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August 13th, 2013
09:09 PM ET

Name 'Messiah' would offend, judge says

By Marlena Baldacci, CNN

(CNN) –Young Messiah, the "happiest baby in the world," according to his mother, is blissfully unaware that a judge ruled that his birth name promises to offend many in his Tennessee community.

His mother, Jaleesa Martin, and father, Jawaan McCullough, who are not married, couldn't agree on a last name for their baby, now 7 months old. That's why they ended up in the courtroom of Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew.

But the judge shifted the attention to the baby's first name, and said it should be changed.

"She just plainly came out and said, 'I'm going to change his first name,' because she didn't like it," Martin told CNN's Chris Cuomo on New Day on Wednesday.

In her ruling, Ballew wrote: "'Messiah' is a title that is held only by Jesus Christ" and that naming him this "places an undue burden on him that as a human being, he cannot fulfill." Her ruling also noted the large Christian population in the Tennessee county where the child was born.

Speaking to CNN affiliate WBIR, Ballew, wearing earrings in the shape of a cross, said this was the first time she had ordered a name change.

Martin, whose family is Baptist, said there was no religious motivation behind her pick; rather she'd heard the name on one of her favorite TV shows and thought it'd be a good name for her son. She also wanted another "M" name to go with her other two sons, Mason and Micah.

CNN could not reach McCullough for comment.

The parents were given one hour to pick a new name, and Ballew told them that if they couldn't reach a decision then she would "give him the name that she wanted him to have," Martin said.

The judge's pick: Martin DeShawn McCullough.

Martin said that she'll keep calling her son Messiah and that she has heard from supporters all over the country. She's also upset about reports she is being attacked online as a bad mother.

The Tennessee American Civil Liberties Union is following the case, saying it supports Martin and calling the judge's ruling unacceptable.

"The bench is not a pulpit, and using it as one, as this judge did, violates the parents' rights and our sense that people of all faiths will be treated fairly in the courtroom," Executive Director Hedy Weinberg said.

According to U.S. Social Security Administration statistics, Messiah was the fourth-fastest growing name for boys in the United States from 2011 to 2012. It ranks at Number 387, between the decidedly traditional names Scott and Jay.

"I'm sorry that you have your own beliefs, but you have no right to change my child's name," Martin said of Ballew.

Ballew declined CNN's request for comment. Martin has appealed the court's decision; it will go before the Cocke County chancellor next month.

CNN's Matt Dellinger contributed to this story.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church and state • Courts • Jesus

soundoff (1,280 Responses)
  1. Skeptacular

    Well, she's gone now!

    February 6, 2014 at 11:48 am |
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    November 25, 2013 at 4:53 am |
  3. JhonDaAnalyst

    I knew this day would come. Congratulations Messiah!! Oh yeah, Judge Ballew........step down or switch churches

    September 19, 2013 at 10:25 am |
  4. HotAirAce

    As predicted, the mentally ill delusional believer judge got told to fuck off by an appellate court. Separation of church and state is upheld – the USA is not a christian nation!

    September 19, 2013 at 12:00 am |
  5. jasmin loney

    Ti the rapper has a 14 year old son named messiah your majesty so there should be no difference

    September 18, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
  6. David

    I have met countless hispanic males with the name "Jesus". Whats the difference?

    September 18, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
  7. Gilbert Moore

    A magistrate named Lu Ann Ballew offends me. I think we should change her name to Self-absorbed Religious Lunatic.

    August 23, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
  8. tonytret54563456

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    August 22, 2013 at 7:46 pm |
    • Gilbert Moore

      You are an uneducated hunyuck who has no redeeming social value.

      August 23, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  9. David Kearns

    The literal translation of the Hebrew word moshiach (messiah) is “anointed,” which refers to a ritual of consecrating someone or something by putting holy oil upon it.[1 Sam. 10:1-2] It is used throughout the Hebrew Bible in reference to a wide variety of individuals and objects; for example, a Jewish king,[1 Kings 1:39] Jewish priests,[Lev. 4:3] and prophets,[Isa. 61:1] the Jewish Temple and its utensils,[Ex. 40:9-11] unleavened bread,[Num. 6:15] and a non-Jewish king (Cyrus king of Persia).[Isa. 45:1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messiah

    So even the supposition that it's a name reserved for Jesus, peace be upon him, is ridiculous. Can TN fire this women?

    August 21, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
  10. Rick Shultz

    As to Ms. Ballew's position, she is a Child Support Magistrate, NOT repeat NOT a judge. A magistrate is a civil officer with
    LIMITED administrative and judicial authority. She does NOT have the power to change a baby's name, and she WILL be
    reversed on appeal. Her religious myopia will also likely get her at least reprimanded if not discharged outright.

    August 21, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
  11. Rick Shultz

    "Sherron Teal
    No Jesus doesn't love us. Jesus is a fantasy that weak minded people make up. This judge is a stupid religious
    fanatic and she will be overturned on appeal. In America you can name your kids whatever you want! "

    I am sorry to disappoint you Ms. Atheist Sherron Teal, but the vast majority of the world's BEST scholars all agree that
    Jesus of Nazareth absolutely DID exist and there is plenty of evidence in the writings of ancient historians to prove it.
    You may argue about His Divinity all you want, but His existence is a proven fact, and arguing it simply makes you look
    fanatic and unintelligent.

    August 21, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
  12. Lexagon

    1) She's not a judge. Judges get paid, magistrates don't. 2) This is a blatant abuse of her position and if there's any justice, she'll be barred from the bench forever. 3) There's a little justice, but not much, and there seems to be less and less the further south you go, so I'm not holding my breath on 2.

    August 18, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • Akira

      Magistrates get paid, at least in my county; I agree with everything else you have said, though.

