Dead men tell no tales, but court rules embalmers can

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today a state board was wrong to bar an embalmer from working in Massachusetts because he agreed to an interview with the Boston Phoenix.

In a ruling today, the state's highest court said the Board of Registration of Funeral Directors and Embalmers simply went too far in banishing Troy Schoeller for allegedly speaking in "an undignified and salacious manner about the condition of dead bodies."

In an interview with the Phoenix, Schoeller discussed his dislike for working on the bodies of overweight people and for comparing the body of a dead infant to a "bearskin rug."

The court noted that Schoeller did not reveal names or other information about specific individuals and said:

Although Schoeller spoke colloquially, using both graphic and crude terms in his descriptions of the challenges he faced as an embalmer, his comments convey that he took apparent pride in his skills.

And the board cannot violate people's First Amendment rights "by relying on a generalized notion of the integrity of the funeral services profession," the court concluded.

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