Can the government restrict economic liberty just to enrich a group of politically favored insiders?
That’s the question the Institute for Justice (IJ) and its client, Saint Joseph Abbey of Saint Benedict, La., have taken to federal court in challenging the constitutionality of Louisiana’s outrageous requirement that the monks of the Abbey must be licensed as funeral directors and convert their monastery into a licensed funeral home in order to sell their handmade wooden caskets.
“We are not a wealthy monastery, and we want to sell our plain wooden caskets to pay for food, health care, and the education of our monks,” said IJ client Abbot Justin Brown.
Under Louisiana law, it is a crime for anyone but a licensed funeral director to sell “funeral merchandise,” which includes caskets. To sell caskets legally, the monks would have to abandon their calling for one full year to apprentice at a licensed funeral home, and convert their monastery into a “funeral establishment” by, among other things, installing equipment for embalming. The State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors is now going after Saint Joseph Abbey for the “sin” of selling caskets without a government-issued license.