The monks at St. Joseph Abbey won a 5-year legal battle against the Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors last Tuesday. The board had requested to ban the Abbey from making their simple caskets. After the case was appealed several times, the case landed all the way up in the U.S. Supreme Court resulting with the case being denied of review.
“It’s a great day for us, and we’re very thankful that this five-year battle is over,” Abbot Justin Brown, who leads St. Joseph Abbey, said to The Advocate.
The whole ordeal started when the abbey formed St. Joseph Woodworks to sell hand-made cypress caskets to anyone who wanted one. According to The Advocate, State law requires anyone selling caskets to undergo funeral director training and to set up as a funeral parlor with embalming equipment. But even before the first casket was sold, The Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors filed a cease and desist order.
The monks followed by filing a suit in the Federal Court in 2010. They stated in Federal Court that the law had no real purpose and was just in place to protect the funeral industry. Following the suit in 2011, U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval dismissed the law, and the Abbey was able to start selling their caskets.
However, even after the Abbey started making their caskets, the legal battle continued on as the state board appealed Duval’s ruling. The battle was dragged to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals where the monks were victorious again.“The U.S. Supreme Court’s denial of review puts the final nail in the coffin for the state board’s protectionist and outrageous campaign against the monks,” said Scott Bullock, a senior attorney with the group that represents the Abbey, in a statement to The Advocate.
Former student of St. Joseph Seminary College, Robert Simpson, says that taking the case to court was not a necessary action.
“Some of them were trying to protect their business,” Simpson said. “I don’t think it was a good idea to challenge it because now they have lost possible parts of their market.”
Now that the whole situation is finally over, the Abbey can move on.
“We’re not in the business of going to court,” Brown said to The Advocate, adding that the monks will observe the victory “quietly in our prayers.”