Are Zombie Nativity Scenes Legal?

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on December 10, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

An Ohio man's 'artsy' undead nativity scene has earned him the national spotlight and a $500 fine. Jasen Dixon, of Sycamore, Ohio, has a Christmas tradition that is causing an uproar for its ghoulish depiction of Jesus and other biblical figures, The Washington Post reports.

Dixon calls it art and is not an atheist. But his zombie manger scene has enraged neighbors and got him in hot water with Sycamore Township.

Jesus Is Not the Problem

After the popularity of the novel and film Zombie Pride and Prejudice, and countless undead works before and since, an undead baby Jesus trend was probably inevitable. Jason Dixon is not alone in his love of mash-upa and the undead.

Indeed, one Arizona toy manufacturer has plans to manufacture zombie nativity scene kits to sell next Christmas. The developer says that making it brought him closer to his Catholic roots. But is it legal or will undead crèches get everyone fined?

It's not a legal problem that Dixon's scene depicts Christ ghoulishly. The problem, for the authorities in Sycamore, officially, is zoning. So no, it does not seem likely that anyone with a cheeky crèche will end up in legal trouble.

But those who build elaborate structures in their yard that enflame their neighbors' religious sensibilities and violate local rules could face fines. They are also likely to face other consequences, like Dixon.

God Frowns?

On Sunday, Dixon posted a Facebook photo of a pamphlet he said had been dropped at the feet of his Jesus. It read, "GOD FROWNS UPON THIS MANGER SCENE."

Dixon says the artwork is not religious commentary. He is now crowdfunding on Kickstarter, seeking supporters who will help with fines and contribute to next year's crèche.

Meanwhile, marketing for the zombie nativity kit for the 2016 Christmas season has already begun. Developer Justin Contre reportedly told the Religion News Service that his product has brought him closer to his parents and faith.

"We talked about what they believe, what I believe and how we think Jesus should be represented," he said. "They are happy I have a nativity in my house now, even though it is zombies."

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