Rush unveils federal cemetery regulation law

September 21, 2009 2:53:36 PM PDT
The Burr Oak Cemetery scandal has inspired legislation for a national bill of rights for consumers.Illinois Congressman Bobby Rush is sponsoring the bill that sets guidelines for services provided by the cemetery and funeral home industry.

Following the Burr Oak discovery in July, Congressman Bobby Rush held hearings and promised to find some way to avoid another Burr Oak by protecting consumers. On Monday, he introduced a bill that gives more teeth to an already existing Federal Trade Commission rule that prohibits deceptive practices by the funeral industry. The bill will require cemeteries to keep clear records.

It's been almost three months since four Burr Oak Cemetery workers were arrested for illegally digging up bodies in order to resell burial plots. Since then, emotions have run high and families of loved ones buried at this Alsip cemetery have felt ignored.

Congressman Rush hopes to change that by introducing federal legislation that protects the consumer.

"The new law is designed to prohibit cemetery operators from acting unfairly on their dealings with consumers," said Congressman Rush.

Rush said the bill would require cemeteries to provide customers with all the rules and regulations of that cemetery, as well as give consumers a clear explanation of the plot they purchased. The legislation would also improve cemetery record keeping, something that was not done at Burr Oak.

"Cemeteries would also be required to keep clear records of all burials and entombments and internments and make those records available to fed, state, local authorities," said Rush.

Funeral home and cemetery owners welcome the legislation.

"Many times if there is a problem at cemetery, the funeral home is blamed. So this legislation will take the responsibility away from us," said Spencer Leak, funeral home owner.

"We have been asking for a number of years that families come to the cemetery and pick out the location that they choose for their loved ones," said Willie Carter, cemetery owner.

Congressman Rush believes his bill will prevent another Burr Oak scandal from happening. Roxie Williams' father is buried at Burr Oak. She is hopeful the federal legislation will protect others from what she has been through...

"This is great news for my families and families like mine, who got no answers," said Williams.

While Leak and Carter support Congressman Rush's legislation, the Illinois Cemetery and Funeral Home Association does not believe the bill does enough to protect everyone. The association's attorney says while he believes in the bill's goals, the Federal Trade Commission does not have jurisdiction over non-profit and religious cemeteries, which includes 85 percent of all cemeteries in the united states.


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