Town Orders Ohio Man To Take Down Zombie Nativity

Creator-of-zombie-nativity-scene-threatened-with-$1000-fine-if-he-does-not-remove-display-from-Cincinnati-suburbThere is an interesting twist on the usual nativity litigation that comes with the season (for a prior column, click here and here). In Ohio, Jasen Dixon has been told to take down his Nativity scene. Dixon, who manages a nearby haunted house, took a unique approach to the standard Christmas display: it shows the holy family as zombies.

The display shows life-sized figures of zombies as well as a zombie baby Jesus.

Sycamore Township, outside Cincinnati, does not allow structures to be located in the front or the side yard to occupy more than 35 percent of the area. There is also a rule that a primary structure must be 3 feet from the street, and 6 feet from the house.

The regulation sets up a classic constitutional claim. Dixon is unaware of other nativity scenes being the subject of such an order. Indeed, I expect that this is a rule honored primarily in the breach and that most people have no idea of the rule and assume that they are free to use their whole yard and house for a display. If correct, this is a selective prosecution targeting an individual for the content of his display or speech.

He was given until today to take down the display. I would sternly caution the city to reconsider before selectively moving against Dixon unless it has a documented history of consistent enforcement. (By the way, the law is in my view highly problematic. I am not sure of the public policy reason preventing a family from using half of their yard for a religious or non-religious display. Likewise, the rule of placing the display six feet from a home seems a bit unsupportable).

I expect that Dixon might have a viable free speech claim. If forced into litigation, the city would have to show that it polices holiday displays with this same bizarre rigor in measuring the percentage and distance issues. If so, the city clearly has more time and resources than most in this country.

30 thoughts on “Town Orders Ohio Man To Take Down Zombie Nativity”

  1. I thought mandamus was a device created by a federal civil rule of procedure to direct a judge to do something he/she is supposed to do. Not a remedy to tell a President what to do. Give us the cite Evelyn, to the “statute” and the rule, and we will discuss this. Retirement is not so bad. You now have time to learn things you were too busy to learn when working. Read up on the Constitution and follow Scotus blog and others. Come to this blog to puke once in a while. All kidding aside, we will enjoy your comments.

  2. Mr. Turley: there are respected attys who disagree that the constitution allows you to challenge Obama’s actions by a federal lawsuit. The argument is that thee only remedy is impeachment. Maybe there is a third approach. Consider pleading a mandamus action in the alternative, asking the court to mandamus Obama to rescind the order under review because of [restate substantive constitutional argument that Obama had no authority to issue the executive order(s) under review ].
    In other words, you aren’t going after Obama you seek relief from the Executive action(s). The federal mandamus statute clearly provides for this. Just read it.
    Need more help? Bags are packed. I was with Justice in DC, 1973-1978, then a major firm 30 years
    Hate retirement
    Evelyn Leopold
    Texas State Bar: 12218000

  3. Marie, The Minnesota Vikings color is purple. Prince recorded his classic album, Purple Rain, in Minneapolis. How could the city of Minneapolis not allow a house be painted purple??? Stupid, govt. controlling, Gophers!!

  4. I hate to insult any Earthlings here but that HeyZeus guy hanging on the cross in front of homes on Xmas day is kind of zombie.

  5. If you are interested in solar power look up Joule Solar in New Orleans. They are ahead of the solar dog pack so to speak.

  6. The zombie in the photo looks like our leader on Remulak. We do not worship him but “we cotton to him” as some of you folks say down South.
    I do not understand why Earth humans would believe in idiocy like religion. Work on climate change, solar power and refried beans.

  7. It’s a problem everywhere all year. I’m a building inspector and in smaller cities we are obligated to deal with code enforcement and zoning issues. Frankly that’s a pretty stiff city code and it’s not being enforced everywhere then it’s a violation of that guy’s rights. It’s a city ordinance and they are indeed complaint driven. It’s definitely about the content. In one city I worked in it was sponge painted toilets in the front yard used a planters, another city is was the size of political signs in yards, in the next it was an antique canoe used as a planter.We have a culture were everyone things that they can run to mummy and complain about their neighbor People have the right to be left alone.

    It can backfire. In the city of Minneapolis one resident was targeted in this “fine” neighborhood for painting their house purple. When the city decided that they weren’t going to make an ordinance over house paint the owner decided to paint it with multicolored polka-dots and rainbows. What was just an odd color is now an eye sore. It’s the only thing that the city hasn’t tried to create an ordinance over. It can open up a tax sucking, legal can of worms.

  8. I think that churches should be zone out of putting up crosses in the front yards and having those statues out on the walls. And no more ringing bells on Sunday when I need my sleep.

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