist churches, homosexuals, and will not restrict cable TV programming." Because, quote, "I think it would be boring if in fact it was all Catholic."

I think he's right. A town banning gay people. That is boring. In the end, the developer boiled Ave Maria down to this, quote, "A place where children will be safe on the street, where they can ride their bikes and play ball in the park."

Day by day, this town with a strictly Catholic blueprint is starting to sound suspiciously like a democracy or a town you might find in, say, America, where many faiths and personal liberties thrive under one constitution, so children can grow up safely.

Chancellor Monaghan, Governor Bush, Chief Executive Marinelli, this town sounds like a heck of a plan. But you might want to reprint the brochure.

And that is today's Unger report. I'm Brian Unger.

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