Tarry for the Nonce

February 27, 2006

Ave Maria, Florida

Filed under: Religion — lmwalker @ 4:14 pm

If you were Catholic and had your choice, would you choose a Catholic town?

A former marine who was raised by nuns and made a fortune selling pizza has embarked on a £230m plan to build the first town in America to be run according to strict Catholic principles . . .

Tom Monaghan, the founder of the Domino’s Pizza chain, has stirred protests from civil rights activists by declaring that Ave Maria’s pharmacies will not be allowed to sell condoms or birth control pills. The town’s cable television network will carry no X-rated channels . . .

The land on the western edge of the Everglades swamp will eventually house up to 30,000 people, with 5,000 students living on the university campus . . .

The Florida developers managing the project claim more than 7,000 people have already expressed interest in buying homes in the town. Retailers and other businesses are reportedly close to leasing 60% of the intended commercial space.

So what’s the big deal? Personally, I would not choose to live there (mostly because I don’t care for Florida weather,) but why does it matter if others would? I also would not choose to live on a kibbutz in Israel, but I don’t mind if others do. The way I read it, no one is being held prisoner in the town, but it is being provided as a convenience for those who wish to raise their children (or maintain themselves) in a certain cultural atmosphere. Religion-based housing discrimination is, of course, against the law, but so what if the local businesses are required to uphold certain values. So what if the Ave Maria pharmacy won’t sell you contraceptives? Florida has thousands of pharmacies. So what if the Ave Maria movie house won’t show porn? Florida has hundreds of movie theaters.

Americans already segregate themeselves into little cultural bastions (“Chinatown,” “Greektown,” etc.) and common community values are observed within each. Heck, some people actually pay for the privilege of living in developments with ridiculous yard-maintenance rules and homeowner’s associations. How is this any different?

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7 Comments

  1. Wow, this made mainstream news? I looked into the town over a month ago to see if there were any investment opportunities there (commercial/residential properties), but it appeared that there wasn’t anything that was substantial (most commercial property was leasing for your business, and residential ownership opportunites were limited to single-family homes and condominiums). Considering that most towns are corporations, I don’t see why a city shouldn’t have the right to dictate the way it wants things done. Of course, if enough people move into a town and over-throw the way the government works vis-a-vis Democracy, so be it.

    However, I believe that your view of things is a bit sectarian. The reason being, Greektown/Chinatown/Little Italy are hold-overs from a period where segregation of individuals was a mainstream idea. We are now living in an age of integration where neighbors are not usually of the same race, religion, creed, national origin, etc. In fact, we are living in an age where economic success dictates, for the most part, where people live. So, the majority of people will look at this and subjectively think this is moving in the opposite direction of progress. However, I believe this is a good direction, especially for the case of freedom of religion.

    Its funny how we modernists look at the world, considering that towns were initially established, back in ‘the day’ by like-minded individuals. I hardly think this has not been done in the past and do think this will happen again in the future. Even towns in Illinois use local city law to force businesses and individuals to adhere to certain standards and have not been overrun by those who would fight against it. Bolingbrook had, and still has, a very Christian base. It outlawed pornography from being sold in convenience stores at least 20 years ago, if not more. It has fought retractors on the idea that Holiday images should not be expressed by the government, and has, in fact, poked fun at atheists by giving them the empty space between religious symbols on its town-hall lawn during the holidays as a symbol of their religion (rather than allowing those minorities to change the way the town was run).

    And for all these brave men and women who fight for the just rights of the people, I, for one, am very grateful. I think that every generation needs those who will stand up for democracy against would-be minority tyrants who waste time and money trying to force the majority to do things their way.

    Comment by Andrew P. — February 27, 2006 @ 5:46 pm

  2. All is not well in Monaghan Land. See:

    http://www.renewamerica.us/columns/abbott/060114

    Comment by Matt C. Abbott — February 27, 2006 @ 11:38 pm

  3. The reason being, Greektown/Chinatown/Little Italy are hold-overs from a period where segregation of individuals was a mainstream idea. We are now living in an age of integration where neighbors are not usually of the same race, religion, creed, national origin, etc. In fact, we are living in an age where economic success dictates, for the most part, where people live.

    Well, this is true but then it isn’t. I know, for instance, of a neighborhood in rural Connecticut where the original residents were a mixed bunch — although the greater proportion were military retirees — that slowly has been converted to a so-called “Indian” neighborhood — as it borders a ‘reservation.’ Most of the current residents are of Indian descent, to one degree or another.

    I would also argue that there are many Muslim neighborhoods, many Hispanic neighborhoods, many Oriental (or is that racist & insensitive?)neighborhoods – in southwestern VA and probably in other rural southern towns, the ‘bubbas’ all seem to live in very close proximity (Bubba-towns?). All ‘like-minded people’ living in their little closed communities (and treating outsiders with some restraint and suspicion) in various cities across the US. The idea that this a holdover from a bygone era is, in reality, the arrogant fallacy of the ‘present’ era that it is distinctly different and superior to all eras that have preceded it.

