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. Gail

    I see nothing wrong with the name Messiah. As someone pointed out, Hispanics name children Jesus and that seems to be just fine. What's the difference? This judge is ignorant and biased.

    August 14, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
  2. John M. Campopiano

    A name is a name is a name and holds the meaning and power one attaches to it. I think the legal system should stay out of it. We live in the USA where there are certain freedoms. The parents violated nothing. They named their child. There are far more important things to worry about in this world and devote time to. This is certainly no one of them. One of the things they could have done is to give him a common middle name if by chance he feels out if place as he gets older he will have a choice. The whole involvement of the judge and the courts is just ridiculous!!!!!!!!

    August 14, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
  3. Stupid Judge

    There are also tons of hispanics running around calling themselves Jesus....This needs to stop (sic)! C'mon,,,,this is America...Will the judge rule the same for a kid called Allah???

    August 14, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
  4. Jesusis Fiction

    Jesus is a make believe character, designed to keep people from helping themselves. When the fictional character Jesus was walking the Earth the letter J wasn't even invented. So his name if he existed had to be something else. when he walked the earth and according to myth hung on cross and died, his story wasn't even written about until 500 years later. Do you know how many times a story can change in five hundred years? More proof Jesus was a fictional mind control agent, he supported slavery, he just so happen to be white(the picture is actually Micheal Angelo's Uncle), with long blond hair, in a region where not many Caucasoid lived. The religion was actually forced onto, all people of color, if they did not change their religion they killed them and indoctrinated their children. Read about it for yourself and take the blinders off this a giant occult. You are not meant to follow any religion. You are supposed to have a personal relationship with GOD. Anyone who will try to make you believe, think like them is a person who seeks control over you. And that is not what GOD is about. Seek a personal relationship with God. Not what someone tells you, they could be wrong.

    August 14, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
    • hharri

      Jesus is a fictional character?

      August 14, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
  5. Brad

    You have got to be kidding me......high unemployment.......health care getting ready to hit the major skids.........a corrupt government..........yet stories like this are what the typical person is reading instead of ones thay should be that will really effect our lives as a whole......such a sad state our society has become.........

    August 14, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
    • Observer


      Do you mean like the stock market nearly DOUBLING since Bush left? Do you mean the fact that we are adding jobs every month instead of losing a half million like Bush left us with? Do you mean the surge in the housing market? Do you mean the almost daily new all-time highs on the Dow Jones which reflects the retirement funds for millions of retired people? Do you mean that we haven't started any $2,000,000,000 wars for false reasons?

      So it's all bad news for you?

      August 14, 2013 at 10:39 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Obviously on a day to day basis, unemployment, etc. are the highest priority, but it is a troubling precedent. A judge asked to rule on the child's last name ruled on the child's first name based upon her religious beliefs. That violates separation of church and state, that is judicial overreach and both should be resisted.

      August 14, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
      • hharri

        What church does the judge attend?

        August 14, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
  6. Sara

    What's really funny is that while Chritopher means "follower of Christ" the shortened Chris is just "Christ" (often a legal name)....and I don't see people freaking on that. Then again, no one in the US seems to have complained about any of the other Messiahs before either.

    August 14, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
  7. Angelic Moron

    I wonder if judge Lu Ballew would object to a boy named Lu ( short for Lucifer ) πŸ˜‰

    August 14, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
  8. Joel

    The is only One Messiah, Yeshua Ha Mashiach (Jesus Christ). He came the first time to atone for the sins of the world, for all who believe. He will return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Shalom

    August 14, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      There are 99 names for Allah, so the Muslims have topped you there.

      August 14, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
    • mickey1313

      3 dumbest cults in the world: Jewism, christianity, and islam. All three need to go meet there creators.

      August 14, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
      • Dippy

        Their, not there. Otherwise, spot on.

        August 14, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
    • Athy

      When's he gonna return, Joel? I can't wait much longer. I think they call it irritable bowel syndrome.

      August 14, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
  9. Vic

    Recap on an earlier discussion:

    "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"


    "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."

    "It could put him at odds with a lot of people and at this point he has had no choice in what his name is," Judge Ballew said.


    Watch the news report video to hear the judge in her own words. The judge clearly stated in her own words that it's not in the best interest of the child to have that name besides the fact that it is ecclesiastical!

    So the judge "has a say" in such matters! Hmm..very interesting! That's what is called "discretionary ruling" that I mentioned previously in a comment on the previous (first) article.

    Also, since this is a state jurisdiction case and could be the first in Tennessee, it very well could be a "case of first impression."

    Quick reference:

    Last but not least, this is not about agreeing with the judge, this is about understanding the technicality of the situation, and that it is not about violating somebody's rights!

    August 14, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
    • midwest rail

      You are now purposely being obtuse. Next.

