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Will Catholic town infringe on freedom?

If Domino's Pizza founder Thomas S. Monaghan has his way, a new town being built in southwest Florida will be governed by strict Catholic principles, particularly when it comes to sex.

The pizza magnate, raised by nuns in orphanages, is bankrolling the town called Ave Maria with millions of dollars, calling its construction "God's will."

Stores won't sell pornographic magazines, pharmacies won't carry condoms or birth control pills, and cable television will carry no X-rated channels, he said in a speech last year to the Boston Catholic Men's Conference.

Civil libertarians say the plan is unconstitutional and promise lawsuits.

The town is being built around Ave Maria University, the first Catholic university to be built in the United States in four decades, which Monaghan also founded. Both are set to open next year about 25 miles east of Naples.

The community, developed through a partnership with Barron Collier Co., an agricultural and real estate firm, will be set

on 5,000 acres with a European-inspired town center. It will encircle a massive church and what planners call the largest crucifix in the nation, standing nearly 65 feet tall.

Robert Falls, a spokesman for the project, said attorneys are reviewing the legal issues of the proposed bans. He said Monaghan would not comment.

"If they attempt to do what he apparently wants to do, the people of Naples and Collier County, Florida, are in for a whole series of legal and constitutional problems and a lot of litigation indefinitely into the future," said Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

While Simon notes there are religiously homogenous communities across the country, none can "wield governmental power along the lines of religious principle."

Monaghan and Barron Collier will control all commercial real estate in the town and could include provisions in leases that restrict the sale of certain items.

Unlike in some states, Florida pharmacies don't have to provide contraceptives.

"The law doesn't say exactly what a pharmacy has to stock or sell," said Thometta Cozart, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health.

Naples Community Hospital, which plans to open a clinic in the town, will not prescribe any birth control to students. The hospital has not decided whether it will prescribe to the general public.

"I believe all of history is just one big battle between good and evil. I don't want to be on the sidelines," Monaghan said in a recent Newsweek interview.

However, Simon points to a 1946 Supreme Court opinion that "ownership does not always mean absolute dominion."

Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist said it will be up to the courts to decide the legalities of the plan.

"The community has the right to provide a wholesome environment," Crist said Tuesday. "If someone disagrees, they have the right to go to court and present facts before a judge."

Gov. Jeb Bush, at the university's recent groundbreaking, lauded the development as a new kind of town, where faith and freedom will merge to create a community of like-minded citizens.

Bush, a convert to Catholicism, did not speak specifically to the proposed restrictions.

"While the governor does not personally believe in abortion or pornography, the town, and any restrictions they may place on businesses choosing to locate there, must comply with the laws and constitutions of the state and federal governments," Russell Schweiss, a spokesman for the governor, said Tuesday.

"This is country club Christianity," said Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, which opposes the church's bans on abortion and birth control.

She likened the town's concept to Islamic fundamentalism and teaching intolerance.

"I don't think in a democratic society you can have a legally organized township that will seek to have any kind of public service whatsoever and try to restrict the constitutional rights of citizens," Kissling said.

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