12/20/2011—Funeral Consumers Alliance has joined with the International Cemetery, Cremation, and Funeral Association to submit a friend of the court brief in support of the monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey. The monastery in Covington, Louisiana, decided to help earn a living for its monks by making and selling wooden caskets. The Lousiana Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, desperate to keep casket profits in the coffers of the state’s undertakers, ordered the monks to stop. They said no-thank you and sued the board in federal court—with the help of the economic-liberty bulldogs at the Institute for Justice. Earlier this year the monks won; the court recognized the state board’s “public health” and “consumer protection” rationale for restricting casket sales to licensed funeral directors was a sham. For earlier coverage of the state’s absurd crusade go here.
Not exactly the most savvy when it comes to PR or priorities, Louisiana decided to appeal. So FCA and ICCFA—a consumer group and an industry trade association—teamed up to ask the court bury the restrictive law. Irrational sales restrictions based on industry greed harm both consumers and business. Grieving families are deprived of product choices and price competition while legitimate business enterprises can’t get off the ground. When state regulators who purport to protect the public instead defend an established business monopoly it’s time to pull the plug.
We thank Addison Draper and Elbert Lin of Wiley Rein LLP for their expert help in preparing this brief.