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Ave Maria Town article from Wall Street Journal two years ago regarding the law school.

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A Catholic Jonestown? Heck, I'm just trying to grow my rat trapping business in Ave Maria! (NeighborHelp Referrals' Affordable Trapping 465-9291) But with enough Kool-Aid, we may not be needed anymore!!


Bringing a Law School Down Should Ave Maria be part of a "Catholic Jonestown"?

BY NAOMI SCHAEFER RILEY Friday, November 11, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST

Last Saturday, members of the alumni association of the Ave Maria School of Law met in Ann Arbor, Mich. They had learned, in the weeks before, that one of the school's most beloved professors was being kicked off the board of trustees and that the school might relocate to rural Florida. They weren't happy about it. In fact, they were angry.

And little wonder. Why, after all, quibble with success? In September, only five years after the school's founding, the American Bar Association granted full accreditation to Ave Maria, whose mission is to offer "an outstanding legal education in fidelity to the Catholic Faith." Last year a higher percentage of the school's graduates passed the bar exam than the University of Michigan's. But there is more at stake than one school's record. The controversy playing out at Ave Maria echoes a larger debate within Catholic conservatismover how much to engage with the secular world.

The story began on Sept. 28, when the school's board of trustees voted 12-2 to establish term limits on its members. Among the members affected by the decision, only one had expressed an interest in staying on the board
Prof. Charles Rice, a respected figure on campus. Many alumni, students and faculty members believe that Prof. Rice is being pushed out because of his views. He had voiced strong opposition to an apparent effort by the chairman of the board, Tom Monaghan, to move Ave Maria to Florida.

Mr. Monaghan, the founder of Domino's Pizza and the school's principal benefactor, has announced plans to build a large Catholic university outside Naples, Fla., along with a residential community. (The ground-breaking ceremony for Ave Maria Town, as it will be called, was delayed indefinitely by the recent hurricane.) Will the law school move to Naples too, from Ann Arbor? The school's dean, Bernard Dobranski, acknowledges that the board is "open to consideration of the idea." He denies, though, that Mr. Rice is being persecuted for his views.

Mr. Monaghan certainly has every legal right to move the law school he pays for. But that doesn't mean it's a good idea. "We understood \[that\] the mission of the law school," says Terence McKeegan, a member of the school's alumni association, was "to create attorneys who were well versed in Catholic social teaching and the law, who would engage the world and not retreat from it." Ave Maria Town seems at odds with such a mission. "It sounds like this town and the university in Florida is going to be a self-contained little Catholic enclave."

A May 2004 speech by Mr. Monaghan, given at a conference on business ethics, would seem to confirm this speculation. "We'll own all commercial real estate," Mr. Monaghan declared, describing his vision. "That means we will be able to control what goes on there. You won't be able to buy a Playboy or Hustler magazine in Ave Maria Town. We're going to control the cable television that comes in the area. There is not going to be any pornographic television in Ave Maria Town. If you go to the drug store and you want to buy the pill or the condoms or contraception, you won't be able to get that in Ave Maria Town."

Oddly, Paul Marinelli, Mr. Monaghan's development partner for the town's 11,000 residential units, is unaware of these plans. All he will say, in an interview, is that his company, Barron Collier, is planning a "town based on traditional family values." He doesn't believe that "adult bookstores or pornography" are "aligned with traditional family values," but he has no plans to restrict them.

There is reason to suspect, though, that Mr. Monaghan will get his way and create what one Ave Maria faculty member, hyperbolically, referred to as a "Catholic Jonestown." Mr. Monaghan is not a timid man. He has owned, at various times, a large corporation, a major-league baseball team and an island resort. "There are not many out there who are really authentic Catholics," he said in the same speech. Creating them "is what I plan to do in the rest of my life."

Where does that leave the faculty, students and alumni of the law school? Most consider themselves authentic Catholics, despite their desire to live in secular communities. David Krause, for instance, was in the law school's first graduating class in 2003, having left his job as a mechanical engineer in Louisiana and moved with his wife and three children to Michigan to attend Ave Maria. He laments that the school's graduates, at the moment, "don't have the financial means to affect the school." But he does want the alumni to take a strong stand and even consider officially dissociating themselves from Ave Maria Law School to protest the insularity of the Florida move. "I'm not willing to see something that we have invested in and taken risks for implode because of one man's desires."

