ON-Lion Letter
A New Orleans federal court in July ruled that Louisiana's government-imposed monopoly on casket sales in the state is unconstitutional, closing the lid on the economic-protection scheme and resurrecting an opportunity for local monks to provide for themselves by creating and selling their handmade caskets.  The monks of Saint Joseph Abbey of Saint Benedict, La., and the Institute for Justice (IJ), which represents the order in court, had filed suit to fight Louisiana's government-imposed casket cartel.

Under Louisiana law, it was a crime for anyone but a government-licensed funeral director to sell "funeral merchandise," which includes caskets.  To sell caskets legally, the monks would have had to abandon their calling for one full year to apprentice at a licensed funeral home and convert their monastery into a "funeral establishment" by, among other things, installing equipment for embalming.

"Simply put, there is nothing in the licensing procedures that bestows any benefit to the public in the context of the retail sale of caskets," ruled federal district-court Judge Stanwood Duval.  "The license has no bearing on the manufacturing and sale of coffins.  It appears that the sole reason for these laws is the economic protection of the funeral industry which reason the Court has previously found not to be a valid government interest standing alone to provide a constitutionally valid reason for these provisions."

"This is a slam-dunk victory for the Abbey and for all entrepreneurs who simply wish to pursue their chosen occupation free of unreasonable government interference," said IJ senior attorney Scott Bullock.  "As the judge recognized, the real reason for this law was economic protectionism for the funeral industry cartel, and that is not a legitimate government interest."

Milwaukee's Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation substantially supports IJ.
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