In Louisiana, there's only one kind of place to buy a coffin, but a series of court decisions could change that.
A years-long legal battle between the state's funeral board and the monks at St. Joseph's Abbey in Covington entered another round June 7, when a three-judge panel at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments from lawyers representing the abbey and the funeral board. The board is asking the 5th Circuit to overturn a lower court's ruling that struck down state laws allowing only licensed funeral directors to sell "funeral merchandise," including coffins. The monks have a long history of crafting handmade wooden caskets.
Attorneys for the monks challenged the law as unconstitutional, and last June, a federal judge agreed.
Saint Joseph Abbey, et al. v. Castille, et al. caught the eye of The Institute for Justice (IJ), which is fighting the issue as an "economic liberty." It filed a lawsuit challenging the law's constitutionality on the monks' behalf in August 2010. — Alex Woodward