'Zombie nativity' charges dropped against Ohio man
Officials said they were not 'anti-zombie,' just enforcing bylaws
A suburban township in southwest Ohio is dropping its court case against a man charged with zoning violations for his holiday "zombie nativity" scene, an official said Tuesday.
Jasen Dixon's display had ghoulish figures in place of the baby Jesus and others who would be in traditional Christmas nativities.
Sycamore Township officials said he violated rules about an improper "accessory use" structure housing the nativity scene in his front yard.
Dixon was facing thousands of dollars in fines, but his defence argued the township was trying to suppress his freedoms.
Township administrator Greg Bickford told the Cincinnati Enquirer that since the display has been taken down, there's no need to spend taxpayer dollars continuing the litigation.
A Hamilton County judge had planned to rule March 15 on a motion to dismiss the case. He heard arguments earlier this month as a handful of people dressed and made up as zombies demonstrated outside the courthouse.
Dixon's attorney, Rob Linneman, called the township's decision to drop the case a victory for freedom of expression and property rights.
"A lot of people have looked at this case as a humorous story, but there is a fundamental principle at stake," Linneman said. "The real importance of the First Amendment is that it protects unconventional and unpopular viewpoints from persecution."
Dixon put the display up the last two holiday seasons, drawing widespread attention on social media as well as scattered criticism. Township officials have said they aren't anti-zombie but were enforcing zoning laws.
There could a third instalment of the zombie nativity. Bickford wouldn't say whether the township would bring charges if it's back in December.
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it — if we come to it," he said.