Desecration of a Cemetery
Developed in 1998 by the Government and Legal Affairs Task Force of the
International Cemetery and Funeral Association
No cemetery is immune from acts of vandalism and other forms of desecration. Although vandalism may be typically committed by youths as a form of hooliganism, more serious acts of desecration are committed by satanic cults who engage in ritualistic grave robbing or otherwise defile an interment space. Fences can be erected around cemeteries, and electronic surveillance and watchmen employed, but even intensified security cannot totally eliminate this serious problem. The consequences of cemetery vandalism are not limited to property damage, but can result in emotional trauma to the relatives and friends of the decedent whose grave has been desecrated.
Since vandalism by definition originates from the deliberate acts of the offenders, penalties should be sufficiently severe to serve as a deterrent. Yet many states have virtually no statutory provisions addressing cemetery vandalism or desecration, which makes prosecution difficult. As an initial deterrent to reduce the incidences of vandalism, an unauthorized individual trespassing on cemetery property when the cemetery is closed should be subject to criminal prosecution.
The various types of misconduct should be classified as either felony or misdemeanor offenses with clearly-defined mandatory, minimum penalties. Further, it should be clarified that certain necessary activities performed by a cemetery authority are exempted from the definitions of misconduct.
- It should be a criminal offense for a person to knowingly vandalize or desecrate an interment space including the removal of any portion of human remains.
- It should be a criminal offense for a person to act without proper legal authority in the removal or alteration of any memorial, plant, tree, shrub, flower, fence, rail, curb, or other structure of a similar character intended for the protection or ornamentation of any interment space or other area clearly designed to preserve and perpetuate the memory of a deceased person or group of persons, whether located within or outside a cemetery.
- It should be a criminal offense for a person to knowingly enter or remain on the premises of a cemetery without authorization during hours that the cemetery is closed to the public.
- A person found guilty of any form of cemetery vandalism should provide restitution to the cemetery authority for damages caused by such acts. If a minor or otherwise unemancipated person is found guilty and is unable to provide restitution to the cemetery authority, the person should be required to spend a specified amount of time in community service. In the alternative, the parents or legal guardians of the person should be required to provide restitution to the cemetery authority for the amount of any damage.
- A cemetery authority or interment right owner who has been injured should be entitled to a cause of action under the civil statutes against an offender for the recovery of monetary damages.
- A cemetery authority should have no liability for the misconduct of third parties.
- A cemetery authority should have no liability for misconduct or desecration when performing authorized cremations, necessary cemetery maintenance, or for procedures taken to correct errors made in providing interments, disinterments, reinterments, or in transacting sales, conveyances of interment rights, or related transfers.