Tags: | gravestone | Chris Christie | law | bans | religious | organizations

Nanny State: Gov. Christie Caves to Gravestone Proposal in NJ

Image: Nanny State: Gov. Christie Caves to Gravestone Proposal in NJ
(Bryan Thomas/Getty Images)

By    |   Monday, 30 Mar 2015 04:17 PM

When New Jersey’s most devout residents head for the great Turnpike rest stop in the sky, they can be memorialized with religious services, prayed over by religious men and women, buried in a religious manner and laid to rest on land owned by a religious institution.

But if their grave is marked with a stone made by a religious organization, the dead will have violated a rather ridiculous law made by the living.

Thanks to a bill signed into law last week by Gov. Chris Christie, religious organizations are now forbidden from selling gravestones in New Jersey – simply because they could be a threat to the profits of the existing gravestone-makers in the Garden State.

As the National Catholic Register explained, the law was passed because the Archdiocese of Newark began selling gravestones in 2013. They’ve obviously done quite well, since their market share had increased by 36 percent in just two years in the business.

That bothered the members of the Monument Builders of New Jersey, which is actually a real thing that exists. The archdiocese, the Monument Builders claimed, were gobbling up market share so quickly that it could put their members out of business.

And instead of lowering prices or otherwise engaging in competition, the trade association did what trade associations are so good at doing. It put pressure on politicians to pass a protectionist law that shuts the archdiocese out of the market.

John Joseph Myers, archbishop of Newark, told NJ.com the new law is "anti-consumer" and makes a "drastic change in the law solely for the financial benefit of the funeral directors and monument builders, at the expense of families."

Christie signed the bill on March 23, claiming that he was siding with small businesses.

But the Catholics might get the last laugh — don’t they always — because the new law might be a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s protection of religious freedom, according to the National Catholic Register.

To be fair, New Jersey is not the only state with absurd limitations on who can sell the accessories of death to whom.

As Watchdog.org has previously covered, there are rules in other states, like Louisiana, that prohibit anyone except licensed funeral directors from selling caskets. There, the state funeral directors board recently sued a group of monks selling their own hand-made wooden coffins.

The point of such laws are to limit competition and ensure those licensed funeral directors can continue to sell expensive boxes to the loved ones of the deceased.

Being licensed by the state to conduct funerals has nothing to do with the ability to sell gravestones or caskets. In fact, licenses for the conducting of funerals is a rather crazy, not to mention protectionist, notion in its own way.

These limitations do nothing beyond excluding people from the marketplace and forcing potential buyers to pay higher prices in order to memorialize the dead.

If you can make a casket or a gravestone that someone else wants to buy, that transaction should be allowed. Full stop.

For their efforts to get the bill passed in the first place, and for his decision to sign it, the Monument Builders Association of New Jersey and Gov. Chris Christie are the winners of the Nanny of the Week.

Eric Boehm is a reporter for Watchdog.org and former bureau chief for Pennsylvania Independent. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he enjoys great weather and low taxes while writing about state governments, pensions, labor issues and economic/civil liberty.

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When New Jersey's most devout residents head for the great Turnpike rest stop in the sky, they can be memorialized with religious services, prayed over by religious men and women, buried in a religious manner and laid to rest on land owned by a religious institution.
gravestone, Chris Christie, law, bans, religious, organizations, selling, existing businesses
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2015-17-30
Monday, 30 Mar 2015 04:17 PM
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