A couple days ago, we wrote a post that referred would-be Senator Marielena Stuart and Ave Maria, a place west of here that just might be the most Christian community in the Western hemisphere. Patricia Sette, editor of of the (secular) news site for the town, The Ave Herald, took issue. She says the place might be Christian-inspired, but that it's open to everybody.
Here's her letter. It is fascinating:
The fact is that [Domino's Pizza founder and Super Catholic gazillionaire] Tom Monaghan and Barron Collier are equal partners in the development; for practical purposes, Barron Collier manages everything that has to do with the town, and Monaghan (before his retirement this past spring) managed everything to do with the University.
It is an absolute fact that Barron Collier conceived of the town long, long before Mr. Monaghan was asked to come on board. As the town was being planned, Barron Collier realized it needed an anchor, since, as your reporter noted, that town would be in the middle of nowhere. When B.C. learned Tom Monaghan was looking to situate a university in the Naples area, it quickly invited him to put it in the new town.
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At the time Mr. Monaghan was approached, he had already signed a purchase and sale agreement for a site which was located where the Heritage Bay Development now is. He then got out of that agreement and agreed to move his university "in the middle of nowhere," to a town yet without a name, specifically because Barron Collier offered him the incentive of donating a thousand acres for his university. At some point, B.C. and Monaghan agreed the town would be named "Ave Maria" for the University, just as the town of Notre Dame is named for that university. It was after Mr. Monaghan agreed to move his university that he proposed becoming a partner in the town with Barron Collier, and that deal was struck.
Although Mr. Monaghan made a very ill-advised statement about how the town was going to be protected from what he saw as the corrupting influences of society, he retracted ir within a day as I recall, which was due in no small part because he was quickly informed that what he was suggesting didn't coincide with the U.S. Constitution. It is always noted that Mr. Monaghan made those comments, but always overlooked that the equal partner in the town, Barron Collier, did not. In fact, sales personnel from Pulte, which builds most of the houses in the town, told reporters the same week they would be aggressively selling housing to anyone, regardless of religion or lifestyle. Hardly the kind of start one would think for a town "built as a community of faith."
Ave Maria is open to anyone who wants to live there. The town makes no attempt to enforce a dress code, speech code, or restrict behavior in any way. The town doesn't organize religious events or processions, etc., although the parish does. It does have a religious sounding name, but so do many places, if we would really consider what those names meant: Corpus Christi, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and many others. I hope this gives you a fuller view of how Ave Maria was founded, and that it was not "built as a community of faith."