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. sam

    So will this judge get mad because Metta World Peace isn't living up to the standard of what he named himself?

    August 14, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      When's the last time the state gubmints had any representation in the former USA?? Senators are elected by PUblic Servants, women, and children. Can't beat that voting block.

      August 14, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
      • Akira

        When are you moving out of this country and into the Promised Land? I'd be willing to bet the Beastie will help with your moving costs.

        August 14, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
    • afroblue

      and if this judge knew anything about history she would know that the term messiah was used years before Jesus walked the earth. She is is very ignorant of history when she stated she only knows of one man who had that name. I can't believe this is my America!

      August 14, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Imagine all the por girls named Chasti ty.

      August 14, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
      • Akira

        Lol. Or the pressure put on those girls named "Faith".

        August 14, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
      • sam stone

        Or Pandora

        August 14, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
      • In Santa we trust

        Or Cassandra

        August 14, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
      • Athy

        Or Mary.

        August 14, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
    • afroblue

      Yes Sam, I know someone whose name is God-begins, that is his first name and he is a grown man. that name is on his birth certificate and his name all through school.

      August 14, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
  2. Dana

    So, she's Christian and never heard of Messiah. Wow. Tells me a lot. Secondly, because of her faith, wouldn't it be a sin of pride as well?

    August 14, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
    • Akira

      Doesn't matter if it's "sinful" to you or not. What the judge did was unconstitutional.
      Is naming your child Jesus sinful? Mary? Noah? Sarah? Mathew? Isaih?


      August 14, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • afroblue

      I think the judge had some nerve to tell the parents they only have one hour to change the baby's name or she will name him. What audacity!The unmittigated gall, that is pure ego unleashed. Some people struggle with names for their children while they are still in the womb, and she is gonna give them an hour. Who is she really? I can't get over that! ow are you going to name someone else's child. that's just ego in overdrive1 and then she has the brass balls to name the child! Really who is she? Please somebody tell me, I need to know.

      August 14, 2013 at 7:37 pm |
  3. Rhonda

    I know a family with the surname Messiah

    August 14, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Do they report any trouble with harrassment?

      August 14, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
  4. yukon409

    Could have named the kid (South East JaleesaJawaan Martin-McCullough).

    August 14, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      Hyp-hens have a chick flavor. But ya never know who's on top!

      August 14, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
  5. Vic

    Here is a quote from a link ("http://www.askthejudge.info/can-i-change-my-name/") by Akira:

    "Sometimes the courts have ruled against name changes for teens. In a 1992 Pennsylvania case, a mother′s attempt to change her son′s last name following a bitter divorce was denied. The name change wasn′t considered to be in the boy′s best interests. – See more at: http://www.askthejudge.info/can-i-change-my-name/#sthash.4YMphGge.dpuf"

    So the judge "has a say" in such matters! Hmm..very interesting!

    August 14, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Vic – tap dance and obfuscate all you wish. A judge can't base a decision solely on THEIR religious views, and cite said religion in their ruling. She screwed up. Deal with it.

      August 14, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
    • Akira

      1) I said I didn't know the content, but...
      2) "... son′s LAST name following a bitter divorce was denied. The name change wasn′t considered to be in the boy′s best interests."

      The judge in the Messiah changed the name, and wrote it in the descision, for purely religious reason.
      She said zip about it being in the child's last interest.
      You know very little about Family Law, and I appreciate that, but you are grasping at straws, dear.
      She, and you, are wrong.

      August 14, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
      • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

        Abe never even considered S&G family law, Akira. Women wanna be THE BOSS! Can't work, killers.

        August 14, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
        • Akira

          Did you suffer a stroke while writing that? It sure sounds like it.

          August 14, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
        • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

          Akira, your last comment sounds like you've been hangin' with the spoiled rich kid, Buddha. He wants your sins. Maybe a little communin'.

          August 14, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
        • Akira

          Inquiring about your health because your posts are increasingly becoming intelligible, contradicting your proud use of your username. Perhaps you're projecting?

          August 14, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
      • Vic

        "According to Judge Ballew, it is the first time she has ordered a first name change. She said the decision is best for the child, especially while growing up in a county with a large Christian population."


        Watch the video. The judge clearly stated in her own words that it's not in the best interest of the child!

