A group of Louisiana monks at Saint Joseph Abbey have spent years battling a legislation that prohibited them from selling their handcrafted cypress caskets.
The abbey had occasionally constructed caskets for monks in the southeast Louisiana area for years. The monks ventured into the casket-making business in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina destroyed an income generating section of the monastery’s forest. The monks made a huge investment in a woodworking shop, and casket-building eventually became part of their daily routine.
After a Catholic newspaper reported information about the dedication of the workshop, a cease-and-desist letter followed the event. In 1914, Louisiana created the State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors to combat the spread of infectious or communicable diseases. Nine of the 10 current members are funeral directors. The monks were committing a crime by violating a 1960s legislation that made selling “funeral merchandise” without a funeral directors license illegal. In order to obtain a funeral directors license, the monks would have to earn college credits and apprentice at a licensed funeral home to acquire skills that they would not be using in their coffin-making business. The monks’ only intention was to build the caskets rather than handling the remains of the deceased.
A federal appeals court in New Orleans has recently sided with the Louisiana monastery in their legal battle to sell their handcrafted caskets.
Visit www.postgazette.com to read more about the court appeal.