Bobby Rush: FTC Should Regulate Cemeteries

Wednesday, Jan 27, 2010  |  Updated 8:45 PM CDT
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History of Burr Oak Cemetery

Family members search for the graves of relatives at Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Ill., Thursday, July 9, 2009, after graves were discovered dug up Wednesday and bodies dumped into unmarked mass graves in an alleged scheme to resell the plots to unsuspecting members of the public. Three men and a woman are facing felony charges after police found what they called "startling and revolting" conditions at the historic cemetery in the south Chicago suburb. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

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History of Burr Oak Cemetery

The Burr Oak Cemetery was for a time the only cemetery where Black people could be buried in Chicago. Keiana Barrett, with the DuSable Museum of African American History, talks about what the desecration means to the community.
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The Federal Trade Commission should oversee the sale of funeral good and services, including cemeteries and merchants of caskets and monuments, Rep. Bobby Rush said Wednesday.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Rush led a congressional hearing to examine whether the FTC, which already regulated funeral homes, should have it's authority increased.

A news site from Pennyslvania explains:

"The Bereaved Consumer's Bill of Rights Act" would require funeral directors to list the price of each specific service or product related to a burial as well as fees that may be incurred afterward. The bill also would require cemeteries to supply written rules and to provide a "clear" written explanation of consumer rights surrounding the burial site, including any options the cemetery has to repurchase the grave site or that the consumer has to resell it. The cemetery would be required to keep accurate records about who was buried on the property.

The proposal comes months after Alsip's historic Burr Oak Cemetery was closed after revelations that hundreds of graves were dug up so the burial plots could be resold.

Four former cemetery employees have been charged.  All have pleaded not guilty.

The proposal has the support of the National Funeral Directors Association and Patricia Brown Holmes, a retired judge who led an Illinois task force that led to tougher, just enacted laws governing cemeteries in Illinois, the Trib reports.

The International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association disagrees on the national oversight, saying cemeteries and funeral homes are best regulated at the state level, according to a spokesman.

Full Coverage:  Desecration at  Burr Oak

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