    That is not to say that economic status is not a motivator but I would argue that it is not the only motivator and that there are many smaller communities of like-minded people already established in this country, even contained within larger more diverse (if you will) communities.

    That being said, while I would be likely to live in a community where RC’s predominate, I would not live in one where it has been specifically planned as such, but then I also do not live in a suburb and, if I could avoid doing so, would not live in a suburb.

    In this country, however, why not have such communities? As Laura pointed out, it seems to me that many of the suburban communities that have sprung up are quite just that — anyone who lives there abides by the rules.

    Comment by auntlori — February 28, 2006 @ 11:58 am

  4. While I sympathize with the desire to form local groups where people can agree on the fundamental norms governing their community, this is an experiment likely doomed to failure.

    If this town is not already an official government entity, then it sure sounds like a psuedo-state actor fulfulling a “public function” potentially subject, therefore, to the Bill of Rights, which may present obstacles to some of the more… well… unconstitutional policies that would be enacted by a government based on an established religion.

    The fact is that the Constitution prohibits the federal government (through the 1st Amendment) and the state and local governments (through the 14th Amendment) from establishing religion. While there may be some examples of religion-based policymaking that don’t cross that line, this is a pretty extreme case.

    Anyway, I don’t understand why it is necessary to use the force of law to ensure compliance with Catholic dogma. If everyone in the town is practicing fundamentalist Catholic (whatever that means), what is the point in banning the sale of contraceptives and pornography?

    I think that the Founding Fathers got the balance right. Government is simply not a tool of God; it is a secular institution that is indifferent to faith.

    Comment by Troy — February 28, 2006 @ 3:35 pm

  5. If everyone in the town is practicing fundamentalist Catholic (whatever that means), what is the point in banning the sale of contraceptives and pornography?

    Ah, but you see, they can’t enforce it that way because to only permit access to orthodox Catholics would be a blatant case of housing discrimination and, therefore, illegal.

    To instead selectively lease private property to individuals who agree to specific defined terms (which may be – coincidentally – in harmony with orthodox Catholic beliefs) would be the only legal way to do it.

    But then again, you are the lawyer. Perhaps I am missing something . . .

    Comment by laura — February 28, 2006 @ 6:40 pm

  6. But then again, you are the lawyer. Perhaps I am missing something . . .

    I only know enough about this stuff to be dangerous. The anti-discrimination laws would likely present an obstacle, as you note, but I just don’t see why a non-Catholic would want to live in such a place! (OK, I can imagine some anti-religion troublemaker would want to come in for the purpose of disrupting the community or initiating a lawsuit.)

    By the way, I completely sympathize with your position, and think that governmental interference with private relationships, e.g. housing leases, is misguided. But, how is a Catholic-only town different from, say, an Amish-only community? The answer is, I think, that the Amish make little or no effort to live in society at large and non-Amish have no desire to live among the Amish. My guess is that many or most Catholics do want to remain a part of society at large (where people use contraceptives, pornography, and abortion services), which creates the conflicts that lead to the idea to create a Catholic-only place. I don’t think that you can have it both ways.

    Comment by Troy — March 1, 2006 @ 10:49 am

  7. and think that governmental interference with private relationships, e.g. housing leases, is misguided.

    Like banning handguns, smoking, legalizing marijuana, and allowing businesses to sell pornography?

    Hmm…if Chicago can force restaurants to no longer allow smoking, I see no real reason why a city can’t force its businesses to adhere to a set of well-defined boundaries. There’s much more adverse effects of pornography to the detriment of women (as a whole) than we realize. The funny thing is, I think Chicago is entirely wrong in its view of things, and blame this problem on the fact that Daley runs the city. If the Catholic town did the same, in some ways, I would be vehemently disagreeing with it. However, the main difference between the two cases is that in one case, its banning the sale of something harmful, while in the other case, its banning the LAWFUL USE of something harmful, even after businesses have invested millions of dollars to create a smoke-free smoking environment. I wonder if the city is as addicted to the money that smokers bring in as the smokers are themselves to nicotine….

    So, in other words, the ave maria town is trying to ban the sale of things it finds morally reprehensible…but the fine line difference is that it is not banning the use of those things in a private or public setting. (Did you see Martha, she just popped an RU486 she got from sin city down the street…let’s call the police and give her a big fat fine). Yeah, it sounds absurd, doesn’t it. But isn’t that what the City of Chicago has been doing time and time again with things it deems morally reprehensible (smoking in restaurants, handguns, etc)?

    Comment by Andrew P. — March 3, 2006 @ 9:51 pm


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