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The CBC reports on the continuing battle between Wal-Mart and a Jesuit retreat house in Guelph, Ontario, with lawyers for the Jesuits arguing that a new store there “would be an affront to a nearby Jesuit retreat whose teachings were against materialism and consumerism.”

The Jesuits are appealing a decision made by the Ontario Municipal Board to allow the Wal-Mart to be built near the 93-year-old Ignatius Jesuit Centre. Their lawyers have told the Ontario Court of Appeal that while the municipal court considered worldly matters such as traffic and pollution, it did not considered matters of the spirit. "The non-physical intangibles would be affected in a very, very significant way," said Eric Gillespie, a lawyer representing Residents for Sustainable Development.

Part of the concern is that the Wal-Mart will be visible from at least some of the trails used by residents and visitors while trying to get in touch with their spiritual natures. "Ultimately, religious freedoms are protected by not letting them become eroded," Gillespie told the court. "Very rarely do religious freedoms get taken away in one fell swoop. It happens in small increments.

"Once you tell the Jesuits to just use another trail, you're starting the process of erosion of those freedoms."
KC's View:
We’ve written about this conflict before, and quite frankly, we were a little surprised to see that the Jesuits are trying to draw the line and not compromise.

Not hugely compromised, though. We were educated in part by Jesuits and know how intellectually and spiritually rigorous they can be. Basically, they’re tough, in the spirit of St. Ignatius, founder of the order. Before he converted to Catholicism, Ignatius was a man who gambled, was involved in swordfights and even something of a ladies’ man; he got in touch with his spiritual side after he broke a leg during a battle in Pamplona in 1521, had it set without anesthesia, and then because it did not heal correctly, had to have it broken and rest again, also without benefit of anesthesia.

Which sort of makes Wal-Mart look like child’s play. Of course, part of the problem is that Wal-Mart is pretty tough, too, and doesn’t seem to be threatened that it is messing with an organization that reports directly to the Pope…and we all know who he reports to.

We’re not sure if this is a matter of religious freedom, or even freedom of commerce. It’s just hard to imagine that there isn’t a way to resolve this issue in a way that satisfies Wal-Mart’s management and shareholders while still helping improve its shaky public image.