Monks Battle Funeral Directors
An order of Benedictine monks takes on the funeral industry today in a federal court dispute over whether the monks can sell simple caskets - or the state can block them from doing so until they pass a myriad of licensing requirements. The monks of St. Joseph Abbey in St. Tammany Parish sued in August, saying the Louisiana Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors maintains a "casket cartel" through regulation dominated by the funeral business. The monks built and sold about 50 to 60 coffins with simple white cloth interiors for $1,500 to $2,000 before regulators told them they were violating the law. The abbey receives no funding from the Roman Catholic Church. The state funeral board said it is merely enforcing the law.