Benedictine Monks Sue Louisiana Board

By: Jennifer Hong
Staff Writer
Published: Aug 13, 2021

Benedictine Monks are told they need a funeral director license, so they decided to sue Louisiana.

Benedictine monks sue Louisiana regulators. The Benedictine monks of St. Joseph Abbey have decided to sue Louisiana regulators. Louisiana regulators claim the Benedictine monks need a funeral director license, but now they're being sued.

The monks are charging the Louisiana Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors for attempting to maintain a casket cartel through regulation dominated by the funeral industry. However, they were told by regulators that they could not to sell the caskets because they are not licensed funeral directors. It all stemmed when the monks decided to sell caskets with simple white cloth interiors for $1,500 to $2,000 to support their abbey. They receive no funding from the Roman Catholic Church.

Beginning in 2007, approximately 60 of the caskets were sold. This was prior to the funeral board, acting on a complaint filed by a funeral home, subpoenaed the order in March and threatened fines, stated lawyer Jeff Rowes of the Arlington, Va. based Institute for Justice. The monks tried to get an exemption from the regulations in 2008 and 2010.

However, legislators rejected their requests. "There is no justification for a state to regulate the sale of wooden boxes," Jeff Rowes said in a statement. "The only reason they are enforcing it is to protect the profits of a powerful industry." According to the board members, they need a funeral director license, and their abbey has to be licensed as a funeral home, since they offer free storage for purchased caskets. The board consists of four embalmers, four funeral directors and a citizen member at least 60 years old. "The board is simply enforcing the law that's passed by the Louisiana Legislature," Michael Rasch, a board attorney, said in a statement.