It bills itself as "southwest Florida's newest hometown . . . A town where children can ride their bikes to school, walk to the candy store and scoot their way to the ice cream shop. Where neighbors are friends and life is good. Where everyone enjoys life as it is meant to be lived."
Yes, it sounds like Mayberry, USA, but this is not the description of a made-for-TV utopia. Indeed, it's a very real place created by Domino's Pizza founder and former Detroit Tigers' owner Tom Monaghan, in partnership with the Florida-based Barron Collier companies.
Indeed, Ave Maria, Florida, was founded as an unincorporated "stewardship community district" in 2005. Florida's then-governor Jeb Bush attended Ave Maria's groundbreaking and dubbed it "a new kind of town where like-minded people live in harmony between faith and freedom."
Faith? Freedom? For Monaghan, the two are inseparable, and he has trumpeted his intention of creating a city "according to strict Roman Catholic principles." As he sees it, this means that stores will be unable to sell pornography, pharmacies will be barred from selling condoms or other forms of birth control, and cable TV will not be allowed to carry X-rated channels.
Small wonder that civil libertarians, secular humanists and those who believe in religious pluralism have a host of questions about church-state separation in Ave Maria.