The state of New York has officially become the sixth state to fully legalize the new practice of composting human remains, a process that has raised the hackles of a large number of religious groups.
Pieces of legislation that were signed over the past weekend by Governor Kathy Hochul (D-NY) would create an option for “natural organic reduction” alongside cremation and entombment on the list of state-acceptable burial methods. This new law labels the practice as the “contained, accelerated conversion of human remains to soil” in a “structure, room, or other space” in which decomposition can take place.
New York has now joined the ranks of Washington, Colorado, California, Oregon, and Vermont in their efforts to allow the novel burial method. Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-CA) labeled the process this past year as “more environmentally friendly” than options such as cremation, going on to add that “with climate change and sea-level rise as very real threats to our environment, this is an alternative method of final disposition that won’t contribute emissions into our atmosphere.”
One large funeral home located in Seattle, Recompose, has been encouraging the passing of “human composting” legislation all over the nation, claiming that their particular version of the method utilized just one-eighth of the energy required for cremation or conventional burial. Members of the company’s staff place the deceased body into a “vessel surrounded by wood chips, alfalfa, and straw” for a period of one month as bacteria catalyze “change on the molecular level, resulting in the formation of a nutrient-dense soil.” Loved ones can then make use of the resulting materials to “enrich conservation land, forests, or gardens.”
In response to the new burial method, various religious groups have been the most outspoken to stand against the new practice, stating that the idea of human composting severely damages the dignity of the deceased. As the president of G3 Ministries and pastor of Pray’s Mill Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, Josh Buice commented that human composting is “in complete contradiction to the view historically held by Christians and Jews.”
“Pantheists have argued that everything can be reduced to matter, God is everything and everything is God, and that every existing entity is only one Being. Under this view, there is no difference between wood chips, alfalfa, and a human body,” he stated. “From the earliest of times, the human body has been considered sacred. The rationale is based on what is known as the imago Dei, which affirms the fact that God created every person equally in his own image.”
The idea that the image of God in man works as the ethic backbone of all of their arguments in regard to the infinite value of humans in the Christian worldview, as explained by Buice. “The whole of humanity has inestimable value and dignity before God and deserves honor, respect, and protection,” he stated. “Therefore, the sanctity of human life is not determined by sex, ethnicity, age, religion, condition, or socioeconomic status. This is the foundation from which the Christian community advocates for the protection of the preborn and opposes abortion or any form of mutilation of the human body including euthanasia and sex change surgery.”