        August 14, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          The case before the judge was to resolve the last name that the child would have. She took it upon herself, because of her religious belief, to change the first name. She was wrong and will be overruled on appeal.
          Why do you agree with her, Vic?

          August 14, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
        • Vic

          This is not about agreeing with her, this is about understanding the technicality of the situation, and that it is not about violating somebody's rights!

          August 14, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
        • midwest rail

          Vic – the second she cited HER religious beliefs as the basis for her ruling, she DID violate this woman's rights. She was wrong. Deal with it.

          August 14, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
        • Sara

          Vic, did she change every name that was not in the best interest of the child or only this one, which she gave religious reasons for rejecting when she said that messiah was a ti tle only ever earned by Jesus Christ? Is she also rejecting names like Cooper, Mason, Deacon and Marshall? Answer those questions and you'll have your answer.

          August 14, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
        • Johnny

          At least the judge is smart enough to realize that you can't expect Christians to treat others with any respect.

          August 15, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
      • Vic

        "According to Judge Ballew, it is the first time she has ordered a first name change. She said the decision is best for the child, especially while growing up in a county with a large Christian population."


        Watch the video. The judge clearly stated in her own words that it's not in the best interest of the child to have that name!

        August 14, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      The best interests of Beasties are guns. No butter, no Bible. The Messiah said so.

      August 14, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      I think Vic just takes it personally because his full name is "Victor Timothy Ofabuse"...

      August 14, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
    • afroblue

      If was a divorce proceeding it probably had to do with the last name in which a judge may be able to intervene, but a first name is questionable.

      August 14, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
    • Saraswati

      The judge has a say as in the case you described when there are two parents who disagree. This was not the case here.

      August 14, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
      • afroblue

        Exactly! and the disagreement was only concerning whose last name the child should have, it had nothing to do with the first name. the judge was just over steeoing her boundaries on that one.

        August 14, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
  6. Sam Yaza

    im preaty sure their some one out their named GOD

    kind of surprised Kanye West hast change his name to it yet

    hay my PSN ID was GOD

    August 14, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
    • Akira

      Kanye certainly has that God complex, plus he named his daughter North West, so...

      August 14, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
      • midwest rail

        Akira, word on the street is the daughter's middle name is Bynorth.

        August 14, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
        • Akira

          That would be fitting, midwest rail.
          Personally, I thought they should have named their daughter Elphaba.

          August 14, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
  7. Karin

    I met a guy named Robin Hood once. Even showed me his drivers license to prove it. This judge needs her license revoked. She has no right to name the child. She would have a field day in Mexico with all the guys named Jesus.

    August 14, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • Kristina

      I work with a "Michael Jackson" it's his real name and he's white. LOL

      August 14, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      knew a Richard face once, and a Samuel L. Jackson

      August 14, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • Akira

      I used to work at a company that had a Peter Creamer III as one of its VP's. I also went to HS with a BoJangles Jones.

      August 14, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
    • Bob Porter

      I work with a guy named Michael Bolton.

      August 14, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
      • sam

        That no-talent ass clown!

        August 14, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
      • Athy

        I went to school with a guy named Jack Shit. He took so much ribbing about his name that he went to court and changed it to Joe Shit.

        August 14, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
        • Thinker...

          I think I would just have my last name changed. That is a really unfortunate last name.

          August 15, 2013 at 11:10 am |
  8. Sam Yaza

    Akira i am hereby changing your name to Waffle, for your name will upset Shintoist and Otaku alike.

    August 14, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
    • Akira

      Ah, but then that would offend Belgians and the Eggo faction, Sam.

      And it would be as legally binding as this silly order once it gets overturned on appeal.

      August 14, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
      • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

        Who's payin' for the banana 'peal?? Easy terms from the pharisees?? Banana republics are all alike.

        August 14, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      to bad your name is Waffle i don't like you using the name Akira its reserved I'm an Otaku and i find you name to be insulting, for you cannot mach up to the awesomeness that is the Movie Akira, and if you last name is Watanabe you have to change that to because Cowboy Bebop is EPIC

      yes i am aware how common those name are

      August 14, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
      • Akira

        Quite frankly, Sam, I don't care. Feel free to pass my posts by.

