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Louisiana Abbey Finally Able To Sell Its Caskets

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Last year, Weekends on All Things Considered guest host Laura Sullivan spoke with a deacon at St. Joseph Abbey in eastern Louisiana, where monks have been making simple pine caskets for more than 100 years. Now, for the first time, the brothers are able to legally sell their caskets to the Louisiana public after a court ruling.

LAURA SULLIVAN, HOST:

Thanks for joining us. It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Laura Sullivan.

And now, an update on a story we brought to you last summer on this program. For 120 years, monks in a Benedictine monastery in eastern Louisiana crafted plain pine caskets for their brothers' burials.

MARK COUDRAIN: Flat top. It's got black metal handles on it. And it's a rectangular box.

SULLIVAN: That's Deacon Mark Coudrain from the monastery. The public often admired these caskets - their simplicity, their flawless craftsmanship. A lot of people wanted to buy them. The monks decided to sell them and use the money for charity. That lasted about a minute.

Representatives from the state's funeral home industry said they had to stop. They said only licensed funeral homes can sell caskets. To the monks, this sounded a bit like one group monopolizing sales at the expense of others. Here's how Deacon Coudrain put it at the time.

COUDRAIN: We feel like it was our right to do this. We're not harming anyone. There was no health and safety issue. We're building a box.

SULLIVAN: Well, last week, after a series of legal battles, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the monks. And now, that right is theirs.

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