Shannon Carr spent $9,600 on a black granite headstone shaped like a couch to mark the grave of her husband, Jason Carr, who died in a 2009 car accident. It was engraved with a full-color NASCAR logo, an Indianapolis Colts logo, a deer and a dog.
The Republic reports that the Rev. Jonathon Meyer, priest at St. Joseph, notified the monument maker that the headstone didn't meet regulations for the century-old cemetery.
But Carr says in her lawsuit that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis Properties Inc., which owns the cemetery, never produced any regulations for the plot until more than a year after she tried to have the headstone installed in 2010.
Meyer says in an affidavit that photographs of the monument were shown to the St. Joseph Parish Council six weeks before Carr purchased it and that the council determined the monument wasn't acceptable because of its secular nature.
"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."
Meyer acknowledged that the rules for the cemetery were formalized after Carr bought the headstone, but he said they were known before that. The archdiocese says cemetery regulations have existed since 1907.
Archdiocese attorney John S. Mercer says in court documents that the lawsuit falls outside the court's jurisdiction because the First Amendment prohibits courts from taking indirect control over Church affairs.
Henry Carr, father of the deceased, said "I'm told the controversy is splitting the church apart, tearing it in half. But I guess that's what has to be done."