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. Lordjesus

    The real issue here is being totally overlooked. It's the sad fact that this young woman had this child with a man to whom she is not married and has two other ones at home. The disintegration of the African-American family by virtue of poverty, poor schools and lack of opportunity is the glaring issue here, but it would cost time and money to address that, and there's another reality show on we just can't afford to miss.

    August 14, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
  2. marcus

    The parents names are "Jaleesa" and "Jawaan" – the judge should have changed those stupid idiotic names as well. In fact, judges all over the country should be changing the names of all the poor idiots with stupid names like "Janaenae" or "Duhwayne" or "Obama" – – what kind of messed up parents name there kids these god awful names anyway? Or worse – let's name the kid 'Apple" or "Sky" or 'Tampax" – – what a bunch of lousy stupid people we all are. No wonder such bad thongs happen to us – we deserve it.

    August 14, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • Lordjesus

      You left out North West.

      August 14, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
    • me

      Oh, yes, I see your point "Marcus"... where was the judge when your brother and sister had you?

      August 14, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • sam stone

      you had a bad thong happen to you? perhaps you should wear your pants up higher

      August 14, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • J.R.

      Your name offends me. Let's go see Judge Ballew.

      August 14, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • Terry

      Are you dim? Obama is the POTUS's surname. Since it appears I have to explain that to you, that means his LAST name.
      Care to share yours, Gomer?

      August 14, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Who are you 'marcus' to judge if a name is 'stupid' or not? America is an amalgam of cultures and languages...

      August 14, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
  3. tagapay3

    Did this judge just change this kid's name to ...Toby?

    August 14, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • Lordjesus


      August 14, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • bahaha

      Pefect response

      August 14, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
  4. Servant

    Every knee will bow. Every tongue will confess.

    Jesus Christ is LORD. To the glory of God the Father. You better wake up and recognize.

    August 14, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • PS

      Well hooray for brow-beating and shaming that's supposedly in God's name, because surely that ALWAYS wins over converts as opposed to loving thy neighbor and setting good examples. *rolls eyes*

      August 14, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • sam stone

      snivelling fvcking slave.....err, i mean christian....no, i was right in the first place

      August 14, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • sam stone

      come on, servant....jeebus is waiting for you. do you have tall buildings where you live? the savior you desire to beg to is only a step away

      August 14, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      If we needed an indicator of your intelligence and/or education level "You better wake up and recognize" surely gives you away...

      August 14, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      "You better wake up and recognize" said the sleeper.

      August 14, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • Sherron Teal

      You're a fricking nut case! Live it up now dummy because this is it! THeir is no here after dummy!!

      August 14, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
      • sam stone

        don't listen to sherron....jeebus is waiting. take that big step to eternity now, and avoid the traffic jam when the savior comes back and saves righteous fvcks like you

        August 14, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
      • Dippy

        There, not their.

        August 14, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
      • Dippy's helper

        It's hereafter, not here after.

        August 14, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
  5. Lordjesus

    My name is Lordjesus Godofall. Not really, but I do live in Tennessee. Why is it conservatives only believe in smaller government until it involves them shoving their religion down our throats (or up a woman's uterus)? Our 'free' society is becoming less so by the day thanks to those like this judge who would much prefer a theocracy. Another member of the American Taliban.

    August 14, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
  6. ELR

    So I think it is perfectly OK to give your child an unusual name. My name is unusual and I love it. There is, however, a line between giving your child the gift of unique name and possibly harming his/her social and economic future. There are people who may find this kids name offensive, and that is totally their problem, but to the extent that he can't get a job or a date it will be his issue. Not liking the fact and being ignorant of the facts are separate issues.

    August 14, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • PS

      Well hold on here... you're talking about the child's future in what, 15 or 16 years? I understand there's some serious ignorance and stubbornness around some parts of TN but you can't tell me that by the time this little baby's old enough to worry about those things, the mindset of that community's going to remain unchanged... can you?

