Judge to hear arguments in spat over religious headstone law

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A federal judge in New Jersey is scheduled to hear arguments in a case pitting the state against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark over a law that makes it illegal for private religious cemeteries to sell monuments and headstones.

A monument builders association sued unsuccessfully in 2013, claiming the church's tax-exempt status and relationship with parishioners gave it an unfair advantage.

The state Legislature eventually outlawed the practice, and the archdiocese sued in 2015.

Both sides are scheduled to make their arguments in Trenton on Wednesday.

The state argues religious cemeteries should be treated the same as secular cemeteries that are barred from selling the monuments.

The archdiocese argues the state allows religious cemeteries to sell plots and community mausoleums and should allow them to sell headstones as well.