Leap of Faith
Dominoes founder Tom Monaghan expected things to go smoothly when he began moving his Roman Catholic college from Michigan to Southwest Florida. But ...
Condos, not condoms
Meanwhile, controversy over Ave Maria spread outside of the Wolverine state. At the Boston Catholic Men’s Conference in 2005, Monaghan said in a speech that he would “control all the commercial real estate, so there’s not going to be any pornography sold in this town. We’re controlling the cable system. The pharmacies are not going to be able to sell condoms or dispense contraceptives.”
|» "I was brought up to believe we’re born for a purpose. We’re supposed to live a certain way, and if we do, we’ll be rewarded and if we don’t, we’ll be punished. And I believe that. I think that’s the way I ought to live. I don’t always do it, of course." — Tom Monaghan|
National media picked up on the story, and the American Civil Liberties Union lashed out: “This is not Catholicism — this is not a story about Catholicism. It’s a story about any religious group trying to exercise governmental power,” Howard Simon, executive director of Florida’s ACLU, told MSNBC talk show host Tucker Carlson in 2006.
Monaghan eventually toned down his rhetoric. A month after the ACLU’s backlash, he and Barron Collier CEO Paul Marinelli issued a joint statement to address the “growing misperception” that Ave Maria would be a Catholic-only enclave. “Because the university’s leadership, in accordance with Catholic teachings, opposes the sale of contraceptives, retailers in the town have been asked to refrain from selling contraceptives. However, it is critical to note that no restrictions will be enforced on contraceptives or any other inventory.”
Spreading the Word: Good Morning America’ reporter Gigi Stone interviews an Ave Maria nun during a “town fest” in July. [Photo: Dawn DiNardo]
Monaghan’s business partners navigate carefully around Monaghan’s ideology. During a tour of the new town in July, Blake Gable, town project manager and vice president of real estate for Barron Collier, mentions several times that he’s an Episcopalian. Meanwhile, Pulte Homes, which is building the residential portion of Ave Maria Town, has adopted the marketing slogan “Every Family. Every Lifestyle. Every Dream.” In fact, federal fair housing laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status and national origin.
The home builder declined to give any information about the demographics of Ave Maria home buyers. “Nobody can answer that question,” responded Beth Cocchiarella, Florida area director of public relations for Pulte Homes.
Gable insists that Monaghan makes for a good business partner. “He’s doing what’s in his heart — how can you possibly fault him? He sets high standards and high goals, and I hope he’d say we’re good partners. They’re incredibly fair and honest people. We haven’t had a lot of issues.”