Monks Sued For the Rights to Sell Coffin

After Hurricane Katrina put St. Joseph Abbey of Louisiana in financial hardship, the monks decided to parlay their woodworking skills into making and selling coffins.

But before they could even sold a single casket, St. Joseph Abbot's leader Justin Brown said that the state told him no:

Brown, a soft-spoken man who is only the fifth leader of a monastery that dates to 1889, said he had not known that in Louisiana only licensed funeral directors are allowed to sell “funeral merchandise.”

That means that St. Joseph Abbey must either give up the casket-selling business or become a licensed funeral establishment, which would require a layout parlor for 30 people, a display area for the coffins, the employment of a licensed funeral director and an embalming room.

“Really,” Brown said. “It’s just a big box.”

And a big box whose occupant is unlikely to complain of its craftmanship, either.

So, after much prayer and two failed attempts to change the law, the monks are taking the fight to the courts, alleging that the law is for the economic protection of the funeral industry.

In and of itself, the story of humble monks vs the big bad funeral industry is interesting, but it belies the deeper issue of what is effectively a state-sanctioned monopoly: Link | Print version (Photo: Sean Gardner/The Washington Post) - via Metafilter

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Accordingly, the famous UCLA Lawyer Clarence Darrow said:

"The restrictions placed around the accumulation of property are multiplying faster than any other portions of the criminal code. It takes a long time for new customs or habits or restraints to become a part of the life and consciousness of man so that the mere suggestion of the act causes the reaction that doing it is wrong. No matter how long some statutes are on the books, and how severe the penalties, many men never believe that doing the forbidden act is really a crime. For instance, the violations of many revenue laws, game laws, prohibition laws, and many laws against various means of getting property are often considered as not really criminal. In fact, a large and probably growing class of men disputes the justice of creating many legal rules in reference to private property.

Even the most intelligent ones never know or feel the whole code, and in fact, lawyers are forever debating and judges doubting as to whether many ways of getting property are inside or outside the law. No doubt many of the methods that intelligent and respected men adopt for getting property have more inherent criminality than others that are directly forbidden by the law. It must always be remembered that all laws are naturally and inevitably evolved by the strongest force in a community, and in the last analysis made for the protection of the dominant class. " - Crime Its Cause and Treatment (1922)
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The rules for contractors are the same- they exist to protect the big companies profits, not the customers. It's important to make sure your contractor knows how to build something strong and safe, but the tests for a license are all about taxes & bookkeeping, and nothing at all about actually knowing how to build.
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