The monks of St. Joseph Abbey, aka the Casket Liberation Army, are too modest by nature and Benedictine rule to do a victory lap, but they have won a long legal battle over their abbey’s business on the side, selling caskets.
“I think this vindicates what we’ve been saying from the beginning — that we and others like us have a right to build and sell caskets without any unnecessary restrictions from the government,” Abbot Justin Brown said after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to lower court rulings favoring the monks.
The Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors had sued the monks.
This body argued that long-standing state regulations allowed only licensed funeral homes to sell coffins. The monks, and a free-market law group that took up the case, called it unnecessary restrictions on commerce, protecting a privileged group.
What is most striking about this case is not that it is a battle straight out of central casting, monks v. bureaucrats. It is that the state board’s attorneys referred to their regulations, in a pleading for the Supreme Court, as “economic protectionism.” The government gives advantages to particular groups all the time; it happens so much, they argued in effect, that it should be upheld in law.
The principle of a thousand wrongs don’t make a right did not sway the Supreme Court, but it has swayed others. The monks’ case covers the states in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, but one circuit court covering some Western states sided with regulators.
Other circuit courts have sided with those challenging these state restraints on trade.
We believe in free enterprise. The principle should be that the state ought not intervene except in compelling circumstances in the economy.
We commend the courts for upholding its principles in the case of the monks.