Louisiana monks score second win in bid to sell caskets

A group of woodworking Louisiana monks is celebrating after a federal appeals court ruled they can sell simple handmade caskets … Continued

A group of woodworking Louisiana monks is celebrating after a federal appeals court ruled they can sell simple handmade caskets — and local funeral directors can’t stop them.

In a Wednesday (March 20) opinion, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the Benedictine monks of St. Joseph Abbey near Covington, La., have a right to sell caskets in their home state. The ruling affirmed a lower court’s judgment, which said the Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors cannot restrict the market only to licensed funeral directors.

“Funeral homes, not independent sellers, have been the problem for consumers with their bundling of product and markups of caskets,” the 19-page opinion said. The “grant of an exclusive right of sale (for licensed funeral directors) adds nothing to protect consumers and puts them at a greater risk of abuse including exploitative prices.”

The monks’ victory helps them pursue the livelihood they’ve forged in the years since 2005, when Hurricane Katrina decimated timber holdings that had previously provided essential income for the abbey. It also gives Louisiana consumers access to basic cypress caskets that sell for $1,500 and $2,000 — far below prices charged at the state’s funeral homes, according to the court opinion.

“Our prayers have been answered,” said Abbot Justin Brown, head of St. Joseph Abbey, in a written statement. “We are especially gratified that the Court’s decision will protect the economic liberty of other entrepreneurs in Louisiana and around the country.”

Neither the Louisiana Funeral Directors Association nor Michael Rasch, attorney for the Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, responded immediately to requests for comment.

The Catholic monks of St. Joseph have long been buried in plain wooden caskets built by hand at the abbey. When they needed an alternate source of income after Katrina, they invested $200,000 to start Saint Joseph Woodworks. They were able to sell in other states, but the Louisiana board moved in 2007 to block them from doing business in their own state.

With this week’s ruling, the 5th Circuit parts ways with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which in 2004 upheld a similar law restricting casket sales in Oklahoma. The issue could ultimately be decided in the U.S. Supreme Court if the board members decide to appeal.

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Religion News Service LLC.

More on:
  • An-Toan

    $1,500 – $2,000 could supply food to a lot of starving people.

  • HELLO

    All business must come under the same civil lwas and tax laws. Do they have the layaway plan?

Read More Articles

colbert
Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

noplaceonearth
An Untold Story of Bondage to Freedom: Passover 1943

How a foxhole that led to a 77-mile cave system saved the lives of 38 Ukrainian Jews during the Holocaust.

shutterstock_148333673
Friend or Foe? Learning from Judas About Friendship with Jesus

We call Judas a betrayer. Jesus called him “friend.”

shutterstock_53190298
Fundamentalist Arguments Against Fundamentalism

The all-or-nothing approach to the Bible used by skeptics and fundamentalists alike is flawed.

shutterstock_178468880
Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

shutterstock_185995553
How to Debate Christians: Five Ways to Behave and Ten Questions to Answer

Advice for atheists taking on Christian critics.

HIFR
Heaven Hits the Big Screen

How “Heaven is for Real” went from being an unsellable idea to a bestselling book and the inspiration for a Hollywood movie.

shutterstock_186364295
This God’s For You: Jesus and the Good News of Beer

How Jesus partied with a purpose.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.

SONY DSC
Dear Evangelicals, Please Reconsider Your Fight Against Gay Rights

A journalist and longtime observer of American religious culture offers some advice to his evangelical friends.