The US Supreme Court has confirmed that an order of Benedictine Monks in Louisiana was not breaking the law by handcrafting plain cypress caskets and selling them to local residents, reports the Catholic News Service.
The nine justices simply confirmed on October 15 what Benedictine Abbot Justin Brown knew in his heart for the past six years: The Benedictine monks of St Joseph Abbey in Covington were not breaking the law by handcrafting the caskets.
By refusing to review a decision in the monks' favour issued earlier this year by a three-judge panel of the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, the Supreme Court gave the monks a victory in their legal wrangling with the Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Homes.
For many years, the monks had made the simple caskets to bury members of their religious community. They received regular requests for the caskets from people outside their community, but a decades-old state law protecting the funeral home industry required anyone selling a casket in Louisiana to be a licensed funeral home director.
The monks tried to amend the law by lobbying the state Legislature, but a bill that would have allowed them to sell their caskets got out of a Senate committee only once and was voted down by the full body.
That's when the monks decided to press their case in federal court, and the nonprofit Institute for Justice in Washington, which represents entities in cases of governmental overreach, took the case on a pro-bono basis. The monks won a huge victory in 2011 when U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval ruled the state law unconstitutional, allowing the monks to sell their caskets.
Still, the funeral home association pressed its case with the federal appeals court, which affirmed the lower court, and then with the Supreme Court.
Benedictine Abbot Justin Brown expressed elation and thanksgiving over the Supreme Court's final decision.