      August 18, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
  13. americansoldier

    It is down right un-american to tell someone they cant name there kid anything they want to. John, Peter, Paul, Moses, etc.. Those all offend me because they are the names of saints!!! Is there a difference with those names. NO!! If I want to name my kid Revolution Fighter. I can!!!! If I want to name him Allah. I can!!. If i want to name him satan. I can do that because I'm american and I am free to do that. Anyone who thinks that the names shaniqua or barbie or miffy or abraham is not offensive than they agree with me. That means that it doesn't matter what my reaction is to someone elses name. I'm american I get to feel how I want to feel but they can feel what they want to feel as well. I served my country. I didn't serve the bible. Nobody in the military dies in war for the bible or christianity, judiasm, buddhism, or muslimism. They are there to protect our freedoms as americans. One of those freedoms is the right to be free of religious persecution. This is religious persecution through our american court system. A religiously byast judge!! Fortunately freedom is supposed to be more important than religion here in america. Otherwise we should just rename the country russia or syria or egypt maybe?

    August 18, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
  14. A. Reasoner

    Judge? Not.

    August 18, 2013 at 8:10 am |
  15. miele

    Yes, I believe that a parent should have the right to name their child. However, choosing the name messiah, is clearly an ignorant choice for a name. Obviously the parents are ignorant, uneducated, hicks. I know a parent who wanted to name her child syphilia because it sounded nice. She read the word syphilis on an info card in her baby's bassinet at the hospital. Instead, of asking what it meant, she chose that word. Thankfully, the hospital staff said, "no, pick another name".There are now thousands of people with made up silly phonetic names, because there parents could neither read nor write. This is just another symptom of the decline in the American educational system.

    August 17, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • miele

      sorry, typo, their

      August 17, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
      • Reed

        Yeah? What kind of name is miele? Is that some kind of "silly, phonetic name" for "Miley"?

        August 18, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
      • Sara

        Miele is a common last name meaning "honey". I don't know if that's where the OP's name came from, but it's not particularly strange.

        August 24, 2013 at 12:26 am |
    • Sara

      If you look at the data people today are, on average, better educated than in previous years, scoring higher on IQ tests and all academic areas except arithmetic, the latter due to the common use of calculators. Simply put, more people now go to school for longer. As a result, at each educational LEVEL the scores are lower, but that again is just because more people are now getting educated.

      August 24, 2013 at 12:29 am |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    August 16, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
    • Lexagon

      Wishing doesn't make it so. Sorry.

      August 18, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
  17. Jake

    Welcome to the nation of Christian theocracy. That shows the world what "American freedom" really means.

    August 16, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      Really?? Jesus fed many with fish and bread............................ In americult the Masters "sleep with the fishes" courtesy of the PUblic Servants. Demobocracy in action.

      August 16, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
      • Akira

        Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homonthsexuals and Hillary
        Clinton.

        August 17, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
        • Akira

          Homosexuals. Don't know why it posted that way. I'm not the one with the lisp.

          August 17, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
        • Athy

          It's "lithp."

          August 17, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
        • Sherron Teal

          No Jesus doesn't love us. Jesus is a fantasy that weak minded people make up. This judge is a stupid religious fanatic and she will be overturned on appeal. In America you can name your kids whatever you want!

          August 17, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
        • Akira

          Twue.

          August 17, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
        • Athy

          Vewy twue.

          August 17, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
        • Reed

          I see spotting sarcasm isn't your forté, Sharon.

          August 18, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
  18. Athy

    All this talk about names and religion reminds of the fairly well-known black motion-picture actress, Butterfly McQueen. Butterfly is probably best known as the maid "Prissy" in the epic film "Gone with the Wind," but has played many other roles as well. Butterfly (1911 – 1995) hated her birth name "Thelma" so much that she legally changed it to her childhood nickname. Butterfly was an outspoken lifelong atheist. Here is what Butterfly McQueen once told a reporter about Christians: “I’m an atheist, and Christianity appears to me to be the most absurd imposture of all the religions, and I’m puzzled that so many people can’t see through a religion that encourages irresponsibility and bigotry. As my ancestors are free from slavery, I am free from the slavery of religion."

    August 16, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      That reminds me of one of my favourite quotes:
      "When the white man came, we had the land and he had the Bible. Now we have the Bible and he has the land"

      August 16, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
      • Athy

        Was that Mandela?

        August 16, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      In Egypt they have burning churches. In americult they have burning beds.

      August 16, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
      • Reed

        Wrong country/continent, pit.

        August 18, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
  19. WASP

    to the judge: SMFH! you should resign. you can not make judgements on the bench by using your FAITH to tell others how to live. the woman violated no law, thus the baby should keep it's name and P.OFF anyone that doesn't like it; he11 the kid can change it once they are old enough if they don't like it.

    August 16, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
    • Troll Spotter

      do you feel better now?

      August 16, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
      • WASP

        @troll: why yes, yes i do. now to go to said "judge" and tell her this personally...........namely seeing i'm from that region. ain't it grand. :) XD

        August 16, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
        • Troll Spotter

          since you obviously have so much emotion invested i guess its grand? I bet she's just dying to know your opinion.

          August 16, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
        • WASP

          hmmmmm you know troll, couldn't care if she likes my opinion or not, but the fact is naming your child muhammed, jesus, mary, or messiah truly doesn't matter one way or the other. she broke no law, thus she has a right to name her child what she likes.

          August 16, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
    • Simple Stuff

      Her decision evidences her incompetency to be a judge predicated upon obvious ignorance.

      August 17, 2013 at 8:59 am |
      • Lexagon

        We're going to need you to rewrite your post. CNN policy prohibits posts using words that you don't understand and/or can't spell. Thank you for your cooperation.

        August 18, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.