        August 14, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
  9. Kristina

    Can I also say that hispanic people name their children Jesus.....Yes they are not ordered to change their childs name...so what's the difference between Jesus and Messiah? really? this judge needs a reality check.

    August 14, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
  10. Loriey

    The Jackson family has a son named Jermagesty....I would for an infant company at one time....a couple called to register saying they just had new born twins....Congratulations I stated....I'd be happy to register them...what are their names please?
    Bacardi & Bellini they proudly stated....those poor kids

    August 14, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
  11. Kristina

    The Courts have NO RIGHT to change a baby's first name because THEY don't like it. The court case was in regards to the LAST NAME not the first name. I pray this gets turned over on a appeal. that is just abhorent.

    August 14, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • Loriey

      Kristina, what a lovely name....but then your parents could have named you Tunafish.....Doddohead.....get the point

      August 14, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
      • Kristina

        Yes they could have and that would have been my name until I was old enough to get it changed. I could come up with some nickname or use my middle name.

        The point is "messiah" is not dodohead or tunafish.....and there are people out there with kids name Lemon Jello and North West. No matter what you name a child other children will figure out how to make fun of it. They went for a last name change not a first name. I still stick to that. Messiah is not a name that is going to get him ridiculed like Tunafish or Dodobird....that's extreme. Messiah is actually a common name in this country.

        August 14, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
        • Akira

          Lemonjello (pronounced le Mahn gel lo) has a brother, Orangejello (pronounced or ahn gel lo). This is absolutely true. There was another case where there was a girl named (pronounced sha tee ad) spelled...you guessed it...Shithead.

          August 14, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
      • J.R.

        I see you've change your name from "Shitforbrains. Don't you get the concept of separation of church and state, or doesn't your brother/husband let you out of the house?

        August 14, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
      • tommyd357

        Frank Zappa named his kids Moon Unit and Dwezel, so what? It`s not the government`s job to decide what you can name your kid even if it`s Apple or North West.

        August 14, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
  12. XanJester

    This judge should immediately be removed from the bench for imposing her religious beliefs on others and abusing her position. This is a court of law. Not a court of Christianity. This judge is a disgrace to the entire judicial system. smh

    August 14, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      "................. This is a court of law. Not a court of Christianity..................."

      Christians passed the bar by failing the law. You are still a work in progress, unless of course, you're still in school, sonny. err boy.

      August 14, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
      • Akira


        August 14, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • bcats

      I agree and disagree. Blacks are always making names up, she could have come up with something else. Who names a baby messiah! The judge was in the wrong but naming a baby messiah is just ridiculous too. What about Trayvon or Donte' or Ruffus.

      August 14, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
      • J.R.

        Yeah, I would pay to be in the hospital when you attempted to tell anyone what to name their child.
        Guess you missed the memo that Messiah was the 4th fastest growing name in 2012.
        What's your first name? Gomer? Billy Bob? Garnet? Billy Joe?

        August 14, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
        • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

          Check out the name , Legion.

          August 14, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
        • J.R.

          Legion is your name? Bet you have 666 as your tramp stamp too, right?

          August 14, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
  13. Russell

    This reminds me of the poor kid whose parents tried to name '4Real'

    August 14, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
  14. ME II

    Brian: I am NOT the Messiah!
    Arthur: I say you are Lord, and I should know. I've followed a few.

    August 14, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • ME II

      Brian's mother: He's not the Messiah. He's a very naughty boy! Now, piss off!

      August 14, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
  15. Felix Sinclair

    Another jacka__ on the bench.

    August 14, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      Sitting on a park bench
      Eyeing idle girls with bad intent.
      Snot running down his nose
      Greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes.
      Aqualung my friend, don't you start away uneasy
      Drying in the cold sun
      Watching as the frilly panties run.
      Aqualung my friend
      Feeling like a dead duck
      Spitting out pieces of his broken luck.
      Aqualung my friend, don't you start away uneasy.

      More lyrics: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/j/jethro_tull/

      August 14, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
      • Akira

        Eyeing little girls, isn't it? In any case, Aqualung sounds only slightly less qualified that this judge.

        August 14, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
        • midwest rail

          It is, Akira, but our resident mysoginist didn't wish to incriminate himself.

