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Rabbi sues over Pennsylvania law on funeral directors, last rites

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
August 7, 2012

An Orthodox rabbi is suing the state board of funeral directors, accusing it of violating religious freedom by insisting that licensed funeral directors oversee all funerals and burials.

The suit from Rabbi Daniel Wasserman of Shaare Torah Synagogue in Squirrel Hill was filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, in Scranton. It accuses the state board of intimidating rabbis, synagogues, Jewish families and funeral homes that work with rabbis, in a quest for profit.

The suit is "to preserve and restore the historical right of clergy to conduct religious burial and funeral rites free from interference and harassment by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and professional, secular funeral directors who serve no health or safety interest," the suit says, citing constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion.

Rabbi Wasserman "is now being threatened with civil action and criminal prosecution ... for conducting religious funerals in place of licensed funeral directors who, under color of state law, interfere in purely religious observances for no other justification than personal profit."

The suit alleges that the board has targeted Orthodox Jews rather than Amish or Quakers because Jews are perceived to have more money to spend on funerals.

Read the full article at Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Thanks to The Good Funeral Guide Blog for alerting us to this article.

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