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Hans von Spakovsky and Ariel Rigdon

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April 4, 2013 - 8:33 am
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The monks of St. Joseph Abbey are celebrating. Thanks to a ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the brothers can keep selling caskets in Louisiana.

When Hurricane Katrina destroyed the Abbey’s valuable timberland, the monks needed a new source of income. That’s when they started St. Joseph Woodworks, a casket company. For generations, the monks had buried their dead brothers in hand-made wooden caskets. Now, they would produce those same finely crafted caskets for the general public.

There was only one problem: a licensing requirement made it a crime for St. Joseph Woodworks to sell its caskets to Louisiana residents.

No one claimed the caskets were poorly built. They posed no health risks. And certainly the monks weren’t exploiting grieving families; their caskets were in fact less expensive than those carried by local funeral parlors.

Of course, that was the problem.

A state licensing law designed to protect funeral directors from competitive forces barred the monks from selling their caskets. The law required that the intrastate purchase of caskets be made only through state-licensed funeral directors at state-licensed funeral homes. This meant: unless the Abbey built or bought a funeral establishment with a layout parlor, a six-casket display room, an arrangement room, embalming facilities, and hired a full-time funeral director who had completed high school, 30 college credit hours, a one-year apprenticeship, and passed a test … the Abbey could not sell its caskets to customers in Louisiana.

The Fifth Circuit has now declared that law to be unconstitutional.

In St. Joseph Abbey v. Castille, the court ruled that the regulations violated both the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses.

The court found no rational relationship between the regulation and the state’s interest in consumer protection, health, or safety. Louisiana’s licensing scheme doesn’t require funeral directors to be trained or tested in casket selection. It doesn’t require that all caskets be purchased through licensed funeral directors.

Louisiana permits its residents to build their own caskets or to buy them from out-of-state vendors. It doesn’t regulate the design, construction, or sealing of a casket. The state doesn’t even require that the dead be buried in a casket at all.

The Fifth Circuit therefore determined that the law constituted pure economic favoritism. It affirmed the district court decision that “this brand of economic protectionism is not a legitimate state interest.”

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All Comments   (7)
All Comments   (7)
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Do it nationwide with Taxi's. Most cities hold medallions out to the highest bidders. That should be stopped.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
For centuries, monks have earned their living by selling religious goods, such as handwritten Bibles, wafers for Lent, and caskets are no different.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Doesn't it seem like every board, commission, etc. is simply composed of representatives from whatever industry they are supposed to be regulating?

This is why the Occupy movement so infuriates me. They lamented about how intertwined government and businesses are, but simply wanted more government control over those businesses. Too many groups are too adept at bending government power to their will. Pro-business is not the same thing as pro-market.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"No level of government should be allowed to pick and choose favorites in the economic marketplace."

This is great - The Federal Government POlicy of To Big To Fail has got to go and we need to quit wasting money on GM, AIG, Solyndra etc - more commonly known as croynism and corruption.
THere has been a concerted effort by a certian Political party (Dodd, Frnak etc) to have just a few large banking entities so the Governemnt can control the banking sector more easily. A lot of small banks are much harder to control so a particular Political party - with the help of the mainstream media has forced consolidation for the sake of government control - much like they did with agribusiness subsidies and tax codes in the 60s to 90's
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Every once in a great while, sanity prevails. What a great story.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"A naked transfer of wealth." s
But we needs us some distribution of income, we needs to spread around a little...guess that only works if your a Dem or better still one of O's 'peeps.

Don't ya just love politics?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"No level of government should be allowed to pick and choose favorites in the economic marketplace."

Yes, but I don't think the 0 administration would agree. Just look at 0care.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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