Economic Liberty
Matt Powers · April 14, 2016

“Should you need a government license to sell a box or a cloth?” Alabama law says yes, but an editorial in the Orange County Register disagreed arguing that the law should be buried.

Shelia Champion opened The Good Earth Burial Ground in Hazel Green, Alabama to provide “a cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional funerals and cemeteries.” But, Alabama only allows licensed funeral directors to sell “funeral merchandise” such as shrouds and caskets.

As the Register noted:

In order to satisfy the licensing requirements, Ms. Champion would have to spend at least one year in mortuary school learning things totally irrelevant to her business, such as embalming, plus two years as an apprentice, and hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a funeral home, since funeral merchandise may only be sold from a state-licensed “funeral establishment.” She potentially faces thousands of dollars in fines and a year in jail for violating the law.

Traditional burials often involve an embalming process which fills the remains with toxic chemicals. Then the body is placed in a metal or treated wood casket which is often placed in a metal or concrete vault before being buried. The whole process can cost as much as $10,000, a majority of which goes towards the casket.

In contrast, Champion’s service does not use embalming, unless the embalming fluids are nontoxic and biodegradable. She then places the body in a shroud or biodegradable casket, which are ultimately place directly into the dirt in a virgin forest, no vaults are used. The materials used by Champion are much cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

Champion partnered with the Institute for Justice (IJ) to challenge this unnecessary and protectionist law. IJ successfully challenged similar casket-selling laws in Louisiana, Missouri, and Tennessee.

“A casket is just a box, and the law does not even require one for burial,” IJ attorney Renée Flaherty said in a statement. “There is no legitimate health or safety reason to license casket sellers.”