As Catholic families continue to move in, the founder and developers of Ave Maria, Florida, struggle to change the popular perception that the new town, built around Ave Maria University, is solely for Roman Catholics or controlled by Domino’s Pizza founder Thomas Monaghan.
Blake Gable, project manager for Barron Collier Cos., which is building the new town in partnership with Monaghan, told The Associated Press that the town is open to everyone.
Monaghan made headlines in 2005, when he told a Catholic group that the town would be governed by Catholic principles. He said stores wouldn't carry contraceptives or pornography, and cable TV would have no adult channels.
Following criticism from the media and civil liberties groups, Monaghan now says the town will grow uninhibited, with the exception of adult novelty stores or topless clubs, reports the AP. Developers say that any denomination can build a house of worship in Ave Maria and it will only be suggested to merchants not to sell contraceptives or porn.
Gable and Monaghan have been at pains to explain that the university and the town are two separate entities.
Ave Maria University will certainly follow strict Catholic guidelines, while the town will be allowed to grow with minimal restrictions, says Monaghan, who has invested more than $200 million in building the country’s first Catholic university in four decades.
The school, which opens next month and hopes to attract 5,500 students, will "encourage students to live a Catholic moral life," said Ave Maria University President Nicholas Healy Jr. The school will not allow binge drinking or recreational sex, he added.
Gable does not think people of other religions denominations would be uncomfortable living in a town called Ave Maria. "Do people who live in San Francisco feel offended? San Antonio?" he said.