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Food and Funerals Don't Mix, Orthodox Therapists Oppose Therapy Ban

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on March 07, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If you were planning on drowning your sorrows in booze the next time you attended a funeral in Pennsylvania, you may need to bring your own flask. The Third Circuit recently upheld an old law on the books, and some funeral directors are miffed, reports LancasterOnline. And, adding to those that are upset are Orthodox Jewish therapists, as they join the charge challenging New Jersey's law banning gay conversion therapy.

Food (and Booze) and Funerals Don't Mix

Several people and organizations sued the Pennsylvania Board of Funeral Directors challenging provisions of the Pennsylvania Funeral Director Law ("FDL") as violating the U.S. Constitution. The district court found many of the provisions unconstitutional, and the Board of Funeral Directors appealed. The Third Circuit reversed most of the district court's rulings.

The Third Circuit stated that the district court erroneously based its decision: "from a view that certain provisions of the FDL are antiquated in light of how funeral homes now operate. That is not, however, a constitutional flaw." One of the provisions at issue "prohibits funeral establishments from serving 'food or intoxicating beverages.'" The Third Circuit found that the Board had a rational basis for enforcing the law, found it passed constitutional muster.

Orthodox Organizations File Amicus Brief

On August 19th, New Jersey became the second state, after California, enacting a ban on gay conversion therapy for minors. It only took three days for the law to be challenged. On November 8, 2013, Judge Freda L. Wolfson found the plaintiff's arguments that the ban regulated constitutionally protected speech unconvincing, and granted New Jersey's motion for summary judgment, stating that the law was neutral on its face, and "makes no reference to any religious practice, conduct or motivation."

Plaintiffs filed their notice of appeal days later, on January 22, 2014, the plaintiffs found an ally in the Agudath Israel of America and Nefesh, two Orthodox Jewish groups who filed an amicus brief in support of reversing the district court's grant of summary judgment, reports The Forward. According to Agudath's General Counsel Rabbi Mordechai Biser, "Orthodox therapists 'pleaded with us to take whatever steps we could to prevent this legislation from being enacted,'" though a former President of Nefesh stated, "I cannot say I'm terribly optimistic."

We'll keep you posted as to the outcome of the appeal.

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