Funeral Directors Want To Put Monks In Jail For Offering 'Unauthorized' Coffins

from the the-napster-of-coffins dept

Ah, regulatory capture. Down in Louisiana, there’s a law that makes it a crime (yes, a crime) for anyone other than a funeral parlor to sell “funeral merchandise.” This rule is enforced by the state’s “funeral regulatory board,” which (you guessed it) is mostly dominated by funeral parlor industry insiders. Now, a few years back, you may remember, there was a big Hurricane called Katrina. Among the massive damage done to the state of Louisiana, it also knocked down much of a large forest of pine trees on the property of the Benedictine monks at St. Joseph Abbey. With so many downed pine trees, the monks, in a lemons-into-lemonade type of moment, decided to use the downed trees to make hand-crafted caskets.

The funeral parlor directors were not amused, at this “unauthorized” competition — and warned the monks that violating the laws against such unauthorized funeral merchandise could land you in jail for up to 180 days. Yes, the funeral directors were threatening a bunch of monks who were hand-crafting coffins out of pine trees knocked down by Hurricane Katrina with jailtime. After the threat, the monks continued to make caskets, but tried to keep the activity quiet — and the funeral regulatory board literally sent out investigators to go spy on them to see if they were still selling caskets. After collecting evidence, they hit the monks with a subpoena, and are attempting to fine the monks for selling such caskets. In response, the monks are filing a federal lawsuit, claiming that they were being shut out of the market by a “casket cartel.”

It’s difficult not to see this as a clear case of regulatory capture. The Louisiana funeral regulatory board has nine members, eight of whom are in the funeral industry. There are even some funeral directors who are willing to admit that the whole thing looks bad, with one telling the Wall Street Journal that “They’re making us all look greedy.” As for the defense of the law? Well, the funeral directors who support such a restriction on free trade are really reaching:

Boyd Mothe Jr., a member of the fifth generation of his family to run Mothe Funeral Homes outside New Orleans, says Louisiana’s law should remain on the books because licensed directors have the training to sell caskets–transactions he calls “complicated.” For instance, he says, “a quarter of America is oversized. I don’t even know if the monks know how to make an oversized casket.”

Very convincing, huh?

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Comments on “Funeral Directors Want To Put Monks In Jail For Offering 'Unauthorized' Coffins”

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Hulser (profile) says:

The lawyer or the client

I’ve always wondered what happens behind the scenes in these types of situations…

1) The lawyers tell their clients what an awful idea it would be to move ahead with a lawsuit because of the negative publicity, but the clients move ahead anyway.

2) The lawyer doesn’t warn their clients because he knows he’ll make more money from the lawsuit in spite of the fact that there’s a good possibility that the backlash could remove his client’s monopoly.

3) Or is it possible that both parties are so wrapped up in their greed, they actually don’t realize that most people can see through their flimsy pretense and view what they’re doing as wrong?

karen (profile) says:

Re: The lawyer or the client

I have seen the latter case (in which the lawyer makes out like a bandit). In most cases,the most you can do is complain to the State Bar because the lawyer can compel you to prove that such a conversation was actually on the the record as “advice”. Do NOT expect the people who DO actually bring successful actions to support you.

Benny6Toes (profile) says:

Oversized coffins?

really? how do you make an oversized coffin? ummmm…add 6″-16″ width and reinforce the bottom. doesn’t seem that difficult to me, but, y’know, i’m not an arrogant funeral director (i’m just arrogant…and mouthy).

here’s my idea for the best way to smack this down: the state attorney general discusses it with the monks and they all agree to go to trial. the catch? turn it into a media circus that results in extreme embarrassment for the funeral directors and any legislators who don’t sign on to change the absurd law. nothing works better than embarrassing the crap out of people to institute change.

and…Globalists? really? really? this is a local, homegrown issue. globalism and “globalists” have all of nothing to do with it. might want to cut back on reading all those conspiracy websites.

Beta (profile) says:

Better watch out...

All right you Benedictine monks, if you don’t back off, you’re looking at up to 180 in jail. That’s right, up to 180 days in a plain cell, wearing simple clothing, eating simple food, with no entertainment except whatever books you want to bring with you and maybe some strolling in the yard in the afternoons. So… watch it.

Montezuma (profile) says:

In Georgia(the State I live in), we are not able to get coffins without going through a funeral home or a “casket store”. Hell, even Walmart, now a days, sells coffins, but the citizens in Georgia(and other states) cannot obtain one. So many states seem to continue to force us(the general public) to incur cost that, otherwise, is not needed. It was said by some politician, somewhere around here, that the free selling of caskets could “promote the criminal element” and even promote murder. What sort of retarded shit is that?

For as long as humans have existed, we have been dying and the final moments that loved ones have with the dead and the burial of the dead was not really complicated. A person died, the surviving family and/or friends might or might not have a wake/viewing, then the dead would be buried. There are still many families, that live around my second home, that still bury their dead family members on their own property(which might be going away soon enough), but even those people have to use a funeral home or casket store to obtain a casket.

