Don't mess with monks who sell coffins

A Benedictine abbey's battle against a Louisiana statute restricting such sales to funeral directors could reach the Supreme Court.

By Jason Notte Jul 22, 2013 7:33AM
Brother Emmanuel Labrise of St. Joseph's Abbey prepares a casket for lining on May 15, 2012 in Covington, Louisiana (© Sean Gardner/The Washington Post via Getty Images)How do you get a monk, a funeral director and a libertarian into the same room? Start haggling over the price of a coffin.

The Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors is considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court after federal district and appeals courts struck down a regulation that only state-licensed funeral directors may sell coffins in Louisiana. The nonprofit group Institute for Justice, which represents Benedictine monks who want to sell coffins from their abbey just outside of New Orleans, says bring it on.

The funeral directors' attorneys have argued that the restrictions on casket sales are legitimate and so common "that it may be practically impossible to avoid it."

That's exactly the wrong thing to say when your nonprofit opponents are a self-described "merry band of libertarian litigators."

"That's just an amazing statement -- to say that courts should not interfere in the slightest, even if the apparatus of government is used -- and this is the important point -- solely to enrich private special interests at the expense of other competitors and consumers," the Institute for Justice's Scott Bullock told The Associated Press.

While the institute sees this as a great opportunity to argue economic protections in the highest court in the land, the topic hasn't piqued the court's interest in the past.

The Supreme Court accepts only about 100 to 150 of the more than 7,000 cases it is asked to consider each year. The justices already refused in 2005 to consider a similar lawsuit won by Oklahoma's funeral directors. Judges cannot undo economic restrictions passed by state legislatures because those laws have a stated purpose of protecting consumers, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in that case.

In 2002, however, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a similar Tennessee law, saying the state licensing requirements were a barrier to other retailers.

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Jul 22, 2013 10:01AM
The Benedictines seem to have a better understanding of the basic economic freedoms our forefathers envisioned than what our current lawmakers and courts do. 
Jul 22, 2013 9:23AM
The notion is repugnant that one cannot buy a coffin from the Benedictines or from Costco or Wal-Mart.
Jul 22, 2013 2:22PM

Sell all the coffins they want. This is a joke. Actually have laws restricting coffin sale to licensed funeral homes? BS. Nothing more than a money grab and a group using laws unfairly to their advantage. They are just mad that the monks probably make equal or better quality coffins and selling for less money than the screwing they are giving the families of the recently deceased. 

There is nothing illegal or wrong to let anyone sell a coffin and this law restricting sale needs to be put in its own coffin and buried. Build wise no different than any other heavy well built piece of furniture. Maybe only mattress stores should sell beds? Only car dealers sell tires? Only stores that sell lamps can sell lightbulbs? See how stupid this sounds. Again more nonsense from a lobby group unfairly trying to have laws written in its favor and idiot bureaucrats that are more than eager to forego commonsense as long as you grease their palms a little.

I hope the monks win and this nonsense law is struck down.

I think its time 

Jul 22, 2013 1:11PM

Really?  Try to buy a cable package from somebody other than your local supplier.


How about electricity?  Got competing power companies where you live?


The laws in our country are a F---ing Joke!


Except for our Immigration laws - they are comedy central ... on meth.



Jul 22, 2013 2:22PM
I would be happy with an old pine box and a spot in the back yard.
Jul 22, 2013 10:35AM

Once the soul flies free of the body it turns to dust, so why waste a bunch money on a coffin.  A totally unneeded expense for your family when cremation can often be done for less than $550 (edit).   Donate the money you would have spent on a coffin to a children's fund or someone truly in need, that will give you a reward in your next life, wasting it on a fancy piece of wood that will be buried in the ground will not.


If you’re worried about it's possible spiritual use you can rest assured it will not be needed... I’m simply passing on the facts which were kindly given for all of our betterment.  The bodies function is completed at death.

Jul 22, 2013 2:48PM
It seems it is O-K for the inmates in Angola state prison who make wooden coffins to be able to sell them. Billy Graham will be buried in one of the Angola coffins. His wife is buried in one of these from the inmates. I say let the competition begin.  The law that gives licensed funeral directors a monopoly needs to be changed.
Jul 22, 2013 2:38PM

This is so typical of what has become of the legal system in this nation, the golden rule, i.e..

'He who has the gold makes the rules'!   Our bureaucratic government, has so mired itself in a self serving, self perpetuating, quagmire of cronyism that it cannot even govern.   Laws for the good of the people,  for the good of the country, are no longer!   Its time for a complete change, vote them ALL out, impose term limits on all elected offices, limit bureau employment and payroll  limits subject to vote by the people.  This is supposed to be a government of the people, by the people, and for the people,not the plutocracy it has become.

Jul 22, 2013 2:34PM

To get around it the "selling part"  just advertize that for your donation of xx dollars to the Monk's you get a thank you coffin of your choice.

Jul 22, 2013 2:54PM
I'll just build my own. That'll give me something to do and probably give the neighbors something to talk about. :)
Why should the funeral directors only have the right to sell caskets.. If I want to buy a casket from someone else and use it at the funeral home, I should have that right... however I would have to look into the cost of shipping added to the price to see if it was worth the direct savings... What next would follow... You can only dress the person a certain way - in certain clothes only sold or ordered by funeral director... flowers could only be bought through the funeral home... etc etc... While my parents did buy their caskets through the funeral home in a pre-paid plan, I believe that the monks should be able to sell directly to anyone their product.
Jul 22, 2013 3:17PM
Living in Vegas, we have one electrical supplier; one water supplier; one refuse pick up; one gas supplier; one sanitation department:  they all keep wanting us, the consumers, to conserve.  When we do, they go to the public utility commission, and ask for a rate increase because consumers conserving is a hit on their financial bottom line.......
Jul 22, 2013 2:31PM
As long as the quality requirements meet or exceed the State legislation regulations, it shouldn't matter who makes them.  I would appreciate American made though. If anyone overseas get involved than you just as well be buried in a grain sack, because the quality will go down.
More examples of how the politicians of the Southern Party are out of touch with reality! Support special interests at the expense of the people. Remember, remember to vote next November!
Jul 22, 2013 3:04PM

I side with free enterprise.  Other than protecting funeral homes' often greatly inflated profits, what public interest does it serve to restrict the sale of coffins.  I say open it up to all.  We do it for cars.


I look forward to the day when I can drive past a Bob's Used Coffin dealership.

Jul 22, 2013 3:06PM

What ever happened to free to trade.

And where did the concept of a closed shop come from?

Jul 22, 2013 3:04PM
Have you ever tried to get anything off from a funeral director - if you try he will say " your family is so special to me that I will reduce the price of this $3500 coffin for your father by $150 - your Dad being so special and such, I don't normally do this and not just for anyone".  We need the discount industry to start knocking down some of the cost on this impending and eventual cost for all of us.  Me, put me in hefty bag and toss me out in the woods or off a bridge.  I ain't going nowhere else anyway, even if there was a place to go.
Jul 22, 2013 3:01PM
people are dying to  buy these coffins from the monks.
Jul 22, 2013 3:05PM
You can buy a coffin from walmart - 
Jul 22, 2013 2:34PM
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