Last week we reported on several controversies regarding public displays of traditional and not-so-traditional religious iconography. Well, it seems that the issue isn’t dead yet. Since our last holiday post, several new stories have come to surface.
Oh Holy Zombies? The manager of “13 Rooms of Doom Haunted House,” Jasen Dixon, wanted to celebrate Christmas like many do in Sycamore Township, Ohio—erect a front yard nativity scene. Dixon’s display is special, however, because he decided to work with the materials he had at hand. That’s right, zombies from the haunted house he manages.
Describing the undead scene, Dixon explained, “It’s a different take. I handmade everything but Joseph and baby Jesus so it’s kind of artsy….” A crowned wise man presents baby, fanged Jesus with a skull as undead Mary and Joseph look on. The somewhat ghoulish crowd is protected by an eight foot structure with roof, hay, lights, and what appears to be the skeleton of a dog.
Although Dixon might be prepared for a future zombie apocalypse, he may also have to prepare for a fight with the Township over its zoning code. Apparently, the subject zone does not allow front or side yard structures that cover 35% or more of the area. Dixon claims that the zombie scene makes up only about 14 to 17% of the area. Zoning officials requested that Dixon remove the display by Friday, December 26 or face a $1,000 fine. A report from the same day, however, indicates that Dixon refused to remove the display as requested. In fact, Dixon has established a crowd-funding site “to make a better zombie nativity scene for everyone to see next year and funds to pay the township citations for having the structure.”
Satan Not Welcome? Last time, we reported that the Satanic Temple in Florida erected an “Angel in Hellfire” display in the state Capitol Rotunda. The display portrays an angel falling from the sky into a fiery pit.
Since our initial report, the angel has fallen—literally. According to the Associated Press, Susan Hemeryck, 54, of Tallahassee attacked the display, after announcing to an on-duty police officer, that she was “sorry and had to take the satanic display.” Hemeryck was advised to leave the display alone, but she then reached forward and began to rip the display apart.
John Porgal, regional director of American Atheists, later visited the Capitol and stated “the angel’s dead.” Hemeryck was later charged with criminal mischief, a second degree misdemeanor.
The Winter Solstice Takes Revenge: The courthouse in Mountain Home, Arkansas has displayed a nativity scene on its front lawn for years. For the past two years, however, the courthouse’s chief administrator has refused to make a new addition—a “Happy Solstice” banner.
After the second denial and two days prior to Christmas, the American Humanist Association (“AHA”) and Baxter County resident Dessa Blackthorn filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas against the County and County Judge Mickey Pendergrass. The lawsuit, according to Blackthorn, isn’t meant to take anything away from anyone. “It’s about equality,” said Blackthorn.
According to the Baxter Bulletin, the AHA sent a letter on two occasions after the 2013 denial, requesting that the crèche be removed unless other religious and non-religious groups were allowed to make a holiday display on the courthouse lawn.
In an interview, Judge Pendergrass provided his view that the display is constitutional and that the Winter Solstice banner was denied because no banners are allowed on the courthouse lawn. However, the complaint, available here, claims that “[o]n or about January 24, 2014, a large, unattended banner was displayed on or near the Courthouse property.”
More Notable Nativity Scenes: Although the “25 Most Awesomely Inexplicable Nativity Scenes” may not raise questions of constitutional law, they are fun to gawk at (or just plain cute). Thanks to BuzzFeed for assembling the entertaining list (albeit in 2011) full of comic book heroes and villains, star trek and star wars characters, dogs and dinosaurs.