Oregon Exempts Self from First Amendment

E-mail Print

4/20/2009 - Reads like a headline from The Onion, doesn't it? Senate Bill 796, a bill that purports to better regulate the changing funeral industry, contains a remarkable provision:

“An individual may not practice as a death care consultant unless the individual is licensed as a death care consultant under section 4 of this 2009 Act. Regardless of any title used by the individual, an individual practices as a death care consultant if the individual offers, for payment, consultations or workshops to individuals or groups regarding funeral or final disposition services.”

Plain English ™ Translation - Consumer advocates, home funeral guides, or anyone else has to pass a test and get a license from the state before charging even a dollar to give a workshop on anything to do with funerals or funeral planning. And what creeping menace will this protect the funeral-buying public from? Private citizens (mostly women, some known as death midwives, others as home funeral guides or consultants) who teach people practical, common-sense ways to take on the final care of a dead relative in the home, by the family, mortuary-free. Yes, it's perfectly legal to do so, though we suspect there are some in the commercial funeral business that dearly wish it weren't.

The bill was introduced by Oregon Senator Vicki Walker. Here's FCA's letter opposing the unconstitutional provisions of SB 796. If you care about free speech and the right to free choice in funerals, contact your Oregon legislator. And if you appreciate what FCA does as the only nonprofit consumer watchdog on these issues, please consider supporting us. Without your donations, we wouldn't be here.

6/7/2009 UPDATE - We've been told by several people who've attended committee meetings in the Oregon House (yep, the bill made it through the Senate, astonishingly) that Senator Walker has amended it to read:

“An individual may not practice as a death care consultant unless the individual is licensed as a death care consultant under section 4 of this 2009 Act. Regardless of any title used by the individual, an individual practices as a death care consultant if the individual offers, for payment, consultations regarding funeral or final disposition services.”

We can't confirm this, since neither Senator Walker, nor more than a dozen of her colleagues have bothered to respond to our letters and emails. The amendment solves nothing, of course - it merely makes the wording vaguer, and thus more alarming. And it will not stave off likely legal challenges on First Amendment grounds.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 03 September 2009 15:24 )  
Comments (4)
1 Monday, 04 May 2009 19:32
Michelle Camis
In light of the Oregon and Colorado legislation initiatives, I believe that the most recent Indiana legislation, HB1287, deserves some notice.

State Rep. Dave Cheatham (D-North Vernon), co-author, has pushed this bill forward as a follow-up to 2008 legislation he pushed through the IN General Assembly in direct response to the Grandview Memorial Gardens LLC debacle and other high profile funeral and pre-need funeral contract fraud stories. Indiana has unfortunately been plagued with a number of headline worthy death industry frauds and scandals in the last several years, but fortunately, their state reps have chosen to act on it.

The most recent legislation provides further clarification and refinement of the funeral trust laws passed in 2008, and also provides the following two provisions:

1) Changes the statute of limitations on pre-need funeral contract fraud claims to 5-years from the date of withdrawal from 5-years from the date of first investment. This is critical because I would venture to say that the average consumer is not aware of the fraud until he tries to make a claim on the funds paid, which may very well be after 5-years; and

2) Allows any property used to commit the crime, up to a Class C Felony for fraud of a perpetual care fund, to be seized to recover damages. For example, if the funeral director who committed the fraud drove his car to work where the fraud took place, then that car would be considered property used to commit the crime.

On March 26, 2009 the State Senate approved the bill and it returns to the State House to consider any changes or amendments made by the Senate, then it is onto Gov. Mitch Daniels for final actions.

In light of the other state's so-called consumer protection bills, it is nice to see one that actually sets out to accomplish the premise upon which it was written.
2 Friday, 05 June 2009 10:43
Tom von Alten
Do we have anyone following this issue in Oregon? I see from the Legislature's website that work continues, with a recommendation from the committee to "do pass with amendments" (none of which addressed the issue raised here) and a 20-7 vote, then a referral to Rules, and two public hearings this week, Tuesday and Wednesday, June 2 and 3.

The Bill text as engrossed still demands that anyone who "offers, for payment, consultations or workshops to individuals or groups regarding funeral or final disposition services" be licensed by Oregon as a "death care consultant."
3 Monday, 29 June 2009 12:05
Tom von Alten
According to http://gov.oregonlive.com/bill/SB796/ the Oregon House approved an amended bill, the Senate concurred and signed off last Friday, June 26.

(Once the Governor signs it?) Oregon Code 692.025 (3) will read:

"An individual may not practice as a death care consultant unless the individual is licensed as a death care consultant under section 4 of this 2009 Act. Regardless of any title used by the individual, an individual practices as a death care consultant if the individual offers, for payment, consultations directly relating to the performance of funeral or final disposition services."
4 Tuesday, 21 July 2009 01:18
Steve Wilson
This was created to try and stop private body donation programs such as BioGift and MedCure. The local medical school is suffering severely in body acquisitions and indirectly supported this legislation. You're correct, it is an abomination of Oregon citizens' first amendment rights.

Add your comment

Your name:
Comment: