A Grave Problem: NJ Ban on Religious Headstone Sales Could Violate Constitution

by Kevin J. Jones  |  published on March 26, 2015

A New Jersey law crafted to ban the Archdiocese of Newark from selling cemetery headstones might not pass muster under judicial review, according to a constitutional-law specialist.

Matthew Franck said the law “may well be violating the freedom of religion” guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution because it “singles out religious organizations for disfavored treatment.”

Franck directs the Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Princeton, N.J.-based Witherspoon Institute. He characterized the law as “a direct assault on the freedom of churches to offer services to the bereaved in their own congregations.”

In a March 16 article at the news site NJ.com, Mark Mueller wrote that “the measure, while applied broadly to all religious institutions, is designed to counter a move by the Archdiocese of Newark in 2013 to enter the headstone business at its Catholic cemeteries.”

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