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Monks Fight for Right to Sell Caskets

Monastery heads to court against state of Louisiana
By Dustin Lushing,  Newser Staff
Posted May 30, 2012 6:14 PM CDT
Monks Fight for Right to Sell Caskets
A monk in the workshop at St. Joseph Abbey in 2010.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

A group of monks in Louisiana is heading to federal appeals court in a battle against the state. The monks want the right to sell their handcrafted caskets, but the state has demanded they cease and desist because of regulations regarding "funeral merchandise"—which the monks say were enacted to unfairly protect the state's funeral industry, reports the Washington Post. "Really, it's just a big box," says the abbot. The monks were victorious their first time in federal court, but the State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors appealed, and the next round will be heard early next month.

St. Joseph Abbey, located an hour's drive outside of New Orleans, entered the casket business in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina destroyed an income-generating section of forest owned by the monastery. Before they even sold their first coffin, the state ordered they either stop or take the obstacle-filled path of becoming a licensed funeral establishment. A group of what the Post calls "libertarian lawyers" took up the monks' case and are hoping it makes it all the way to the Supreme Court as an example of government interference in free enterprise. Read the full story here. (More monks stories.)

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