Judge to Mom: "Thou Shalt Not Name Thy Child 'Messiah'"

Just another false messiah, it seems. From the Associated Press:

A judge in Tennessee changed a 7-month-old boy’s name to Martin from Messiah, saying the religious name was earned by one person and “that one person is Jesus Christ.” …

“It could put him at odds with a lot of people and at this point he has had no choice in what his name is,” [Magristrate Lu Ann] Ballew said.

It was the first time she ordered a first name change, the judge said.

Messiah was No. 4 among the fastest-rising baby names in 2012, according to the Social Security Administration’s annual list of popular baby names. …

The boy’s mother, Jaleesa Martin, of Newport, said she will appeal. She says Messiah is unique and she liked how it sounded alongside the boy’s two siblings — Micah and Mason.

I am eager to read your comments on this one.


Does the judge have the power to do this?

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Some places have laws that reject children's names if they are expected to result in ridicule. You probably can't name a child "My Mother Slept With The Neighbors Smith".

In this case, I believe that the more relevant problem is that the father objected. The court case was between the parents, not between the state and the mother.


So now he is called Martin Martin?

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No, he's Martin DeShawn McCullough. It sounds like the parents are not married, and so the judge used the mother's last name as his first, so that both family names were represented.


I'd like to know what laws she cited in making her decision. It is a judge's job to interpret the law, not make it.

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It sounds like the judge needs a bit of a linguistics lesson. "Messiah" means "anointed", as in "And David said unto him [about his killing King Saul], How wast thou not afraid to stretch forth thine hand to destroy the LORD'S anointed?" It is not a title that one "earns". It is something that happens to you by the action of other people on behalf of God (or directly by God, depending on your interpretation).

Most Christian denominations consider all of their priests/pastors/preachers to be "anointed". Many of the liturgical churches anoint people who are baptized, making all Christians be "messiahs". Pentecostals are very interested in "the anointing of the Holy Spirit" on a person.


If this is legitimate court business, they are asking for a long docket indeed given today's baby-naming trends.

Dan Aris

Well, sure, he'll probably have problems growing up, but no more than if he were named Rainbow or Twilight.

The First Amendment's establishment clause, it seems to me, would indicate that this judge is vastly overstepping her bounds. It doesn't matter if the child is named Mohammed, Messiah, Jesus, Satan, Buddha, or any other religious-related name: the laws and legal machinery of the United States of America do not have the authority to force it to be changed for such reasons.

It disgusts me when public officials in this country think the Bible is a more important document to their jobs than the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.


If you click through, the article explains that the reason they are in court is to decide on the last name, so the judge changed the first name to Martin(the mother's last name) and kept the father's last name(McCullough).


Martin McCullugh. The parents were in court two determine what the child's last name should be...the judge went with Martin to acknowledge the mother's last name and McCullough for the father.

The judge's order itself will be overturned. There is no legal standing for her action. Unfortunately it is going to ignite a firestorm of conversation over "religious freedom" and "child protection." I believe we are about to see some strange bedfellows in this discussion!


Does everyone named Jesus have to go to court now for a name change? Love the South!


I saw an interview with the judge and she was asked this very question. She paused long and hard on the question (suggesting to me she either had a definite opinion on the matter or recognized that a "no" would seem to conflict with her judgement) until she ultimately replied that "it wasn't relevant to this case".


The name 'Messiah' literally translates to 'one expected to deliver'. I wonder how the judge decides a name with origins in another language is specific only to her religious sentiments. I am Christian, but I would question a judgement that reeks of personal bias. I'd like to believe this country is not yet the Christian equivalent of an Islamic state.


Putting aside issues of church and state this judge is simply displaying a poor command of language. "Messiah" is not a proper name but rather a descriptor/title. This is why it is almost always preceded with "the". I also can't help but wonder what this judge would do in an area with a large Latino community. Lot of kids being named Jesus that she would have to contend with...


Its good that she's on top of this. Can you imagine what would happen if Muslims took to naming their children Mohammed? ummm, err. Or can you imagine if Christians were to intentionally name their children Jesus? Oh, wait.

Ok. What the heck is this woman thinking!!!?? Names based on religion are incredibly common. So these people chose Messiah, which is a little unique. But Christ literally means Messiah, and we don't see judges making people named Christopher, Christine, or Christian change their names!!

One can only hope that Tennessee judges have to stand for election to retain their positions an that Lu Ann is removed from hers.


What right does the court have to forcibly change a name?

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The mother didn't like father's choice of name, and the father didn't like the mother's choice. They had reached such an impasse that they were actually involved in a lawsuit over the baby's name. The judge's only options in adjudicating this lawsuit were:

* endorse one parent's choice over the other,
* remove the child's name altogether ("Baby Boy"), and
* pick a name herself.

I've never heard of a law that says the mother gets to name the child over the father's objections, or the other way around. You don't really want to contemplate having an older child, much less an adult, legally named "Baby Boy". So the judge probably was correct in picking a name herself, even though she should have kept some of her religious thinking to herself.


Messiah is a pretty stupid name, but that doesn't make it illegal.


I'm a foreigner whose state technically is not separated from the (Lutheran christian) church, but we still -collectively- take pride in being a secular democracy.
Growing up the U.S. was a beacon to the rest of the west, a just and secular democratic government we could all look up to and follow by example.
It's saddening to see it turn more and more into a mirror-image of nations like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, whose judicial and political corruption is only matched by their rampant religious extremism.

I don't want to suffer for another continent's Holy War, get it together, stop the bible-thumping.


I heard about this on the radio this morning. At first I asked, what country did this happen? Then I found out is was in the US -- Tennessee.

First, I'm amazed that someone other than a child's parents have the authority to change its name. It seems that this case was caught-up in some sort of child welfare case.

Second, I vehemently object to the magistrates assertion that the name is too religious and and reserved. How does the magistrate know this child is not the Messiah? How would any one know? Although reserved within Christianity, why does that have to do with the other thousands of religions?

This is a horrible decision.