Louisiana Monks Bring Casket Sales Challenge to Federal Court

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · June 3, 2011

New Orleans, La.—The monks of Saint Joseph Abbey of Saint Benedict, La., seek to bury Louisiana’s government-imposed casket cartel with a trial that is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. on Monday, June 6, 2011, before the Honorable Stanwood Duval of U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The court is located at 500 Poydras Street in New Orleans.

Under Louisiana law, it is a crime for anyone but a government-licensed funeral director to sell “funeral merchandise,” which includes caskets. To sell caskets legally, the monks would have to abandon their calling for one full year to apprentice at a licensed funeral home, and convert their monastery into a “funeral establishment” by, among other things, installing equipment for embalming.

“A trial is a search for the truth and the truth here is that there is no legitimate reason to deprive the monks of their constitutional right to earn an honest living,” said Institute for Justice senior attorney Jeff Rowes. “A casket is just a box and you don’t even need a casket for burial.”

Attorneys from the Institute for Justice, which is representing the monks in their challenge against the Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, are prepared to show during trial:

· There is no hypothetical public health and safety justification for forcing consumers to buy caskets only from government-licensed funeral directors.
· The law directly interferes with the right under federal law to purchase caskets where consumers want.
· Only three states even have this law on the books and Louisiana is the only state that actually enforces this needless restriction on entrepreneur and consumer freedom.
· The only plausible explanation for this law is that funeral directors want to keep casket sales to themselves and use government power to protect themselves from competition.

“The government’s position is that the citizens of Louisiana can’t handle and don’t deserve the freedom to buy a casket from whoever they want,” explained Scott Bullock, an IJ senior attorney. “The government thinks the people of Louisiana are children who can’t be trusted and have to be forced to buy their caskets only from government-licensed funeral directors. Except for Oklahoma, no state treats their citizens this way.”


The Institute for Justice, Abbot Justin Brown and Deacon Mark Coudrain will ask the court to strike down the challenged law as a violation of the monks’ constitutional right to earn an honest living.