After Hurricane Katrina wiped out a large portion of St. Joseph Abbey’s profits, the monks decided to go into the coffin-making business to support themselves. Immediately came a cease-and-desist order: In Louisiana, only licensed funeral directors can sell “funeral merchandise.” So after much prayer and two failed attempts to get the law changed, the monks went to federal court.
Employee Joe Jarrell works on the construction of coffins at St. Joseph Abbey in Covington, La. Since Hurricane Katrina leveled the timberlands that once provided the main source of funding for the abbey, the monks have attempted to make a living by building and selling simple cypress coffins. But Louisiana law forbids those who are not licensed funeral directors from selling coffins. After much prayer and two failed attempts to get the Louisiana legislature to change the law, the monks went to federal court. Sean Gardner/For The Washington Post Buy Photo