CINCINNATI — Zombie baby Jesus will stay in the manger.
News that a Nativity scene featuring zombies was in jeopardy of being shut down by officials in suburban Cincinnati, Ohio, set the Internet on fire this weekend.
News outlets far and wide wrote about John “Jasen” Dixon’s creepy creche, featuring undead versions of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and the zoning ordinance threatening its existence.
Dixon said he first planted the scene on his front lawn last year with leftover props from 13 Rooms of Doom, a Halloween attraction he runs in nearby Rising Sun, Indiana. In a statement on Facebook, he says that the manger is “a wonderful piece of artwork” and that he and his family are “not atheists.”
But apparently not everyone was amused.
Someone left a pamphlet at the manger declaring “GOD FROWNS UPON THIS MANGER SCENE,” according to a photo Dixon posted on Facebook.
Dixon also received a letter on December 2 (that he also posted on Facebook) from Sycamore Township Zoning Administrator Harry Holbert that said the accessory structure on the front lawn needed to be removed immediately because it violated the county’s zoning code.
Dixon, who did not respond to CNN’s request for comment, suggested to local TV reporters that other motives were in play.
This was the second year in a row the township told him to remove the scene or face fines, he said. Last year, he had to take the manger down because he had failed to apply for a permit, Dixon told CNN affiliate WKRC. This year, he applied for a permit, with the same result.
“I think it’s the theme. It just rubs people the wrong way, and it puts the spotlight on me. That’s why they’re coming down so hard on me,” Dixon told WKRC.
Administrator Greg Bickford insists that the issue has nothing to do with portraying the birth of Jesus as a gathering of the undead. Specifically, at 15 feet high, the barn housing the holy family exceeds the designated height limit of 5 feet, he told CNN.
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.
Dixon said the town threatened him with a $500 fine if he didn’t remove or modify the structure by December 4. He set up an online fundraiser to cover legal fees, and told WKRC that he received at least one $500 fine.
But the zoning laws no longer appear to be an issue. Dixon has removed the manger’s roof and put up a backdrop in its place, Bickford said.
“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.”