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UPDATE:  Encore presentation of  FLORIDA: Heaven on Earth? – Southwest Florida’s WGCU-Create/Encore Channel, 7:00pm January 24, 2011. 

UPDATE:  Encore presentation on Monday, July 18, 2011


Contact:  Marielena Montesino de Stuart


Thursday – May 13, 2010

Barron Collier Companies (Tom Monaghan’s partner in the Ave Maria Town development)  opposes segment about Ave Maria Town in PBS Documentary,

 “Florida:  Heaven  on  Earth?”  

Today at 8:00 p.m.,  Eastern Time,  PBS premiered a documentary titled “Florida: Heaven on Earth?” where the town of Ave Maria was examined as one of four spiritual communities in Florida.   Award-winning writer and producer, Lynne Howard Frazer,  approached me for the filming of the Ave Maria segment– and I agreed to be interviewed.

The program will be shown again on Friday, May 14 at 8:30 p.m.; Saturday, May 15 at 6 p.m.; and Sunday, May 16 at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Several days before the premiere, as the media began announcing the documentary, Barron Collier Companies (Tom Monaghan’s partner in the Ave Maria Town development) contacted  WGCU’s Public Broadcasting Station in Southwest Florida, to voice their opposition to the segment involving Ave Maria. It is important to note that during the promotion of the documentary, no details were provided to the public regarding the segment about Ave Maria—other than to describe it as a  “spiritual community.”

Lynne Howard Frazer contacted me yesterday, and described the following events [quoted]:

The PR people for Barron Collier were VERY upset that no one from their organization was asked to be interviewed for the documentary. We sent them copies of the e-mail we received from Blackburn [Monaghan / Ave Maria University’s public relations firm] stating that both Monaghan and Blake Gable respectfully declined to participate. Both WGCU’s GM and my Executive Producer had also requested interviews for this documentary, and were declined, so they can’t claim that we didn’t ask them to participate.” 

They were very threatening to my Executive Producer.” 

They repeatedly stated that the town is not a spiritual community and we cannot state that it is. (It’s stated quite plainly in the documentary that they claim it is not a Catholic or spiritual community).”

The public identity of the town of Ave Maria continues to be a contradiction, as well as a constitutional  concern.  Here are some highlights of these contradictions:

  •  Tom Monaghan originally promoted the town of Ave Maria as a “Catholic hub,” “a Christian community,” a “City of God”—and other religious and spiritual promotions—which he later recanted.  In a deposition dated February 20, 2008 Mr. Monaghan stated:

Well, I thought that a disproportionate amount of the people that moved there would be Catholics; serious Catholics.

  • Ave Maria University (a private educational institution) through its lawyers  recently became involved in Ave Maria Town public matters, by affirming that abortion is prohibited in Ave Maria, pursuant to “amended” town covenants. The AMU lawyers demanded  retractions from  a newspaper that published an article about abortion and the Ave Maria Town covenants. The same newspaper also published  an article by a conservative Catholic constitutional scholar who strongly questioned the constitutionality of these amended town covenants. 
  • Ave Maria University’s president, Nicholas J. Healy, Jr., has publicly welcomed the possible move of The Jackson Lab near Ave Maria University.  The Naples Daily News recently published  some of Mr. Healy’s views about The Jackson Lab, as follows:

 If they [The Jackson Lab] were to locate here I think there would be very considerable benefits to the entire area…” said Nicholas Healy, president of Ave Maria University.  ”They will bring well-paying jobs and so on.  It will help real estate in the town.” 

Human Embryonic Stem Cell Workshops are held at The Jackson Lab facilities.  The Jackson Lab also provides resources for Human ES Cell Research.  Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research has been condemned by the Vatican as an attack on the sanctity of human life.

  • The same Naples Daily News article described how Monaghan said  “Go ahead with it” for the welcoming of The Jackson Lab.  Mr. Monaghan is Chancellor of Ave Maria University.  Ave Maria University is an institution which claims to follow strict Catholic moral guidelines.
  • Barron Collier Companies (in partnership with Tom Monaghan) opposes the representation of Ave Maria as a spiritual community.

It is time that Tom Monaghan, Ave Maria University and Barron Collier Companies assume responsibility for the contradictory positions they have taken in the religious, spiritual and secular promotion of the town of Ave Maria.

Ave Maria University, as noted above, has become involved in legal maneuvers to put pressure on a newspaper that has printed articles about Ave Maria Town covenants.   

This is now followed by Barron Collier’s “threatening” tactics against PBS, which are entirely inappropriate and unwarranted. These tactics constitute an attempt to censor PBS and interfere with freedom of the press, which is protected by the First Amendment.

NOTE:  PBS highly edited the Ave Maria segment from its original raw footage.  The video is available here.  The segment about Ave Maria appears during the last 15 minutes of the video.

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