      August 14, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
  7. DC

    LOL Fools that still believe there is a god.

    August 14, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • PS

      LOL, fool who believes being a troll and a religious bigot is going to convert millions into being atheists.

      August 14, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
      • FKell

        lol at the person who is feeding the "troll", even after mentioning the fact

        August 14, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
  8. Bob

    Only a women of color would give a child this name

    August 14, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      stupid names are given by plenty of non-colored people as well... your point is pointless...

      August 14, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Everyone has a color. There are no achromatic people, including albinos.

      August 14, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
      • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

        Albinos get slaughtered in afrika. Girly socie men in americult don't care.

        August 14, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
    • Akira

      You would be wrong there. Look it up.

      August 14, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
  9. godzuki

    There are certain facts missing from this story! 1) the dad's real name is Joseph, not Jawaan, 2) the baby was conceived while mother Jaleesa attended Immaculate Conception Academy in San Francisco, and 3) the full name of the Child Support Magistrate is – Lucifer Ann Ballew, and her friends/colleagues generally call her "Lu". Read between the lines peoples – THE END IS NEAR!!!

    August 14, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
  10. Andrea

    Is this America.
    I'd much rather refer to a child by the name Messiah than Aquanesha or Billy Bob!
    If this woman is allowed to utilize the bench to imposed her personal agenda upon one's name, what other imposistions is she implementing that are probably going unchecked.

    There is a diference in being spiritual and being a religious fanatic!

    August 14, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      OK, what difference??

      August 14, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
  11. Concerned

    I'm in Tennessee, and my son's middle name is 'God'. True, he wasn't born here. But, this judge had no right to change his first name. Legally speaking, that wasn't even the dispute. So, it should not have be taken up by the court. If her view was out of concern for the child safety, then those who act unchristlike, causing harm, should be arrested and punished.

    August 14, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      Legally speaking socies want it all.

      August 14, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
      • Akira

        You'd be first to bitch if you felt one of your Constitutional rights were being infringed on.

        August 14, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
  12. corey

    We have the first amendment for a god damn good reason! Just because it offends some doesn't outlaw it. This judge is putting their religious beliefs before the civic duty as a judge. If they had such a problem with religious names then why are people aloud to name their kids Jesus or Mohamed?

    August 14, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      The gubmint has a civic duty to get out of the marriage business. They turned it into a farce.

      August 14, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
      • Bebe

        I want to renew my vows. When do you think God is available to perform this service, (as far as I know, it should be a great event, being as He has never performed one personally thus far)?
        He isn't answering me, and you seem to be his good little Socie Secretary.

        August 14, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
        • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

          Renew?? Respect your hubby and see what happens.

          August 14, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
      • midwest rail

        Contemporary Christians never complained about the government being "in the marriage business" until marriage equality became a reality. Now they howl day and night.

        August 14, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
  13. Brandi

    The parents should have been adult enough to come to a decision on the child's name without court interference & this would have never happened.

    August 14, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
    • Chris

      Why are you blaming the parents? The dispute they had was not with the first name it was with the last name. I'm wondering what other judgments this biased judge has passed using her religious beliefs. This is unacceptable!!

      August 14, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
  14. laurenjones14

    Jesus Christ is Lord and the only Messiah

    August 14, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
    • oscarguijo

      I have to disagree because I'm Jewish.

      August 14, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • mason

      The judge is as nuts as believers in the zombie jesus are

      August 14, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • penquin

      In your opinion. The judge has no right to impose her beliefs on these parents. What about all the men named Jesus? Very common name in the Hispanic community.

      August 14, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      "Jesus Christ is Lord and the only Messiah"

      You state that like it's a fact. It isn't.

      August 14, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      "Jesus Christ is Lord and the only Messiah" LOL...and Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny are real!

      August 14, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
      • *


        (dang that Tim Allen!)