          August 14, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
        • midwest rail

          " misogynist "

          August 14, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
        • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

          You gotta admit there's sumpin' wacko about men wearing black dresses err robes. What are they, flashers?? 'Sides it gave da woemen an opening.

          August 14, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
        • J.R.

          Lol??, go ask what Jesus wore, since you are apparently too stupid to know he had a few robes of his own.

          August 14, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
        • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

          Won't argue His dress but it's about the money!. Jesus make anybody take Him to WalylMart??

          August 14, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
  16. rchaud

    The judge is just another typical religious freak. One of those that dont know where the bible ends and they begin

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

      Quite frankly, the mom seems like a religious freak to be naming her kid that (and a narcissist to boot).

      Nevertheless, she should be allowed to name her kid that, no matter how stupid it is. Seems like the judge is overstepping her bounds quite a bit.

      August 14, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
  17. William Shakespeare


    O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
    Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
    Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
    And I'll no longer be a Capulet.


    [Aside] Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?


    'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
    Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
    What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
    Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
    Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
    What's in a name? that which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet;
    So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
    Retain that dear perfection which he owes
    Without that t!tle. Romeo, doff thy name,
    And for that name which is no part of thee
    Take all myself.


    I take thee at thy word:
    Call me but love, and I'll be new baptized;
    Henceforth I never will be Romeo.

    August 14, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
  18. Vic

    In general, why is it that a court judge has to approve a change of name legally? What is the premise of law on that?

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

      Probably to discourage frequent name changes

      August 14, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Simple. Names are legally registered since so many things are tied to an individuals name. For instance can I just change my name to avoid prosecution, or legal debt?

      August 14, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
      • Vic

        Yeah..but why a judge?! A driver license is state issued identification, an SSN is government issued card, etc., yet, you don't see a judge for those!

        August 14, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
        • afroblue

          Only the last name Vic, not the first. It was a divorce proceeding Vic.

          August 14, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
        • Richard Cranium

          You really aren't good at critical thinking are you. A judge can do a background check and veirfy that the person can legally change the name. They can make sure that debts are continued or judgements continued and can insure that there is no other legal reason to not have the name changed.

          August 15, 2013 at 7:59 am |
      • ME II

        Both of those usually require a birth certificate to get them, at least the first time. Changing your name on one of those without a marriage licence, would probably require a court order/docu.ment.

        August 14, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
        • Vic

          I understand the birth certificate part but not the marriage license one! Anyway, still, why a judge?!

          August 14, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
        • Akira

          Jeez, Vic, Google is your friend!


          I didn't look at the content, but maybe it will answer your questions.

          August 14, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
        • Vic

          Wow look at that:

          "Sometimes the courts have ruled against name changes for teens. In a 1992 Pennsylvania case, a mother′s attempt to change her son′s last name following a bitter divorce was denied. The name change wasn′t considered to be in the boy′s best interests. – See more at: http://www.askthejudge.info/can-i-change-my-name/#sthash.4YMphGge.dpuf"

          That's from your link Akira.

          So the judge "has a say" in such matters! Hmm..

          August 14, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      Some gubmint church in Europe tricked people into thinkin' they and their nemesis kings are in charge of marriage. The pharisees, not missing a chance to make a buck, followed.

      August 14, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
      • Akira

        When in doubt, JMSU.

        August 14, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
    • Sara

      You cannot change your name if you are guilty of certain crimes.

      August 14, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
  19. Calgon Take Me Away

    Obtuse religious zealot judge, obtuse religious zealot parents, and one child being used by both for their own agendas.

    August 14, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
  20. Ron

    Wonder what she would have done if the girl named the kid lucifer?

    August 14, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      Lucifer? Meaning "bringer of light". Sounds like a great name to me. Was supposed to be the most beautiful of all the angels too. Nothing wrong with that for a girls name. Call her Lucy.

      August 14, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        Giver of knowledge to humans (except Southerners), what a horrible guy!

        August 14, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • Akira

      She would have re-named the kid "Lu Ann Ballew."
      Seriously? I know a guy named BoJangles Jones. He was called Bo in HS, and that's when the "Dukes of Hazzard" was popular, so he didn't suffer at all. Girls liked him. A LOT.

      August 14, 2013 at 4:32 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.