A federal appeals court in New Orleans sided with a Louisiana monastery in the monks’ legal battle with the state to sell their handcrafted cypress caskets.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit said this week that it was skeptical of the motivation behind efforts by the Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors to shut down sales of the caskets.
“The great deference due state economic regulation does not demand judicial blindness to the history of a challenged rule . . . nor does it require courts to accept nonsensical explanations for naked transfers of wealth,” Circuit Judge Patrick E. Higginbotham wrote.
“Our prayers have been answered,” said Abbot Justin Brown, leader of the 37 monks of St. Joseph Abbey near Covington, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans.
The court did not declare unconstitutional a state law that says only funeral directors may sell caskets, as the monks and their libertarian lawyers at the Arlington County-based Institute for Justice had requested. Instead, the circuit judges asked the Louisiana Supreme Court to determine whether state law gives the funeral board the power to regulate casket sales by those not in the funeral industry.