Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Business Law: Funeral home Sues Archdiocese of Louisville

Can a business sue a religious organization for interfering with its business? That is the question I get from The Courier-Journal's Funeral home director suing Archdiocese of Louisville for business interference:

"A Nelson County funeral home director is suing the Archdiocese of Louisville and a Roman Catholic priest, whom he accuses of undercutting his business by implementing new rules on conducting funerals at his parish.

The Rev. Jeffrey Leger, pastor of St. Catherine Church in New Haven, put a new policy into effect last month, stipulating that funeral directors can no longer solely plan funerals. Instead, they must now plan them with Leger, who has final say.

The new policy, which Leger outlined in a 10-page letter to funeral directors, strictly enforces church law and liturgical practices that limit such things as the types of readings, music and eulogies at funeral Masses."

Ron Rust, owner of the William R. Rust Funeral Home in New Haven, said the policy will interfere with his longstanding business of coordinating funerals that are held at St. Catherine.

The policy marks "an intentional and wrongful interference" in the dealings between the funeral home and its customers and will cost Rust funerals and income, according to his suit filed Aug. 7 in Nelson Circuit Court.


Rust claims a "right to direct funerals in accordance with the wishes of the family of deceased individuals without the constraints" of Leger's policy, it says.


Anything that could distract from that should be avoided, he wrote, adding that eulogies, recorded music and nonbiblical readings such as poetry and letters are forbidden except under limited circumstances.

Such personalized features should take place at the vigil service, typically held the evening before the Mass at either the church or the funeral home, he said.