Submitted by Charlton Stanley (aka Otteray Scribe), Guest Blogger
Last August, this blog had the story of Cocke County, Tennessee child support Magistrate Judge Lu Ann Ballew who arbitrarily ordered parents to change the first name of their seven month old child. Jaleesa Martin and Jawaan McCullough had decided on their child’s first name, but were not able to agree on whether his surname should be that of his mother or his father. It was Judge Ballew who ordered the parents of seven month old Messiah McCullough Martin they had to change the child’s first name and change his birth certificate. Judge Ballew opined, “The word Messiah is a title, and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person, and that one person is Jesus Christ.”
In a rambling interview with local television, Judge Ballew tried to explain her reasoning. The reporter asked her what if the child had been named Jesus, a popular name in the Spanish speaking community. The judge stammered, finally declaring that to be irrelevant. The reporter did not press the issue and ask about the use of Mohammed/Muhammed by many Islamic families. Her answer to that would have been…..interesting. Here is the interview of Magistrate Judge Lu Ann Ballew with a reporter from a local TV station. This is almost painful to watch.
Jaleesa Martin and Messiah’s father, Jawaan McCullough, appealed Judge Ballew’s order to Cocke County Chancery Court. Chancellor Telford B. Forgety heard the case, and only needed 30 minutes to find Ballew in fatal reversible error and that her ruling was unconstitutional. Judge Ballew had ordered the name change the first week of August. The appeal to Chancellor Forgety went through with warp speed, and within six weeks, on September 18, her opinion had been reversed and rendered. Chancellor Forgety did what the parents had asked Judge Ballew to do in the first place, and that was to help them decide on the surname. The child’s name will be Messiah McCullough, which is the father’s surname. Judge Ballew was never asked about the first name, but took it upon herself, sua sponte, to order the parents to change it and have the birth certificate changed because their choice of a baby name offended her religious sensibilities.
Three days ago, Judge Lu Ann Ballew was charged with judicial misconduct. The charges were filed Wednesday by a three-member investigative panel associated with Tennessee’s Board of Judicial Conduct. The formal charges against Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew say she failed to promote confidence in the judiciary or uphold the law without bias or partiality.
Judge Ballew not only displays an astounding ignorance of the First Amendment, but of the historical and etymological meaning of the word “Messiah” itself. The word “messiah” is the English translation of the Hebrew term masiah [jyiv'm], which is derived from the verb masah, meaning to smear or anoint. When objects such as wafers and shields were smeared with grease or oil they were said to be anointed; hence the commonly used term was “anoint” when grease or oil was applied to objects or persons by Israelites and non-Israelites alike. Kings and other notables were anointed, for example. Even in modern day baptisms, it is common practice for the priest or minister to anoint the child or baptized person with oil. Therefore her assertion there was only one “messiah” was dead wrong.
To add another thumb in the eye of Judge Ballew, the Social Security Administration says that in 2011, the name Messiah was the 633rd most popular name for boys. In 2012, it was 387th most popular for baby boys. That 246 position jump made Messiah the fourth fastest growing baby name for boys in the U.S.
Judge Ballew, now the defendant in the ethics case, has thirty days to respond, or a default judgment will be entered against her by the ethics panel.
We now will wait and see how this plays out. I used to write a series of stories I called, “Judges Running Amok.” I may have to revive that. There is so much material to work with and so little time.