Monks Fight Louisiana Funeral Industry over Right to Build Coffins

Saturday, August 14, 2010

In need of a new trade to make money for their monastery, the Benedictine monks of Saint Joseph Abbey in Covington, Louisiana, took up casketing-making a few years ago to help support themselves. But then the state board that regulates the funeral industry found out about the simple wooden caskets the monks were constructing and selling, and threatened the monastery with fines and criminal charges. Under state law, anyone working in the funeral business must be certified by the Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors.

 
So the monks have filed a lawsuit against the state, arguing that “there is no rational relationship between the sale of handmade wooden caskets and a government requirement that a monastery become a funeral home.” The suit alleges that the licensing laws establish and preserve a “cartel for the sale of caskets in Louisiana.”
 
Deacon Mark Coudrain points out that a casket is not required for burial in Louisiana, and that a person can be buried directly in the ground or in a shroud. The monks also argue that their modest cypress caskets are in line with the growing movement to use biodegradable coffins to avoid contaminating the earth. The monks make two styles of caskets, traditional and monastic.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 
Benedictine Monks Decry Cartel on Caskets (by Sabrina Canfield, Courthouse News Service)

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