Statements on Headstone Federal Lawsuit

Statement of The Most Reverend John J. Myers, Archbishop of Newark

From the Roman catacombs to the cemeteries of the Archdiocese, there is a 2,000-year-old tradition of the Church, honoring the bodies of those who have died, providing a final resting place on sacred ground, and supporting their family and friends who want to honor them and pray for them.

I am thankful and proud of our Mr. Andrew Schafer and the staff of Catholic Cemeteries for continuing this tradition, and for their efforts to honor the wishes of Catholic families when someone they love has died.

I am grateful to the Institute for Justice for joining us to defend our constitutional right to economic liberty.

Last year the NJ Legislature passed a law that violates the U.S. Constitution by placing the special interests of a small group of business owners over the freedom of individuals to engage in productive commerce. The Legislature acted at the urging of the funeral director and monument dealer lobbies — two groups that want to restrict solely for their own personal economic gain — how and from whom consumers can buy products such as headstones. The Legislature acted after the courts of New Jersey specifically said that it was perfectly legal for the Archdiocese to offer these services to our parishioners.

In nearly every state, anyone can buy a headstone or mausoleum from any individual or company and from places as diverse as a brick-and-mortar store or the Internet. But not in New Jersey. The Legislature arbitrarily took away consumer choice for the sole purpose of protecting the bottom line of industry insiders.

Since the earliest days of the Catholic Church, cemeteries and cemetery services have been central to our ministry. When we began offering inscription rights, we were merely serving Catholic families, responding to their requests to offer them quality headstones and to help ensure that these memorials are maintained and secured. And now the law tells us we cannot. That’s plainly, clearly, wrong and unconstitutional. This law harms consumers, and our mission and tradition.

Statement of Andrew P. Schafer, Executive Director, Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Newark

My name is Andrew Schafer and I’m the Executive Director of the Ministry of Catholic Cemeteries. I’ve had the privilege of serving our parishioners for over 30 years, helping families during their greatest time of need when mourning the loss of a loved one.

Generations of Catholic families have entrusted us to help lay to rest their loved ones on consecrated, protected grounds in perpetuity. That’s our promise and our ministry.

Our mission endures despite changing times and economic challenges. The religious needs and interests of our Catholic families change, too. In recent years, requests from parishioners for memorials and headstones have increased. We responded.

An Inscription-Rights Program was created that allows us to provide a monument, inscribe it as per the wishes of the parishioner, and retain its ownership so we can maintain it in perpetuity.

Parishioners value and appreciate the Inscription-Rights Program. It’s convenient to purchase with cemetery interment rights. The funds help ensure permanent monument and cemetery care. It supports the mission of Catholic Cemeteries, a perpetual institution. Most importantly, it ensures the integrity and care of a loved one’s memorial forever. Their memorial/headstone is a statement of faith for generations to come.

With this new law, countless families who entrust us to bury and protect their loved ones now must purchase memorials elsewhere. This new law forbids the Archdiocese of Newark and all other religious cemeteries from selling headstones to parishioners.

With this new law, parishioners are prohibited from their freedom of choice to select us as a memorial provider. Their choice is purposely restricted to funeral directors and monument dealers. Why? Simply put, this new law protects only the interests of funeral directors and monument dealers while eliminating the rights of our ministry and our families.