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. Melissa

    The name Messiah is childish but other than that, who cares. He will get teased horribly in school, possibly to the point that he will try to kill himself, so its up to his parents whether they want to subject their child to that.

    August 14, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
    • BRC

      Why would the name Messiah get teh kid picked on?

      August 14, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      Everything after this will be a letdown for the kid and he'll be subject to depression. Getting yer 15 minutes of fame so early in life can be hazardous when ya can't handle it.

      August 14, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
  2. scott

    This is an interesting one. I don't know what rights the judge has under the law, but having a name like Messiah could be an awkward and abused name depending upon the personality of the child. I think the mom's being a brat and very inconsiderate of her child's future.

    August 14, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
  3. John

    Another addition to the 73%

    August 14, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
  4. DJones

    I don't know if the judge had the right to change the name or not but the parents are idiots to name a child Messiah in the first place. It is like calling your child Lucifer or God or any other ludicrous name. That goes for the rest of the people who give their children absurd names, they ought to be ashamed.

    August 14, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      What's wrong with the name 'Lucifer'?

      August 14, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      Rights come from God. By default wrongs come from the "other" father.

      August 14, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
  5. relmfoxdale

    I don't get how she didn't know the word if she's Baptist?

    Also, it's funny how much people in the US whine over these controversies and judges' orders. In a number of other countries, there are "approved name" lists–it's entirely normal. And thank goodness, frankly. Someone should look out for these poor kids.

    August 14, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
    • SW1233

      Just waiting for someone to call their kid "Welfare"

      August 14, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
      • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

        Queen is not in the top 1000 names for any year of birth in the last 13 years.
        Please enter another name.

        August 14, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
  6. Jim, San Antonio

    Yet another case where the American Taliban rears its ugly head! Bet you everything I own that the judge is a republican.

    August 14, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!


      Ugly is not in the top 1000 names for any year of birth in the last 13 years.
      Please enter another name.

      August 14, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      You sayin' the CIA made a mistake training the Taliban??

      August 14, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
  7. lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

    The Big O is quite flattered with Messiah.

    August 14, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • Akira

      He doesn't call himeself Messiah. Where is all of your puritanical outrage over people calling him that?

      August 14, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
      • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

        Silly, he said that if he had a son lil Messiah would look just like him, or lil Kim.

        August 14, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
  8. Puzzled in Peoria

    Had somebody already taken "Der Fuhrer?"

    August 14, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
  9. JusDav

    Whoo Hoo. I am comment number 666 on the pros and cons of the name messiah.

    just wanted to throw that out there.

    as far as a comment. I know of a young girl named La-a. ok, not so weird, but they pronounce it Ladasha….go figure.

    the Judge is a judge, not a supreme commander of our ideals.
    rule on legalities, we do not care for or want your damn opinion Judge


    August 14, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • JusDav

      CARP. by the time I finished writing the last comment I was comment number 694
      got to work on my typing skills. 🙂


      August 14, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
  10. trilly3807

    How is this any different than all the people named "Jesus" in the Hispanic community? The judge had no right to change the first name of the child.

    (It is ludicrous that they are in court to begin with simply to decide his last name. That alone says we are dealing with two very immature people who cannot come to a simple compromise over their child's LAST name).

    August 14, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
  11. Rose

    I absolutely disagree with the name and believe no one who walks the face of this earth in this present day deserves that name but it scares me that a judge holds that kind of power, that they can choose what we name our children, I find it very scary.

    August 14, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      I like roses... roses are too special to be demeaned by calling a child 'Rose'. What an awful thing to do to a child, for they will forever be compared to an actual rose... but will always fall short of their awesomeness

      August 14, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
  12. Johnross1968

    Disbar this Judge.

    August 14, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
  13. Amanda

    Jesus is an offensive name in America. In latin lands it's not. Hence why someone who comes to the states named Jesus they choose to pronounce it with the latin accent "Hey-Zeus" so as not to offend.

    Any American who named their child Jesus or Messiah would face considerable ridicule in most American communities.

    While I agree with the judge's views – I do not agree that the judge has the right to change the name. But we've seen judges change a baby's name from Hitler as this also would have a backlash. Many on this forum have no problem with that however.

    It's not about equal rights, it's about agendas.

    August 14, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
    • Jez

      Jesus is NOT an offensive name in america? Where do you live – rual Alabama??

      August 14, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      Americult, easy to get in but to get out, not so much.

      August 14, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • Ab

      They don't pronounce it 'Hay zoos' so as not to offend but because that is how you say the name Jesus in Spanish. The Lord is called the same thing. Spanish J sounds like an H.

      August 14, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • b--dog

      Are you serious? You think it's called "Hey-suse" so it doesn't offend? Really? WOW. How about it's because all J's in the Spanish language make the H sound.

      August 14, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
    • S.M.

      You realize that Jesus is pronounced the same in Spanish whether they're talking about Jesus from the Bible or Jesus their kid.... They don't have a special pronunciation just so that English speakers aren't offended. It's just a name, like any other biblical name. The term Messiah isn't typically used as a name but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be allowed. People have a right to name their child whatever they want and shouldn't be restricted by someone elses religious views.

      August 14, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
    • Dippy

      That's bullshit, Amanda. Apparently you have no clue about Spanish rules of punctuation. Where do you live, anyway?

      August 14, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
      • Dippy

        Pronunciation, sorry. Fucking spellcheck got me.

        August 14, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
        • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

          Watch out for the terminator.

          Oh, ooooh........he yo daddy??

          August 14, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
  14. lol?? Pithiest, YES!!


    Whatever is not in the top 1000 names for any year of birth in the last 13 years.
    Please enter another name.

    August 14, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
  15. Judge Mama June

    Another case of religion rearing it's ugly head.

    August 14, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • Amanda

      Define religion.

      August 14, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • Jez

      I'm sure in ancient Greece, Zeus was an offensive name. The judge believes in a book of tales and has the gall to legislate according to her wacky beliefs. What ever happened to separation of church and state. This needs to stop.

      August 14, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
      • scott

        It's funny how everyone is blaming this on "religion". Some names are considered inappropriate due to how they would work out in society at large. Kids can be mean with regular names, and giving a kid a name like "Messiah" could be terrible. I side with the Judge, reluctantly, on this one.

        August 14, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
  16. Chris

    if they hadnt had to go to court to decide the last name in the first place, nobody would have known what the heck the kids first name was. poor kid is already in trouble with parents who cant get their act together.

    August 14, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      Beastie marriages have a high failure rate. They upset the balance of power.

      August 14, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
  17. Sivick

    in the judge's defense... that is a horrible name.

    August 14, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
  18. jess

    so we can name kids Jesus but not Messiah? Im so glad I don't live in backwoods Tennessee. The judge also sounds a little racist. So stupid

    August 14, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
  19. Ron

    Religion gets funnier every day. If this was a muslim judge the court would have been bombed already.

    August 14, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
  20. Vicky

    Totally ridiculous. The parents should be able to name the child whatever they want. The child can change it later if he wants. Geez

    August 14, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!


      Whatever is not in the top 1000 names for any year of birth in the last 13 years.
      Please enter another name.

      August 14, 2013 at 3:09 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.