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by Marielena Montesino de Stuart
“I have no conviction, if that’s what you mean. I blow with the wind, and the prevailing wind happens to be from Vichy”— Captain Louis Renault, Casablanca, 1942
Opposition to the Ave Maria-Jackson Lab taxpayer scam, aka “the Jackson Lab deal”, has been for many months a daily battle for many brave Collier County citizens. Meanwhile, no public opposition has been heard from Ave Maria residents, nor from the faculty at Ave Maria University.
The Ave Maria-Jackson Lab deal proposes the use of millions of taxpayer dollars to bring the controversial non-profit, non-taxpaying genetics Jackson Lab to Ave Maria– without any meaningful foreseeable benefits to Collier County citizens. A dark cloud of suspicion grows daily, making this deal look more and more as nothing but a taxpayer bail out of pizza tycoon Tom Monaghan and Barron Collier Companies’ Ave Maria real estate experiment– given the forceful pro-Jackson Lab agenda displayed by these large landowners, in Florida’s rural Eastern Collier County.
The Jackson lab deal has all the makings of corporate welfare– no different than what we see coming out of Washington DC. This is why so many Collier County citizens have worked tirelessly and spoken out fearlessly and publicly, to stop the Jackson Lab proposal. These efforts have included a formal request for a voter’s referendum, so that citizens may decide whether any taxpayer money should be thrown at this risky genetics lab venture. The Board of County Commissioners has refused a referendum; however, the results of polls, petitions and meetings have shown an overwhelming opposition to any taxpayer money going to this deal.
As stated earlier– the absence of public opposition to the Jackson Lab proposal, inside Ave Maria, has been astonishing– to put it mildly.
But now the Ave Maria-Jackson Lab scandal has reached a point of no return, as the battle has entered the courtrooms. When all is said and done, the legal costs and losses that will be borne by Collier County taxpayers, private citizens and companies– will surely go into the millions.
But what is also astonishing is how the media covers the Jackson Lab scandal, while avoiding ground zero. That is, the town of Ave Maria, its residents and property owners, who are the ones most immediately affected by this controversy.
It is very important to remember the fact that it was Tom Monaghan, a Catholic, who made the land available for the Jackson Lab’s proposed location in Ave Maria, and that the Catholic president of Ave Maria University has embraced the Jackson Lab project.
It is also important to emphasize the fact that the population of Ave Maria, which is overwhelmingly Catholic– as well as the Catholic faculty at the university, could have, en masse, publicly opposed Tom Monaghan and Barron Collier’s decision many months ago, to demand that the Jackson Lab be kept out of this town.
The question is– why didn’t they?
After all, it was Monaghan himself who expected “Catholics– serious Catholics” to live in this town. This absence of public indignation by Catholics is truly alarming, when considering that the Jackson Lab is involved in the world of Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research– which the Catholic Church has clearly declared to be a crime against innocent human life.
Not even the public statement from the Bishop of the Diocese of Venice in Florida, could move the overwhelmingly Catholic population inside Ave Maria to publicly oppose the Jackson Lab project:
[Excerpt]: Economic growth and development are not only components which impact the life of a community. An organization which truly respects the rights of all human beings could and should “rule out” human embryonic stem cell research. This is precisely because it involves the destruction of innocent human life and consequently, affects the community. Without such an understanding, the plan of Jackson Laboratory, as it has been reported, presents difficulty for the Diocese of Venice in Florida.– His Excellency, Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Venice in Florida, July 24, 2010.
Instead, months and months have passed while the Ave Maria-Jackson Lab agenda advances. Opponents of the Jackson Lab proposal work tirelessly, openly and publicly, some even tapping into their limited financial resources– to stop this genetics facility from reaching Ave Maria with the use of taxpayer dollars– while nothing but the sound of crickets is heard from Monaghan’s “City of God”.
The courageous citizens who have voiced their opposition to the Ave Maria-Jackson Lab deal have done so from the very beginning– even when they were very much overwhelmed by the show of money and force that Barron Collier Companies has displayed– by mobilizing their employees, affiliates and associates– reminiscent of Chicago-style politics.
An example of this was the July 27, 2010 Collier County Board of County Commissioners meeting– when the commissioners’ chamber was filled to capacity early in the morning by activists wearing blue t-shirts with pro-Jackson Lab slogans, accompanied by top-level, mid-level and low-level fellow travellers from the Ave Maria-Monaghan-Barron Collier camp.
I remember going up to the microphone during that July 27 meeting, as the only property owner and resident of Ave Maria who spoke against the Jackson Lab proposal, while the pro-Jackson Lab activists expressed their displeasure. I stated my opposition both because of my moral convictions against Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research, and because I am opposed to the use of taxpayer dollars for the Ave Maria-Jackson Lab venture without a voter’s referendum.
No other resident or property owner from Ave Maria was there to show opposition to this scam. A Catholic resident from my neighborhood who was present at this meeting– simply as a spectator, proceeded to speak to someone standing next to me, and expressed “neutrality” on the Jackson Lab issue. But in a world of daily financial schemes, “neutrality” is usually a code word for being the beneficiary of a bail out.
