Tennessee Judge Who Renamed Child Now Facing Judicial Misconduct Charges

Submitted by Charlton Stanley (aka Otteray Scribe), Guest Blogger

Seal of TN JudiciaryLast 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.

The full filing is at this link. PDF warning, it may load slow.

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.

72 thoughts on “Tennessee Judge Who Renamed Child Now Facing Judicial Misconduct Charges”

  1. laserhaas, consider the part of the world where Jesus lived. Pretty good chance that he had dark skin. Consider Anwar Al-Sadat.

  2. She didn’t used to be angry but all the racism, the misogynistic behaviors, and the general lack of tolerance for “others” finally got to her. Just you wait, ‘Enry ‘Iggins, just you wait ’cause she’s waitin’ for ya.

  3. LOL – bettykath;

    I’ve always wondered about the possibility that – if G-d would send his only begotten son to test the earth and suffer its pains of humanity – what a tell it would be to say that G-d is black & the joke is upon all Caucasian humanity!

    I’m just sayin…………?

  4. Just wait til some of these folks find out that God is actually a Black woman, an angry Black woman.

  5. With judges they sometimes take on a role that is not proper. Men judges think they are daddy and women judges think they are mommy. The things they want to impose are not part of the job and transcend the legal dogma they are empowered to inflict on other people. This female judge is doing the mommy thing and her aunt DoeDoe might have been a nun.

  6. Rev. Clark,
    I do remember the good Benedictine Sisters teaching me something about Jesus throwing the merchants out of the temple and instructing us to give unto Ceasar what is Ceasar’s and to God what is God’s. I consider that statement as the original decree to keep religion out of politics. You may want to consider what Ghandi said about liking Christ, but not liking his Christians.

  7. Juliet,
    I dug your comment out of the spam filter. The filter was busy last night, and there were hundreds of spams in it. I hope I found all the real comments before emptying the trash.

    As for your experiences with the school system, I am in agreement. It is amazing to me how much lack of insight otherwise educated people have when it comes to civil rights, the Constitution and the rule of law. I can only imagie the howls if a Muslim group tried to hand out Q’urans to all the kids. Or Mormons handing out the Book of Mormon. I have said little about my own belief system here, but formally, we are members of the Episcopal Church. Wonder what they would say if I showed up to hand out the Book of Common Prayer?

    As for moving, I understand perfectly. There are blue islands in even the reddest states where tolerance is actually practiced. I hope your kids get good services. If you need help dealing with the schools, you know how to get in touch with me and I will be glad to help. I worked on the Jacob Pigford case in Jackson, MS. Jacob was a non-verbal autistic. He had a panic attack and fell to the floor. His teacher, who was built like a fire hydrant, grabbed him and jerked him up from the floor. It was a pretty ugly case.

    There was some home cookin’ between the chancery judge, the teacher, and the school board lawyer. She ruled in favor of the school, and against Jacob’s parents. It is really hard to win an appeal and the state supreme court upheld the verdict. I should note that at the time, while there were a couple of liberal judges on the Supreme Court, but the chief justice was a Dominionist and had support from some other right wing justices. Jacob’s story is at the link below. That was eleven years ago, and my blood pressure still goes up when I think about it. There are some photos in the link and they are hard to look at, even now.


  8. Rev. Clark,
    Did you even research the history and roots of the word “Messiah?” I did and find your assertion just as wrong headed as Lu Ann Ballew. Go back and read what I wrote in this story about it.

    It is amazing how some guy who is too freaking lazy to learn the origin of words in the English language pontificating about word meanings, and profess to know exactly what the supreme being who created the vast fourteen billion year old universe thinks about some the politics of minor carbon based life forms on a minor planet in a remote corner of that universe. Get a life, Rev. and tend to the log in your own eye.

  9. Hey Rev – this is why smart people walk away from babbling B.S. pulpit/puppetry.

    We are ALL child’s of G-d.

    Religious fanatics all claim that everyone but themselves is doomed to hell for not believing what they do.