        August 14, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          Ha! Got me! Firefox auto-corrected my spelling...

          August 14, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
      • laurenjones14

        But you believe in Satan? I'll pray for all of you guys, because time is running out. Mock me, it doesn't offend me. It just makes me feel sorry for you.

        August 14, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
        • sam stone

          good for you, lauren....you pray for us, we'll think for you

          spend lots of time on your knees, do you?

          August 14, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
        • sam stone

          condescending cvnt

          August 14, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          "because time is running out" it is? My but you're an ignorant twat...

          August 14, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • sam stone

      free people do not need a messiah, lauren.

      tell me, were you born into this spiritual sycophantry?

      follow the religion of your family?

      August 14, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
      • laurenjones14

        The only way you can be free is through Him. I am blessed with Christian parents. However, I have had my own experiences with God. You can too if you allow Him.

        August 14, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      There were plenty of other claimants to the role of Messiah at or around Jesus' lifetime like Simon of Peraea, Athronges, Menahem ben Judah, Vespasian, Simon bar Kokhba, etc.
      Most of them fit quite a number of the old Jewish prophecies regarding the Messiah.
      And lest we forget, a lot of the core prophecies "fulfilled" by Jesus are up for debate.
      For example: They say that Jesus being born of a virgin fulfills the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy.
      However, the Hebrew term in Isaiah “almah” which means a “young woman”, not "virgin",
      Christians assert that Jesus is from David's line, but tribal line cannot be passed on through adoption. Jesus cannot be "son of David" through Joseph.Neither can it pass through the mother, and even if it did, Mary was not descended of David through Solomon.

      August 14, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
  15. Woman

    As long as the name is not demeaning, like Stupid Jones, I don't see why the judge can change it. If the parents can't do Messiah, they should change the name to the African (Kenya) ethnic group name which is also Native American warrior : "Massai".

    August 14, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
    • ThereIsNoGod

      It would be demeaning to the kid if he grows up and decides to be atheists.

      August 14, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
  16. Allen

    That baby looks more like a Steve or maybe Robert. He doesn't look like a Messiah.

    August 14, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
  17. me

    Wow... first, we have a mother that is so clueless that she cannot see what she is doing to her child... very selfish... then, somehow, something so dumb only gets worse because a judge who is obviously more cuckoo than the mom decides what name is "not allowed"... guess it's not as bad as the morons who tried to name their kid Hitler, or the other morons who tried for Osama bin Laden... which leads me to the question... do Muslim extremists kill people who name their child Muhammad after the prophet, and then photograph him?

    August 14, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
    • ME II

      ummm.... No
      There are probably millions of children of Muslims named Mohammed or variations there of, many of which I assume have been photographed.

      August 14, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
    • ME II

      p.s. Mohammed is not the Messiah to Muslims, he is a prophet. Consider reading a bit on the subject.

      August 14, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
      • me

        @Me II... um... how about reading closer rather than assume? My post A) referred to Mohammed as a "prophet" not a a "messiah" and B) I specified that the child was named after the prophet. As a comparison, I'm guessing most Mexicans who name their child Jesus are not doing so for any reason other than it is a name... not necessarily as a direct connection to Jesus Christ...

        @BRC... can you point to the sentence where I mentioned he would get picked on? No, didn't think you could... now I will acknowledge that it would be easy to think I was inferring that, and I won't shy away from that... but I also think it's pretty obvious that a kid named Messiah would be picked on. However, my comment was more about the child having to live up to the expectations that being called "Messiah" repeatedly every day for your life might place a tad bit of undue pressure on that child. If you are not familiar, you might want to do a bit of research on how the name of a child will have an impact on their lives... I don't think I'm going out on a limb in suggesting "Messiah" will be a tough name to live with... just my opinion...

