Tennessee Judge Orders Parents To Change Name Of Baby To Martin Because Messiah Is Reserved For Jesus Christ

250px-Samuel_e_davidParents in Tennessee came to court to deal with a dispute over the last name to be used for their 7-month-old son. However, Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew ordered the first name to be changed because the parents had named the boy “Messiah.” Ballew admits that she has never ordered a first name change (particularly when both parents were in agreement with the name) but that messiah is a name earned by one person and “that one person is Jesus Christ.”

The bizarre ruling by Ballew came in a dispute of the estranged parents. She ordered the boy to be called Martin DeShawn McCullough. The mother’s name is Jaleesa Martin. The mother is appealing the decision.

First, it turns out that the name “Messiah” is the fourth most popular name among the fastest rising names. It also had the benefit of alliteration for the mother with his two siblings, Micah and Mason.

Second, and most importantly, it is not the province of a judge to police religious sensibilities. We have previously discussed how some countries require approval of names or ban the use of some names. This would not be one of those countries. It is particularly offensive when such action is taken to support religious sectarian interests. Ballew stated “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.” It is indeed a title but different people view its meaning and its identification differently. Jews for example are still awaiting the Messiah and do not believe that Jesus earned that title. The term is generally defined as meaning “a professed or accepted leader of some hope or cause.”

Ballew insisted that she is protecting the child since “[i]t could put him at odds with a lot of people and at this point he has had no choice in what his name is.” However, that forces parents to adhere to the demands of the religiously intolerant in society.

The order should be appealed and quickly reversed. More importantly, Ballew’s qualification to serve in any judicial function, even a relatively minor judicial office, needs to be reexamined. If her interests favor the ecclesiastical over the legal, there is a wealth of opportunities to be pursued.

56 thoughts on “Tennessee Judge Orders Parents To Change Name Of Baby To Martin Because Messiah Is Reserved For Jesus Christ”

  1. Let’s hope “Holy Friggin Gawd” does not become the most popular kids name.

    These crowds of ignorance are getting scary.

  2. raff,

    Now there’s a great solution. 😀 I even kinda like it as a middle name suggestion. Messiah Larry McCullough has a nice ring to it.

  3. joelbwriter,

    Those name are awesome.


    So is that story. My only regret is that I was not there to participate in the discussion but at least I was there in spirit, er, or something like that. :mrgreen: I hope all is well with Tex.

  4. RW Nye: Truth be told, there isn’t really that big a danger of defects in the children of cousin marriages (which used to be quite common and in fact was legal in all U.S. states until the Civil War).

    Interestingly, while marrying your first cousin is not legal everywhere in the U.S., it is a criminal offense only in Texas, Oklahoma, the Dakotas and Nevada.

  5. It’s crazy that this judge is trying to rename the kid. I do think Messiah is a different name but that does not mean she can change it because she doesn’t like the meaning behind it. Only in south US.

  6. Great story Blouise.
    I can settle this dispute and suggest that the parents just name the child, Larry! 🙂

  7. lotta,

    I think she got tired of the noise … heart patients are usually a quiet bunch.

    There are several doctors in the practise and more than a couple stuck their heads in the waiting room to see what was going on.

    People weren’t arguing … mainly it was different patients regaling the assembled with stupid Christian jokes.

    Probably got the doctors up and moving.

    I didn’t bother telling her I wasn’t a patient ’cause I wasn’t sure if she’d stick me in the parking lot.

  8. Darren : “I wonder if this immunity actually gives magistrates of this caliber a free ticket to misbehave.”

    Darren, Good observation. I’m a fan of limited immunity for public officials but from what we read (often times here) I must conclude that it does, at least until they do so much damage/get so out of control that it becomes impossible to ignore.

  9. Blouise: “The nurse finally broke it up by taking us into different treatment rooms. I got my own room and what was so funny … I wasn’t even a patient. I was there waiting for Tex.”

    Was she afraid they’d get so worked up they’s start dropping or did she have a stick-up-her-butt, no dissing religion agenda? I had to laugh though, you do know how to have fun wherever you find yourself, good for you.


  10. Since all (most?) religions have a messiah that name is not just for Christian purposes. The folks who want a Christian theocracy not getting that you don’t do this (force your religion, esp by a court) in America.

  11. I was sitting in the doctor’s waiting room this morning when this judge appeared on the TV screen … “Messiah is a title and that title has only been earned by one person, Jesus Christ.”

    I laughed … loudly and offered the comment, “ridiculous stupid bullshit”. I couldn’t help myself … it just came out.

    What followed was great fun as 12 heart patients sitting with me in the waiting room began an in depth discussion on religious stupidity. The nurse finally broke it up by taking us into different treatment rooms. I got my own room and what was so funny … I wasn’t even a patient. I was there waiting for Tex.

  12. Lotta.

    Many states have statutes that give judges a great deal of immunity from civil suits. I don’t know if that would be the case here. Sometimes I wonder if this immunity actually gives magistrates of this caliber a free ticket to misbehave.

  13. She needs to have her fitness reviewed by whatever Tennessee has set up to police the judiciary. if she’s comfortable enough with her Christian-jaundiced outlook to rename someone else child you know she lets it inform all of her other decisions.

    I hope the mother brings a discrimination case against her. She should go for some money as long as she is resolved to be in the legal system with an appeal anyway. A good EO lawyer could do her some good and make a few bucks themselves.

  14. I wonder if this magistrate would be more at ease with taking humanity out of naming conventions and sticking with binary; replacing Messiah with…


  15. How could this judge be so closed minded? What’s next? Is she going to take the actions of one individual and associate those actions with every person who lives in that state? Good thing the other 49 states have no backwards people…

  16. We have two cousins… brothers… who have the names Mortimer Marx and Hubert Cosmo. (Last names omitted to protect the innocent!) While the vast majority of us are concerned that these two boys might want to take up MMA training right away to protect themselves from the taunting and teasing they are likely to encounter, no one is considering taking their parents to court to help protect their kids. (Besides, regardless of how anyone might feel about their naming practices, these two are incredibly good parents, and those are two amazingly happy boys!) This must be why the Jewish population in TN is pretty small: the judges elected are telling them that they can’t name their kids in ways that could get them beat up. I always thought that was part of growing up Jewish, and I was raised in California! Preposterous doesn’t even begin to try to figure this judge out. You stay classy, Tennessee!

  17. I wonder if “Lu Ann” should have been changed to the less “foreign” “Lou Ann” so as to make her life easier.

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