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Constitutional Law

Benedictine Monks Seek Ban on ‘Casket Cartel,’ Claim Constitutional Right to Sell Coffins

Posted Aug 16, 2010 3:38 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A group of Benedictine monks is seeking a federal court order recognizing their claimed constitutional right to sell simple wooden coffins—at what they say is a considerably lower cost than funeral home competitors who have allegedly banded together in a "casket cartel."

Attempted enforcement of a state criminal law in Louisiana requiring caskets to be sold by licensed funeral homes violates the monks' 14th Amendment right to due process, they contend in a filing in the Eastern District of Louisiana. The law, they say, isn't rationally related to health or public safety concerns, according to the Associated Press and the St. Tammany News.

"You don't even need a casket to be buried in Louisiana or any other state," said attorney Jeff Rowes of the Institute for Justice, which is representing the monks, at a news conference reported by the Catholic Spirit.

"You can be buried directly in the ground. You can be buried in a bed sheet," Rowes continued. "This is just a box. The only reason the law exists, and the only reason they're enforcing it, is to protect the profits of a private industry group."

Michael Rasch, an attorney for the Louisiana Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, told the Times-Picayune that each member of the board has sworn to enforce the law. "That's what they are doing,'' he told the newspaper.

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