-Josh Slocum, Executive Director
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Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death.
A manual of funeral law for consumers.
Pennsylvania's state funeral regulatory board is out of control and needs to be reined in. Fresh from a defeat in federal court in which a judge tossed out 11 provisions of law for being anti-competitive, the board now faces a suit from a rabbi it has been harassing with threats of legal prosecution for performing traditional, undertaker-free Jewish funerals. Daniel E. Wasserman is suing the board on constitutional grounds; the regulatory board thinks it has the authority to bar Wasserman and his congregation from performing traditional Jewish funerals themselves. No, says the state—that would be practicing funeral service without a license. Never mind that Wasserman's chevra kadisha (Jewish burial society) charges no fees to grieving families for this traditional religious service.
This use of the Commonwealth's police powers under the pretext of "protecting health and safety" to restrain organized clergy for the benefit of professional funeral director licensees who seek only to profit is as shocking as it is unconstitutional. Even more shocking is the selective enforcement of [Pennsylvania commercial funeral law] against an Orthododox Jewish clergyman while the State Board knowingly allows the same or similar practices by persons of other faiths in instances where no profit can be expected by its licensees.—Wasserman v Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the US District Court, Middle District, Pennsylvania.