Coffin Fit


When Tommy Wilson and the Rev. Nathaniel Craigmiles started selling caskets at discount prices, they thought they were providing a service. To regulators, though, they were criminals.

Craigmiles/Wilson Casket Supply in Chattanooga never handles bodies; nor does it perform burials. Nonetheless, Tennessee law says it can't sell caskets from a retail location unless one of the proprietors becomes a licensed funeral director, a process that costs at least $8,000 and requires two years of training in running funerals and embalming.

The state has ordered the pair to stop selling caskets or risk criminal prosecution. Craigmiles, Wilson, and the owners of another casket store in Knoxville have responded by filing a suit in federal court. Represented by the D.C.-based Institute for Justice, the plaintiffs claim the law exists solely to protect a funeral home cartel that routinely sells caskets for more than twice the price these retail stores charge.

"Requiring us to go through this training," argues an incensed Craigmiles, "makes as much sense as requiring the [same from the] hearse driver or the person who sells the tombstone."