It took more than three days, but it looks like zombie baby Jesus will remain resurrected for Christmas.
That’s the news out of Sycamore Township, a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, where only a few days ago Jasen and Amanda Dixon were under threat of being fined $500 a day if they did not remove a zombie-themed Nativity scene from their front yard. That’s right, life-sized zombie figures dressed as Mary, Joseph, and the Three Wise Men, along with an undead baby Jesus, reside on the family’s front lawn for visitors and passers-by to see. It even features a spooky parody of “Silent Night” that plays in the background, while rainbow-colored lights illuminate the scene.
From the moment the creche was constructed in 2014, controversy erupted. At that time, the Nativity scene was just a publicity stunt to bring in visitors to a local haunted house that Mr. Dixon ran. However, local officials said the family did not have a proper permit, so they closed it early. According to Local 12 WKRC-TV in Ohio, he brought the zombie Nativity scene back in 2015 because it was popular with the locals, and this time the Dixons applied for the permit. They were denied.
The couple refused to take the display down, and soon found themselves faced with an official notice from the city: Because they didn’t have a permit they would be fined $500 a day if they didn’t dismantle the manger.
The family began chronicling the construction and ensuing controversy on their Facebook page — posting photos, progress reports, and official letters from the city. To many, this appeared to be a battle of religious conservatives using city laws to stop a family’s freedom of artistic expression. The Dixons call their Nativity “artwork,” not religious commentary, and in the “about” section of their Facebook page they note, “We are not atheist.”
A local religious group didn’t care about those points, leaving a pamphlet at zombie baby Jesus’ feet (pictured here), which said (among other things) that Jesus frowned upon the scene. Other people of faith took to social media to condemn the display.
City officials stayed pretty quiet on the subject. Until today. CNN quoted Sycamore Township administrator Greg Bickford, who insisted that the issue “has nothing to do with portraying the birth of Jesus as a gathering of the undead.” It’s all about the barn being too tall at 15 feet high. They explain:
Like many neighborhood spats, it’s all about appearances. The community long ago set parameters and codified them to keep sheds or barns from popping up on front yards. Had Dixon built a smaller shed for baby zombie Jesus or put the manger in his backyard, this would not be an issue, Bickford said.
“We couldn’t care less about the zombies. What we care about is the zoning code,” he said.
Before an official fine could be laid down, the Dixons removed the manger’s roof and put up a backdrop in its place. That meant the Nativity scene was no longer in a barn or shed and was, essentially, decoration.
“He just took the roof off the structure, and now he’s compliant,” said Bickford, who added that the fines have stopped. “It’s a non-story.”