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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. scallywag

    Moses led the Hebrew slaves to the Red Sea, where they made unleavened bread which is bread made without any ingredients. Moses went up on Mount Cyanide to get the ten commandments. He died before he ever reached Canada.

    August 16, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
  2. Henry Plantagenet

    The word "messiah" merely means "anointed". The judge is a fool.

    August 16, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
  3. JackR

    The O has sole rights to that name as anointed by his minions. So the liberal judge was doing his thing.

    August 16, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Delusional idiocy.

      August 16, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
  4. lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

    ME II, fiinish my quote, "......................to any conclusion regarding God or scripture........................"

    Like I said before using "human logic" is an inappropriate argument for or against God and scripture. Your human logic "rules" are antichrist from the get-go by applying the "Fallacious appeal to authority" rule. Jesus taught His followers to appeal to the Father, the original authority. Ever heard of the "Lord's prayer"??
    You didn't apply this rule to yourself when you tried to build yer consensus with skytag.

    Applying the usage of a "scientific fact" to negate scripture is equally absurd. Scientific facts or truth are never the final word .The definition itself gives science wiggle room.
    But if it feels gud??..

    August 16, 2013 at 11:35 am |
  5. Timme62

    What I find offensive is that this is the third child this woman has had.....same fathers, different fathers???

    August 16, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      You find women having children offensive? I'm not a psychiatrist but that seems like a side-effect of extreme psychosis.

      August 16, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • LAH

      are you offended by Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar who have popped out 19 kids?

      August 16, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
  6. Chris

    Not sure about a Judge having to step in to rename a child. I feel sorry for the child that he has parents who have no better thought process than to hand a name on him that could cause him problems in the future. This is just another example of black parents not taking the best steps to insure their child has a safe and productive future. It is offensive, legal or not, to name a child by this name ....... almost a joke!

    August 16, 2013 at 10:59 am |
  7. i belong to know party

    You people were ok when the judge took the children away from the family that named there kids after the nazi's. And yet here oh different tone, but this is normal for you two faced bigots

    August 16, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • Sara

      Those kids were removed from the home over domestic violence issues unrelated to their names.

      August 16, 2013 at 9:09 am |
  8. kate

    This judge overstepped her bounds. She possibly could have asked the parents about the first name, and she could have taken a recess and looked up the name to see how common it was, but I really can't see how it's her business to change it or to harass the parents about it. It's not as though they are naming the baby "Satan." In society, that could truly harm him, despite what some may say about freedom to name your child whatever you want. The judge was focused on whether other people would be offended, but she didn't do her research to learn how common it was or discover if it would be seen as offensive commonly. The judge does have a right to consider the child's best interests, but she doesn't have a calling to go by her gut instincts which a lot of judges do. At least these parents both care about the child's name. Too bad they can't come up with some agreement on their own.

    August 16, 2013 at 2:00 am |
  9. Scott

    Not sure, but it appears nobody else noticed the really funny (for CNN) headline...I like headbanger music as much as the next person, but the pun on Handel? Classic. Maybe the web isn't run by total idiots...

    August 16, 2013 at 1:39 am |
  10. Almac64

    I find the name DeShawn far more ridiculous than Messiah.

    August 15, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
    • Athy

      Or De..., or La...

      August 15, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
  11. Ordos

    As a judge it is their responsibility to rule on laws that have or have not been violated. While many may question the wisdom of naming their kid a certain way it is not up to the bench of a judge to dictate policy via ad verecundiam.

    August 15, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
  12. Valerie

    I just cannot believe that this is even an issue in 2013 and I would love to see this happen anywhere but the "bible belt". Ahem, anyone seen what the judge looks like ... Where's the ACLU, Johnny Cochran and Al Sharpton? 😉

    August 15, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
    • Athy

      Johnny Cochran died over eight years ago.

      August 15, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
      • Mark from Middle River

        ROFL Johnny Cochran!?!

        August 16, 2013 at 2:39 am |
  13. midwestmatt

    Just another holier than thou Christian wrapped up in a black robe sitting on a bench. Go figure.

    August 15, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
  14. Buffi

    A child can't be named Messiah but they can be named "Jesus". We have bigger things in this world to worry about!!

    August 15, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

      What?? Me worry??

      August 16, 2013 at 12:41 am |
  15. Scott

    I am no more nor less offended by parents using the name "Messiah" than I am by the hundreds of thousands of Mexican parents who name their sons "Jesus" or Islamic parents who name their sons "Muhammed". To me, using those names cheapens the supposedly holy people for whom they were named.

    August 15, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      ...and which minority group is jumping in population and voting strength by leaps and bounds?

      August 16, 2013 at 2:40 am |
  16. JoJo

    Who knows, he could be the one.

    August 15, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • Colin

      Easy way to find out. When he reaches 33, crucify him and wait three days.......

      August 15, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • JVT

      You forgot to say JoJo says: lol

      August 15, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
  17. Rebecca

    c.1300, Messias, from Late Latin Messias, from Greek Messias, from Aramaic meshiha and Hebrew mashiah "the anointed" (of the Lord), from mashah "anoint." This is the word rendered in Septuagint as Greek Khristos (see Christ). In Old Testament prophetic writing, it was used of an expected deliverer of the Jewish nation. The modern English form represents an attempt to make the word look more Hebrew, and dates from the Geneva Bible (1560). Transferred sense of "an expected liberator or savior of a captive people" is attested from 1660s. I think the judge overstepped her role.

    August 15, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
  18. Judge, I don't think so.

    As usual a judge is biased and let's their faith rule their judgement.
    Pathetic, but expected. The funny things is I think the parents are morons too but I support their right to choose the name of THEIR child.

    August 15, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • Dippy

      It's "lets," not "let's."

      August 15, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
  19. Fuyuko

    This name Messiah, is actually not an uncommon name.

    August 15, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
  20. Lenny Pincus

    Lu Ann Ballew is a name I now find offensive. Can we get the judge to change it to something more intelligent?

    August 15, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
    • Sara

      I think a truly just system would allow Messiah's mother to select a new name for Lu Ann.

      August 15, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
      • skytag

        How about Bathsheba?

        August 15, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
        • Maddy

          I'd vote for "Harlot", myself. Appears in the Bible, also.

          August 15, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
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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.