Zombie Nativity Scene Prompts Legal Threats

A man in Ohio decided to put up a nativity scene in his yard using zombie figures, making his neighbors and angry and prompting the local township to threaten him legally because, they allege, the display takes up more than the legally allowed percentage of his yard.

A man in Ohio is facing legal action if he does not take down his Nativity scene that features zombies instead of traditional biblical characters.

Jasen Dixon told WXIX that he manages 13 Rooms of Doom haunted house, so he already had the zombies, including one resembling the baby Jesus.

“I wanted a Nativity scene and I worked with what I had,” he explained.

“The neighbors don’t like it. My father hates it and anything bad that happens he blames it on that,” Dixon pointed out. “On the average we probably get 30 or 40 cars stop and taking pictures, getting out with their camera. People that follow zombie movies and stuff like that love it,”

But just days after WXIX spoke to Dixon, Sycamore Township township ordered him to take it down or face legal action. Town officials claimed that Dixon was breaking the rules with a structure on the front side of his yard, and a display that took up more than 35 percent of the area.

But Dixon said that he wasn’t buying the explanation.

“I’ve lived here for 15 years and I’ve never had a violation of any kind,” he insisted. “It’s a holiday decoration. I know if it was a real pretty nativity scene they wouldn’t be saying anything.”

It’s highly unlikely that the township would have been out measuring the nativity scene if it was a regular one. But this is easily testable. He should reduce the size of it to 34% of the front yard and then dare them to take action against him. If they do, the ensuing lawsuit would be easily won.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • observer

    Township officials admit that this was driven by complaints. Had the display been smaller, they would have had to work harder to find a pretext. I agree that he should just downsize the display and make the Township work for it.

  • Artor

    Dixon should just walk around the neighborhood with a tape measure. You can bet your ass there are some displays that take up the entire front yard in some places. “Excuse me, sir? Have you been cited by the city for your display? No? Thanks, would you sign an affidavit to that effect?”

  • jasmyn

    Of course they did it due to complaints. That’s the way it works. Most towns have pretty small code enforcement crews. They respond primarily to complaints rather than driving around neighborhoods looking for violations. If the neighbors didn’t care, they wouldn’t have bothered. I’d like to point out that the city have him until rush to remove the decorations without punishment. They really haven’t come down on him.

    Every town has zoning rules and restructure covenants. This isn’t a remarkable situation.

  • Mr Ed

    This needs to backfire. A man put up a sign in his business window saying “Geno Is God” a reference to the women’s basketball coach. The church across the street complained and zoning enforcement threatened fines for illegal signage. He easily won in court as the town had never interpreted sports banners as signage. The sign which was put up for the tournament only stayed up for two years.

    I would measure the yard and the manger and calculate area. Putting out a garden gnome doesn’t increase the size of my house, putting out wisemen doesn’t increase the size of the structure. I would then leave the display up until September to remind my neighbors that it is to their advantage to be tolerant.

  • http://artk.typepad.com ArtK

    @jasmyn

    It is a remarkable situation because, in all probability, the complaints weren’t prompted because the display was the wrong size, but because the content of the display offended someone. The zoning issue is just a tool to get what they want — something offensive removed from their sight.

    As Artor points out, it’s quite likely that there are non-zombie nativity scenes in the neighborhood that violate the same law. I’d like to see the actual law and find out if it even covers temporary structures like a display or only refers to permanent structures.

  • raven

    Only a few people complained.

    It was clear from the article that many other people thought it was great and went to see it. One of the complaints here seems to be that it attracted too much traffic.

    PS I looked at the pictures and it was clear how he made it. Anyone can do it. At Halloween, there are vast amounts of stuff sold as decorations. Plastic skeletons, Halloween costumes, masks, black cats statues, and so on at all the Big Box stores.

    Just buy them and modify them slightly and you have your Zombie nativity scene. You don’t need a mob of them, four or five will do.

    Or you can just download a paper and scissors one off the internet.

  • magistramarla

    ” Most towns have pretty small code enforcement crews. They respond primarily to complaints rather than driving around neighborhoods looking for violations”

    We live in a small suburb of a fairly large Texas city. This little town actually has a full-time code enforcement officer with his own fancy code enforcement vehicle. He does indeed drive around the neighborhoods looking for violations. We were fined several times when my son and his friends had a non-working vehicle that they were restoring parked in our driveway. We had to sell it, which broke our son’s heart. People here are also quickly fined if their grass is overgrown, so it’s important to have someone to mow for you if you plan to be out of town for an extended period. My service dog is so highly trained that he won’t go off of our property if he’s in the front yard, but if he did and the code enforcement guy happened to pass by, that would also get us a fine.

    We have a neighbor who rescues feral cats and often has a large number of foster cats in her home. I often see the code enforcement truck or the dog catcher’s truck sitting in front of her house. The officers just wait to catch some of her cats leaving her property. I always call her to warn her when I see them.

    There is one thing that this officer checks for that I somewhat support. Due to the drought, there are restrictions on lawn watering. Residents can face some fairly stiff fines for lawn watering when it is not their designated day. One neighbor got into trouble when his sprinkler system malfunctioned when the family was at work and school. People can even be fined for washing a car in the driveway. The town (and the nearby city) are hypocritical though, since large businesses get a waiver.

    I think that the entire code enforcement thing is a scam for the town to make money off of its residents and that the code enforcement officer is a guy on a power trip.

  • chilidog99

    Come Easter, he can do a zombie resurrection scene, and no one would be able to complain.

  • busterggi

    I second chilidog99 – when it comes to Easter, zombies are the reason for the season.

  • grumpyoldfart

    How do you think the judge will react when the case comes to court? I predict the penalty will be closer to the maximum rather than minimum allowed by law.

  • Donnie

    I posted this to my time line and my friends were tagging others who liked the walking dead and the other zombie series as an idea for Jesus nativity.

  • Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Every town has zoning rules and restructure covenants. This isn’t a remarkable situation.

    Underscoring the need for an omnibus anti-bugfuckery law.