It looks, then, as though Mr. Monaghan has a fight on his hands. But he should not be surprised. If you create smart, ethical lawyers, you may find that they practice due diligence.

Ms. Riley is the deputy Taste-page editor and the author of "God on the Quad."


Sin City? Michael D. McCaffrey - Yarmouthport, Mass.

As a serious Catholic, I get very uncomfortable with Tom Monaghan's vision of a Catholic enclave. The Jonestown statement is exactly on target. I cannot understand why faith creates such urges to separate and isolate. Opening pharmacies and video stores which are "sin proof" makes me wonder about tomorrow's sins and suggests that free will and critical thinking are not critical to religion. Many think God put us here to make daily decisions about good and bad. Mr. Monaghan's "stick to your own kind" brand of theology is not for me.

Judge Not . . . David E. Herron - Ronne, Denmark

Thank you for this insightful article. I wonder, though, who finally decides who is an "authentic" Catholic? Personally, I have long been attracted to the biblical wisdom: Judge not, that ye be not judged. So as I hope most Americans are, I am partial to tolerance, including that of the writer for both generous eccentrics and dilegent lawyers.

In a Swamp, But No Moral Swamp Tom Mead - Kennebunk, Maine

I for one can't wait for Mr. Monoghan's "Catholic Jonestown" to open. My only regret is that it's in the middle of a swamp in the tropics. The things that Mr. Monoghan will not allow in his town, like Playboy and porn, wouldn't have been available in most towns just 30 or 40 years ago. Today it is nearly impossible to escape the sexualizing of our children by the culture. My family is thirsty for a little of your kool-aid, Mr. Monoghan: Now let's get that town built!

Psuedo-Sophistication and Intolerance Rachmael Ha'aron - Harrisonburg, Va.

To call this proposed community a "Catholic Jonestown" and imply thereby that anyone who wished to live in a haven safe from pornography and moral corruption is a "kool-aid drinker" is so insulting and beyond the pale that the cover of recognizing it as "hyperbolic" becomes just dodge for excusing psuedo-sophistication and intolerance.

Getting It Right Walter Bruning - Oceanside, Calif.

Ms. Riley is typical of those who have no idea of the disaster which is occurring in our universities and professional schools. The mutation of academic freedom, rampant sicko "cultural diversity" and secular relativism have ruined our schools. As a former professor, I know whereof I speak. Ave Maria is going to be done rightit is a Catholic school for Catholics, Catholic faculty and orthodox Catholic governance.

Faith and Reason
Not Kool-Aid Susan Kitchin - Shrewsbury, Mass.

It seems Ms. Riley provides more heat than light. She, and those she has interviewed, seem to be fixated on this 'Jonestown' notion. Have any of them seen the plans for the town of Ave Maria, or talked to the people who would be living there? I was in Naples with my daughter, over the weekend, during Ave Maria University's open house. From what I could see, and from my discussions with the provost, Fr. Fessio, President Nicholas Healy, several of the administrators, one of the professors and with several of the students, it sure didn't seem like any "cult" to me.

Cults are very insular, limiting their members' interaction with the outside world. The students at Ave Maria University are engaged with their neighbors, volunteering their time at parishes in Naples and working with the local folks at Habitat for Humanity. That doesn't sound very cultish to me.

My daughter is very interested in the school, and was impressed with the excitement the professors seem to have for their disciplines. She believes she would receive a top-notch education--one that melds Faith with Reason.

Do It Yourself Greg Cass - Nashville, Tenn.

Hurray for Mr. Monaghan. If Mr. Monaghan is providing the financial means for forming Ave Maria Town why shouldn't he be able to determine its makeup. Standby for lawsuits by the ACLU and affirmative action suits by the NAACP. It has always amazed me that despite an individuals risking his life savings to establish a business, the government can come in and tell that individual who he may hire and fire.
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Ave Maria Town article from Wall Street Journal two years ago regarding the law school. A Catholic Jonestown? Heck, I'm just trying to grow my rat trapping business in Ave Maria! (NeighborHelp Referrals' Affordable Trapping 465-9291) But with enough Kool-Aid, we may not be needed anymore!!