      August 14, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
    • Sara

      You posted this junk before and multiple people addressed those issues. Now you recap as if none of those points were made. Tactics of your average snake oil salesman or politician. Recap:

      1. Lu Ann also clearly stated that she did this because Messiah is a ti tle that only Jesus Christ has earned.
      2. Lu Ann also never axed any other names as not in a child's best interest, when we know all manner of mis-spelled, career killing junk names will have crossed her desk.
      3. The case you sighted was of two parents who did not agree on the name. This was not the case here...the parents were not disputing Messiah.

      Are you going to just suck it up and admit you haven't a clue what you're talking about? No, I thought not. Fanaticism breeds stupidity.

      August 14, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
      • Vic

        I don't snake oil sell anything, and I used a professional method to continue on a previous discussion without dragging the reader into tedious hyperlink and comment retrievals!

        Regarding your points:

        1. I said in my post "Watch the news report video to hear the judge in her own words. The judge clearly stated in her own words that it's not in the best interest of the child to have that name besides the fact that it is ecclesiastical!"

        2. This being the judge's first is on her side, and cases of misspelled and junk nature must have not risen to the level of "discretionary ruling." Furthermore, it is on the judge's side if this is a "case of first impression."

        3. I don't know what case you are referring to. I am talking about the 1992 Pennsylvania case were the mother tried changing her son's last name following a bitter divorce, and it was denied for the best interest of the teenager. Did you read the quote I posted above from that article?!

        August 14, 2013 at 10:24 pm |
        • midwest rail

          Yep – still obtuse.

          August 14, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
        • Observer


          Did the judge complain about Madonna, Alfred Lord Tennyson or any of the thousands of people named Jesus or called "Lord"?

          August 14, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
        • Sara

          Wow. OK, this guy is thick as a plank.

          August 14, 2013 at 10:47 pm |
        • Athy

          We atheist quickly recognized Vic's resemblance to lumber.

          August 14, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Vic, The judge was not asked to make a determination about the first name – just resolve an issue about which parent's name would be used for the last name. She chose to change the first name, citing her religious beliefs as the basis for that decision. The child could use another name if he didn't like this one – plenty do. It's not like there aren't other children called Messiah, or Jesus, or Angel.

      August 14, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
  10. Dree

    Moses is an "acceptable" name and many Mexicans choose to name their child "Jesus", pronounced "Hesus".

    August 14, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
  11. Antwoine

    This judge could and should lose her seat for pulling a King Soloman in a U.S. Courtroom.

    August 14, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
  12. Sara

    β€œThe word Messiah is a ti tle and it’s a ti tle that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ.”

    That was, as she stated, her motivation, or she would have changed every silly alternate spelling name that doomed a child to looking like an illiterate. Did she, no. She's a Christian bigot, and to save her job, now apparently also a liar.

    August 14, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • Athy

      Just change his name to Musyah. What the hell. It's not a title anymore.

      August 14, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
    • Sara

      The reason some countries (not the US) exclude ti tles is to avoid confusion. Is that seriously a problem here? Heck, is it even seriously a problem for any of the thousands of Marshalls and Deacons out there?

      August 14, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
  13. nice NSA Man

    if I ever have a son, I think I'm gonna name him
    Bill or George! Anything but Messiah!

    August 14, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
  14. Hello

    is it a dumb name.. YEP.. but it is not the Judge's place to change his first name to suit her mythic dogma.
    I hope the parents sue the pants off the judge.... The issue was last name not first name.
    Judge FAILED.

    August 14, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
  15. B33tle

    "Messiah's HANDLE nixed".... Great headline, CNN! Hallelujah!

    August 14, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
    • Athy

      Very punny!

      August 14, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
  16. Jack

    I think that if you believe in a talking snake and base your entire existence off that you have some serious problems.

    August 14, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
  17. Becky lou

    She is an idiot. Kids have enough to worry about in life, without their immature parents giving them a name they should not have. Their opionion does not make up for the judges life experience.

    August 14, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
    • Akira

      Life experience? Meaningless. The judge doesn't know the Constitution; apparently, neither do you.

      August 14, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
      • Sara

        I'm not sure but I think that post may have been a joke given the name and the larger than average number of errors...not sure, but that was my guess.

        August 14, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
    • mickey1313

      THe judge is a thiest, thus here experence means zero. She needs to read a book based on facts, and move into the 21st century. It is the thiestic right that is withering our nation away.

      August 14, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
  18. Akira

    It will be overturned. What this judge did is blatantly unconstitutional.

    August 14, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Clearly the pithiest comment to date.

      August 14, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
      • Akira

        Uh oh...lol?? will be upset...and thanks.

        August 14, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
  19. kd

    Just goes to show there are idiots in every line of work, this 'judge' included.

    August 14, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
  20. Jen

    My personal opinion (as a Christian) is this Judge has no right to change this baby's name. She can give advice and her opinion, but to send the parents away for an hour recess to come up with a name or she will
    Choose is just ridiculous. He is a beautiful baby and I hope the parents will fight the ruling. I personally wouldn't name my child Messiah, but that is the beauty of being free to choose. Hopefully!

    August 14, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
    • Sara

      I believe a lot of Christians, even conservative Christians, agree with you:


      August 14, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
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.