Let the Monks Sell Caskets

Rather than wait for St. Benedict to intervene, the monks have decided to sue.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Louisiana regulators are trying to stop an order of Benedictine monks from selling handmade wooden caskets:

[The] local funeral directors are trying to put a lid on the monks’ activities.  The state funeral regulatory board, dominated by industry members, is enforcing a Louisiana law that makes it a crime for anyone but a licensed parlor to sell “funeral merchandise.” The morticians are serious.  Violators such as the monks can land in jail for up to 180 days.

In other words, under Louisiana law, unless you are a licensed funeral director, you cannot sell caskets.

Apparently the state funeral board  is determined to enforce this law against the monks.  The board hired a “casket cop” to spy on the monks and try to catch them in the act of selling handmade caskets.   And this past March, the board subpoenaed two abbey officials to a hearing.    If found guilty of illegal casket sales, the monks faced fines of between $500 and $2,500 per violation.  The hearing on the matter has yet to take place.

Those in favor of the law say it is needed because casket transactions are “complicated.”  For instance, as noted by one funeral director, “a quarter of America is oversized.  I don’t even know if the monks know how to make an oversized casket.”

This is the stupidest law ever.  There is no good reason for it.  There are no health or safety concerns to justify restricting casket sales to licensed morticians or funeral directors.  It contradicts the FTC’s Funeral Rule allowing consumers to use any casket of their choosing.  Plus, this is the kind of wood we should encourage monks to work with.

Luckily for the monks, the self-proclaimed “Band of Merry Litigators”  is on the case.  On August 12, 2010, the Institute for Justice  filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on behalf of the monks of Saint Joseph Abbey.  The monks are asking that the law be held unconstitutional.

The Institute for Justice has won a similar case.  The Sixth Circuit overturned a near-identical law.

But after they won in the Sixth Circuit, they lost in the Tenth.  The Tenth Circuit upheld an Oklahoma law restricting the sale of caskets to funeral directors stating: “[A legislature] may exact a needless, wasteful requirement[s] in many cases. But it is for the legislature, not the courts, to balance the advantages and disadvantages of the[se requirements]. Eventually, the Fifth Circuit (of which Louisiana is a part) will have to resolve this issue.  And then, the case might even go to the Supreme Court.

In the meantime, Siouxsie has included a video on how to make coffin purses.  Perhaps, the monks could make some of these to generate income. Surely, there is no law in Louisiana against making goth coffin purses.

Bonus Video: How to Make a Coffin Purse


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~ by siouxsielaw on August 27, 2010.

7 Responses to “Let the Monks Sell Caskets”

  1. This is a crazy law. Personally, I would have a bigger problem with monks making wooden toys for tots. But caskets, I have no problem with.

  2. Going after a devout religious order to keep them from selling handmade caskets? Are you kidding me? That is just low. I’d buy a casket from a monastery over a funeral parlor any day of the week. Not only is it likely to be more affordable, but it is an artifact tied to a time of life that is steeped in religious significance. Wouldn’t you rather have a monk made casket accompany you on your final journey over one that was mass made? That aside, treating monks like this is criminal in and of itself when they have done nothing morally or ethically wrong. I stand by that opinion in regards to priests of all religious orders. Granted I’m sure that has little to do with the law itself, but that is rather beside the point of you ask me. Some things are just common decency.

  3. This a dumb law. LA should’ve looked the other way and thought outside the box.

  4. […] blogged about this case back in August and sided with the monks.  Why?  Not just because the monks have a […]

  5. […] previously blogged about this lawsuit here and here. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

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