    G-d himself provided human beings to have free will;
    and the right to be imperfect and forgiven.

    He/she also set down the laws of physics;
    if you jump off a building you go splat.

    Any judge who jumps off their “sworn oath of impartiality”
    goes SPLAT out of the robe.

    Humility is a virtue.

    Kindness and consideration also are.

    Thinking thyself holier than all others;
    is why Jesus said woe to Pharisees, Saducees and hypocrits

    who look to have the exalted positions at the head of table.

    N’est-ce pas!

  10. Juliet, I truly understand your anger and I empathize. Here’ my only request. I am a “freedom loving, small government” person and I am not like these folks in Kentucky. I know MANY folks that are “freedom loving, small government” people and they are not like those people jamming religion down you throats. You’re apparently in the belly of the beast. But, if you get out of there you’ll understand what I’m saying. There was a rally yesterday in DC that included, libertarians, tea party and progressives. They were brought together by Edward Snowden. This is getting little press because it doesn’t fir the message that we are a divided country. Harmony doesn’t sell, conflict does. The duopoly is scared to death of disparate groups like this uniting. It probably scares a few here also who would never be in the same room w/ those evil small government people. Open minds will prevail, I’m a positive person.

  11. Oro: Of course, and thank you. I am a Christian and I try to live my life in such a way that others might want to know why, despite all the problems I face, I’m so happy and content. I’m not interested in trying to change the fundies, like the Rev. Clark. People like that have to find their own way. I just won’t be like them, and I won’t subject my children to them.

  12. Juliet N.: “No, we’ll just move to a place that’s a little less “Christian.”

    I’ve started that trip, mostly inside my head (heart?). Some of if has to do with folks posting on this blog. Like bill mcwilliams, Rev. A. M. Clark, others of their ilk. Mike’s recommendation to read Hero with a Thousand Faces was a big push. Working with native Americans definitely re-adjusted my world view, and keeps me from physically moving.I will always be influenced by my upbringing, but I vow not controlled.

    Good luck and, if I may, Godspeed.

  13. To Juliet N.

    Your local ACLU probably has a one page cheat sheet re rights of students which, if the Gideons are handing out Bibles, you or other like minded individuals are likewise free to pass out the cheat sheets.

    1. If I were to do anything, I would go the full Monty and sue. I just don’t have that kind of extra energy. It seems like an unnecessary distraction, to me, from what schools are supposed to be doing — educating students. This kind of thing also puts immense pressure to participate on both students and teachers. My suggestion to folks hoping to persuade others to join their religion would be to stop forcing it down people’s throats.

      It’s funny how all these “freedom loving, small government” folks love to use their government pulpits to infringe on others’ rights.

  14. I don’t understand why the same charges aren’t leveled at your political leadership to clean out 9/10 of both houses and clean up local corruption.

  15. Maybe God is angry because of what the conservatives are doing. Last I checked my Bible, Jesus talked about feeding and clothing the poor, loving your neighbor as yourself.

  16. The reason this world is in so many problems is that (God) is angry
    with what the liberals are doing. The time is now to get our lives back with
    God, & be thankful for what is now left. of what was a Christian Nation.

  17. Juliet, I know it’s not easy but I think Freedom From Religion can take up the cause on your behalf. The ACLU needs a plaintiff, I believe. Freedom From Religion takes the forefront and may be able to act on your behalf w/ you remaining anonymous. The ACLU takes up all types of causes. They’re a general practioner. FFR is the specialist, this is what they do. I’m not pushing, I understand your situation. Just giving you info and an option.

    1. And I thank you for your suggestions. Nothing is anonymous around here. It’s not just this issue, it’s the overwhelming disdain these people have for anyone and anything non-white, non-hetero, non-Baptist, non-hunting, and non-wealthy. They had Duck Dynasty Day at the schools because e people on the show “give testimony.” My husband and I are Christians — albeit not of their variety — and we find it offensive and oppressive around here. We were looking for a house to buy, anyway. We’ll just be looking in one of the nearby cities, rather than here.

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