Apparently, even after a judge struck down the 1991 law on caskets, which opened up the casket market, in Georgia, to businesses other than funeral homes, Georgia just passed another law that requires stores that sell caskets to apply for a license to sell. Why does one need a license to sell a wooden box? Why does our Federal Government, as well as the various states, protect a market that openly takes advantage of those in a grieving state by marking up the products they sell by 200%, 300%, and higher?

harbingerofdoom (profile) says:

Re: Re:

There are laws about this stuff because in the 50’s and 60’s shady practices were so out of control many states were pretty much forced to start adopting these laws.

while the laws were actually a very good thing when they were originally passed, like always someone has to come along and try to use the laws to keep other people out of the business and shore up their own inability to run a business correctly themselves (or keep out someone threatening their profits).

the laws actually arent a bad thing, they are just being used in a bad way in this case. monks, you should apply for a license and LA you should *make damn sure* it gets approved and then everyone can be either dead or happy.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The screwing is even better in Texas. When someone dies, you’d think you could save some $$$ on the casket by going the cremation route. But the funeral home lobby managed to get a law passed in Texas that says you can’t be cremated unless you’re in a casket. So not only do you have to buy an unnecessary casket, the money you spent instantly goes up in smoke– literally– as you feed it into the furnace.

Mark says:

Re: Not very convincing at all

Atually, making an oversized casket or coffin (really any, but oversized adds its own problems) is a tricky business.. Firstly, making sure it is sized internally to fit the deceased – that’s pretty easy. Second, sized externally to allow transportation on a funeral vehicle to the cemetery or crematorium – not so easy, there are limits on door sizes, etc. and families get really pissy when you tell them it has to be moved on a truck! Third, reinforcing it – well you could say slap a few 2x4s across the bottom, but make sure you don’t interfere with the internal sizing there and are you well versed in engineering to work out those stresses? Fourth, use the right materials – if it’s being burned there are regulations on emissions which require that the right materials be used in the construction. Fifth, consider the external size for where it’s going – cremator doors and internal sizes are limited, so make sure it fits or you’ll be very red faced. Graves need to be shored up and there is a limit on with width of those shorings… Now lastly consider, once you’ve done all that, the weight of the casket and fitting handles that will take the weight and are correctly positioned for the pall bearers to use.

Still think it’s simple? Of course, you could just make a box and see what happens, but don’t expect your local undertaker to carry it. It will be his name across the front of the local press when the deceased’s ass falls through the bottom on the way to the grave!

Josef says:

Another WTF moment

I guess I never really thought about it until now. Just WHY are there laws that prevent anyone from selling a casket? Saftey issues? Crime?

I don’t get it. Its a box, its going in the ground with a dead person inside. Who cares about faulty design? Why does the government even need to think about regulating this market?

And why do I suddenly feel that “funeral merchandise” includes flowers as well, and that florists probably have to pay “funeral tax” to funeral homes so they can sell flowers for funerals.

Jim D (profile) says:

Perhaps not so cut & dry

Certainly the funeral directors are trying to protect their turf– it is an industry known for such things. I don’t even doubt that this may be their only concern. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an actual issue of regulatory concern ensuring that the storage of dead bodies is done in containers that meet certain standards.

Dead bodies are pumped with all sorts of chemicals. If the containers in which they are stored are not properly constructed and sealed then those chemicals will leach out into the soil. I’m not willing to assume, absent further details, that the monks in question built theirs to the proper spec.

Godric says:

Re: Perhaps not so cut & dry

no, but chances are, they are of a far superior quality to those sold at the mom and pop funeral homes and are probably sold for a far smaller sum of money. That is probably the real issue.

The funeral homes refuse to work for their pay. They just want everyone to come to them and hand them a shit ton of cash in a nice tidy bow and never have to lift a finger.

I do have to say about the one funeral home I dealt with in GA, they did us a solid when our son was stillborn. They told us in the initial visit that it would be $100 for the cremation and the urn would be another $200. When we arrived to collect and pay the bill, they told us not to worry about it. Their only stipulation was to let others know about them. Which was fair enough to us.

Ryan Diederich says:

Not the Real Issue...

How many caskets can a couple of monks and a couple of fallen trees make. People die constantly, dont you think the funeral people can lose a few caskets? What a joke. When I die I’m going to have my family burn my body and cast my ashes into the sea.

Or find the nearest monks that will do it for me. Companies love to capitalize on things that HAVE to happen, like the RMV and death.

Eaton Kittrell (profile) says:

Louisiana funeral indusrty

For the monks to get a license, they must install an embalming room, and have a licensed funeral director on site to sell the merchandise. A licensee must serve an internship for 2 years as a full time employee of a licensed funeral home before eligible to take the exam. All to sell a box.

What actually happened here in LA began in the 1970’s when wording was struck from statute which allowed for “funeral director or individual acting as such” and the phrase added, “all dead bodies shall be prepared and disposed of by a licensed funeral director”.

Soon thereafter, more wording appeared-“only a licensed funeral home may display and sell funeral merchandise at retail” Over the years, the right to bath, cloth, casket and bury your loved one has been eroded to the extent that every consumer in the state of LA must present himself, checkbook in hand to a licensee of the state and be compelled to contractually surrender ownership of personal property(your loved ones remains)to the funeral home.

The only stipulation regarding burial is that commercial cemeteries may require a liner or vault to prevent someone from falling thru a decomposed casket and suing. Also, a proscribed distance from a stream or body of water. Otherwise you can be buried directly in the ground, with no embalming, in a shroud or less, if desired.

Boyd Motte kept a particleboard, flat-top, cloth-covered casket in a side room and would drag it out by its screen door handles and present it to insurance policy holders and claim that it was the casket that went with the policy. When the poor bereaved asked to upgrade the casket, this slimeball funeral pig would VOID the contract and credit them a few hundred dollars toward a full price funeral of thousands.

If you can stand to here more about the death grip of the funeral industry in LA, prompt me. I can go on and on!

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