Shannon Carr's late husband, Jason Carr, loved watching NASCAR and the Indianapolis Colts from his favorite couch. So when Jason died two years ago in a car accident, his wife decided a fitting tribute would be a $9,600 couch-shaped tombstone engraved with color logos of the Colts and NASCAR. A lovely, touching gesture, right? Maybe, but certainly not according to those in charge of the Catholic cemetery where Jason is now buried.
When Carr showed the Reverend Jonathan Meyer, a priest at St. Joseph Catholic Church in North Vernon, Indiana, the tombstone's plans, he rejected them, saying they were too secular for the church's 100-year-old graveyard.
"We provided the family funeral rites, prepared a funeral meal and offered family members individual counseling after the services," Meyer said. "We were with them the entire way until this matter came up."
"They told her not to move forward with the purchasing of the monument, but she went ahead anyway," Meyer said. "We have consistently communicated the same message prior to the purchase and after the purchase. We did not think a granite couch was an appropriate monument in our historic cemetery."
Carr went ahead and made the tombstone anyway, noting that the church had never set regulations on what was and wasn't allowed in the cemetery. In fact, the regulations weren't finalized until a year after she first attempted to install the headstone. She is now suing the church to have the tombstone installed.
The church's attorney, John Mercer, said the lawsuit falls outside of the court's domain, since the First Amendment prohibits courts from influencing the church's business.
Regardless of the outcome, Henry Carr, Shannon Carr's father-in-law, is sure of one thing; he'll now be taking his dead corpse's business elsewhere. "I haven't been back to (St. Joseph) church and have asked that I not be buried there along with my son," he told The Republic. "I'm told the controversy is splitting the church apart, tearing it in half. But I guess that's what has to be done."
That's probably fine with Rev. Meyer, who sees the issue – and its sympathy within the community – as a problem with the modern, Godless way of life.
"Our culture breaks all the rules to make people feel good," Meyer said. "Faithful Christians know rules and regulations are set up so there can be good for everyone."