        August 14, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
        • BRC

          You make a good point. I took it that you meant the kid would get picked on, and you never said that. Sorry. As for having a difficult life because of the name "Messiah"; I don't personnally see it. I think all kids, teens, and even many or most adults are concerned about living up to other's expectations, I don't think having a unique name is going to make that worse. Unless of course the person thinks that being named "Messiah" actually means they are or have an obligation to be one, in which case they were going to have a hard road regardless of what their name was.

          August 14, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
        • ME II

          My point about Mohammed being a prophet was directed towards an implied connection between Jesus and Mohammed and therefore Christians and Muslims. In other words, perhaps a better comparison might be, 'would Muslims name their children Prophet?'

          August 14, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
        • ME II

          connection -> correlation

          August 14, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
        • BRC

          Also I disagree with a few of your points. For starters I don't think it's obvious that a kid named Messiah would be picked on for being named "Messiah". WHY would that be obvious is the question. And 2, Latin culture is actually DEEPLY tied to Christianity and especially Catholicism, and I think you'll find that Jesus was actually originally meant to be related to the Jesus, as a tribute to his importance. It makes more sense that a culture would use a name that is central to their predominate religion BECAUSE it is a key part of that religion, then just because it's a coincidence.

          August 14, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • BRC

      I'm think ing not considering the fact that Muhammad is an EXTREMELY common name. LOTS of cultures consider giving a a child the name of a revered person to be a sign of respect and admiration. Apparently Some Christians do not share that belief and feel that some words are super special and can ONLY be used to apply to one person.

      And can you give a reason why the name Messiah would get the child picked on?

      August 14, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
    • BuffaloBen

      Better yet: would they kill someone named Muhammed who takes a selfie?

      August 14, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
      • ME II

        My guess, it would only be blasphemy if the prophet himself did it.

        August 14, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
      • ME II

        p.s. Technically, It may not even be blasphemy.

        August 14, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
  18. i am confused

    That judge completely overstepped her authority... Having said that, I also think this judge would have been doing this kid a huge favor by saving him from the all of the unnecessary ridicule the child is certain to face in the future if the judge did actually have the authority to force this kid's crack head mother to change the child's name!!!!

    August 14, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
    • ME II

      @You are confused,
      "...crack head mother..."

      What makes you think she's on crack?

      August 14, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
      • netteboo

        exactly what i was thinking...idiot

        August 14, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
    • BRC

      Can you give a reason why the name Messiah would get the child picked on? Noone has yet.

      August 14, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
      • Richard Cranium

        Ask any of the hundreds of people that carry that name currently.

        August 14, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
        • BRC

          If I know one I would. If any of them were reading this blog it would great if they chimed in ith their experiences.

          August 14, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • Akira

      Between the two, the judge showed more of a propensity to have been smoking crack when she decided this was a proper ruling.

      Evolve, please?

      August 14, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        The judge is a christian and in TN... they have no idea what "evolve" means...

        August 14, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • James

      So because she names her son Messiah she's a crack head? Might want to put the pipe down before you start making accusations because that is beyond ridiculous

      August 14, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • Lordjesus

      I went to school with a girl named Margaret Pickett. Normal enough, yes? Everyone called her Margaret Pick-at-my-butt. Kids are kids. And so are a lot of adults. There's no escaping human cruelty no matter what your name. How about people try being more kind and considerate?

      August 14, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
  19. Amy

    I don't think it would offend. I'm christian, that's like saying you should ban all biblical/Hebrew names. I say leave the mom alone if the child doesn't like his name when he grows up let him change it. People name their children Jesus. I think the judge is way off on this.

    August 14, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
  20. Jez

    This judgmental judge needs to be debarred. Period.

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

      She crossed the line, and she absolutely needs to be relieved of her job. Her past rulings need to be revisited, also.

      August 14, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
      • Amy


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

      It's just a catfight. The kitties fell outta the tree into the pool during the melee. You might say they are outta their element.

      August 14, 2013 at 3:55 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.