Another property owner, who is also a member of the Board of Regents at Ave Maria University, spoke passionately in favor of the Jackson Lab proposal.
But, by the time I addressed the Board of Commissioners on July 27, I had already spent several months publishing articles denouncing the lab’s involvement in the world of Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research, as well as the taxpayer scam behind the proposal. It is important to note that this “neutrality” on July 27, and absence of indignation by Ave Maria residents took place after the Bishop of the Diocese of Venice in Florida had expressed his opposition to the Jackson Lab’s move to Ave Maria, and after much Catholic and secular media coverage of the Jackson Lab issue.
This situation was well described in the following excerpts from The Jackson Lab, Tom Monaghan and His City of God (July 24, 2010) by Randy Engel, a highly respected investigative journalist:
“Were it not for AveWatch.Com, dedicated to investigative journalism of all things Tom Monaghan, including the Jackson Lab debacle, and the courageous journalist and Ave Maria Town resident, Marielena Montesino de Stuart (The Roman Catholic World athttps://romancatholicworld.wordpress.com/) these tough moral and ethical questions would have been deep-sixed by Monaghan and Co. with at least the tacit, if not voluptuous praise of the residents of Ave Maria Town, aka “The City of God,” and the faculty and students of AMU, which lies just down the road from the proposed Jackson Lab site, inside Ave Maria.”
“Case in point is the recent letter sent out by AMU’s [Ave Maria University] President and Monaghan’s long-time friend and lead legal counselor, Nicholas J. Healy, Jr. in response to a critic of the Jackson Lab project. Healy himself is on record as supporting the project claiming that it would bring “very considerable benefits to the entire area. …They will bring well-paying jobs and so on. It will help real estate in the town.”
“For openers, Healy, advises the writer that he is “badly misinformed” (but then, aren’t we all?) with regard to the circumstances and actions taken by Monaghan to approve the sale and subsequent donation of 50 acres of land by his real estate business partner Barron Collier for the location of the new Jackson Lab biomedical complex.”
“In response to the hundreds of e-mails on the Jackson Lab issue sent by the U.S. Coalition for Life, to faculty and staff of AMU and AMSL [Ave Maria School of Law] we have received two responses – one from Fr. Robert Garrity telling me I was “misinformed” about the issues and a second asking to be removed from our mailing list. I find this silence to be unnatural and a bit unnerving. It is the same kind of silence one associates with religious cults.”
But now Arthrex, Inc., has become the formidable legal opponent of the Ave Maria-Jackson lab deal. As such– Arthrex, Inc., is also the powerful opponent of the big landowners who have been flexing their muscles in support of the Ave Maria-Monaghan-Barron Collier camp.
Ave Maria is now in the crossfire of legal action, as well as rezoning and town center relocation issues– which may affect the properties, pocketbooks and bottomline of Ave Maria residents.
Those who have been sitting on the fence for months, or who have been quiet supporters of this taxpayer scam, may be coming out of their closets to position themselves on the safe side of this issue. A very practical choice, if they consider the ravaging results of corruption, not far away, in Broward County. This self-serving behavior, of course, was totally predictable.
Which brings us to the next and most important point:
The defense of innocent human life is sacred. Indeed, it is a question of life or death. As such, it does not allow hesitation or political waiting games, to see when the time is right.
After nearly nine months of silence, it would be offensive to the dignity of the pro-life cause, for Catholic residents and faculty members in Ave Maria to now use the defense of the unborn– as a statement of public opposition to the Jackson Lab. To do so, would erode the meaning of pro-life, to a secondary issue that can be nuanced and postponed.
The same goes for using their Catholic faith as an excuse to oppose the Jackson Lab, since the Catholic Church makes the defense of the unborn an urgent and sacred cause. Nine months of waiting to see which way the prevailing wind will blow, is not a Catholic position.
Lastly, if the Jackson Lab proposal is defeated, an enormous debt of gratitude is owed to those OUTSIDE of Monaghan’s “Catholic” town, who have worked so hard, and have given so much to oppose it– while the crickets chirped in Ave Maria.
Someone has to say the truth…
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You may read Marielena Montesino de Stuart’s observations and opinions through:
RenewAmerica, USAToday, U.S. Politics Today (a EIN News Service for Political Professionals) Poynter Online, Spero News, The New Liturgical Movement-Poland, The Naples Daily News, Les Femmes-The Truth, Culture War Notes, ProLife Blogs, The Wanderer, etc.
TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION: Ave Maria, Florida + The Chronicles of Ave Maria© + Corruption in Florida + Ave Maria University + The Jackson Laboratory + Charles “Chuck” E. Hewett + Collier County Board of County Commissioners + Commissioner Tom Henning + Commissioner Georgia Hiller + Workshops and Resources for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research + Eugenics + Margaret Sanger + Tom Monaghan + Tom Golisano + Nick Healy + Nicholas J. Healy Jr., President of AMU + Barron Collier Companies + The Ave Maria Stewardship Community District + Bishop Frank J. Dewane.