I remember learning of this fight a few years back. Would you believe the funeral industry in Louisiana pushed against the little monks of St. Joseph Abbey all the way to the United States Supreme Court? Details below.
A five-year legal battle waged by a group of Benedictine monks against the Louisiana funeral industry was laid to rest Tuesday by the U.S. Supreme Court, which let stand an appellate ruling striking down a state law giving funeral directors a monopoly on the sale of caskets to the public.
“It’s a great day for us, and we’re very thankful that this five-year battle is over,” said Abbot Justin Brown, who leads St. Joseph Abbey, a community of 34 monks whose primary work is educating future priests at St. Joseph Seminary near Covington and running a retreat center.
“We’re not in the business of going to court,” he said.
For decades the monks made wooden caskets to bury their brothers.
In 2007, the abbey formed St. Joseph Woodworks to sell the simple cypress caskets to anyone who wanted one. They hoped to generate money for the community’s educational and medical expenses.
State law requires anyone selling caskets to undergo funeral director training and to set up as a funeral parlor with embalming equipment.
Before the monks could sell their first casket, the Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors filed a cease and desist order.The monks filed suit in federal court in 2010, arguing the law served no legitimate public purpose and existed only to protect the funeral industry.
U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval struck down the law in 2011, and the monks began selling caskets.
While the abbey was back in business and making about 200 caskets each year, their legal struggle continued as the state board appealed Duval’s ruling.
The monks were victorious again in March before the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which agreed with Duval.
The funeral board in July decided to take its case to the nation’s highest court.
The funeral board referred calls to attorney Michael Rasch, who did not return a call for comment.
In court filings, Louisiana’s board argued state law protected consumers.
Attorneys with the Institute of Justice, a libertarian legal firm that represented the abbey, called the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the appeal a final victory for the monks, affirming their right to earn a living without interference from unreasonable government regulations.
“The U.S. Supreme Court’s denial of review puts the final nail in the coffin for the state board’s protectionist and outrageous campaign against the monks,” said Scott Bullock, a senior attorney with the group, in a statement.
“The abbey’s victory in this case will not only protect their right to sell caskets, but the rights of entrepreneurs throughout the country.”
You’ve got to love that “in court filings, Louisiana’s board argued state law protected consumers.” Just looking out for the little guy, eh? Okey dokey.
Huzzah for the monks! May they take away vast swaths of market share from the likes of the Batesville Casket Company, and their network of “value added resellers.”
The prices are right. Order yours today.