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. Harold

    this judge should be put on leave. Just who does she think she is? she has no right to rename any child that is not hers.Thats the problem with these judges these days..they think they are above the law

    August 14, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • GetReal

      In most jurisdictions in the US it's illegal for a baby not to have a name. In many, they can't leave the hospital without a name. So the judge is not above the law, she's enforcing it. Seven months is plenty of time to come up with a name for a child.

      August 14, 2013 at 11:59 am |
      • Thinker...

        There was a name for the child: Messiah. The judge just didn't like it and changed it. The judge does not have the right to change an existing name, only to give one in a situation where there is no given name.

        August 14, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
    • Angel

      Why? She is a southern judge who did her job. And saved this poor kid from being made fun of for life. You want to tell me you don't live your life by your beliefs.

      August 14, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
      • deadlyserious

        She is a Southern judge who has no authority to rename a child over her own misguided religious beliefs. People have the right to name their child whatever idiotic name they choose to.

        August 14, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
      • Thinker...

        The word Angel refers to a heavanly being, not to a sinnful mortal like you. You cant have it, I rename you Fran.

        That is basically what happened. She said that he can't have the name Messiah because that belonged to Jesus and the kid can't be Jesus. That is a pretty clear violation of the establishment clause not to mention just plain silly.

        August 14, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
  2. buzz

    Judge decided to make it her own personal opinion/stupid. What about these names: Jesus, Abraham, Matthew, Luke, Peter, Paul, Mary, Elijah, Jeremiah, Jude, etc. I hope the mother get a good lawyer and sue the stupid judge/state.

    August 14, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • frontgate

      Somebody had to make a rational decision, the mother is obviously an idiot.

      August 14, 2013 at 11:44 am |
      • In Santa we trust

        It's not a name I would use, but the judge has no legal basis for changing it, especially when you take into account that the case went before a judge to decide a surname.

        August 14, 2013 at 11:49 am |
  3. Divdar

    But I thought we wanted to be more like other, progressive countries?

    New Zealand's Births, Deaths, and Marriages Registration Act of 1995 doesn't allow people to name their children anything that "might cause offence to a reasonable person."

    The Iceland Naming Committee, formed in 1991, is the group that decides whether a new given name will be acceptable.

    Denmark's very strict Law on Personal Names is in place to protect children from having odd names that suit their parents' fancy.

    Enacted in 1982, the Naming law in Sweden was originally created to prevent non-noble families from giving their children noble names, but a few changes to the law have been made since then.

    In Germany, you must be able to tell the gender of the child by the first name, and the name chosen must not be negatively affect the well being of the child. Also, you can not use last names or the names of objects or products as first names. Whether or not your chosen name will be accepted is up to the office of vital statistics, the Standesamt, in the area in which the child was born.

    August 14, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      All those laws are ridiculous. I don't want to be like any country which has state authority over naming.

      August 14, 2013 at 11:38 am |
      • Thinker...

        Well the US technically has some authority over naming. There are a few nammes that will be rejected. Names like fvckwad and the like. Other than outright profanity and/or violent names like r@peme anything goes. I have to agree with these limited restrictions too. Also anyone who tries to name their kid that should no longer have custody of the child.

        August 14, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Why would the name cause offense? There are other people with that name and with Jesus and Angel and plenty of other biblical names.

      August 14, 2013 at 11:55 am |
  4. Big_D

    Compared to Carmelo and Eminem it seems like a pretty conventional name. These guys don't seem like their names did them wrong, exotic as they are. This person is questionable to abuse power like that.

    August 14, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • no worries

      I'm sure Holder will straighten this all out.

      August 14, 2013 at 11:36 am |
  5. Big_D

    The right wing want's us to be free to do what they tell us to do. No doubt that is why they are amassing large gun caches. They are concerned that liberty has gone too far and one day all people will have equal rights.

    August 14, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      That's a very generalized view of a broad collection of political beliefs.

      August 14, 2013 at 11:17 am |
      • Big_D

        Darn straight, I like to generalize. It is like kicking them back with the same foot they used to kick you.

        August 14, 2013 at 11:20 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          Well, I'm on the right and I generally don't kick myself.

          Your insinuations about the right are akin to me insinuating that all on the left are communists, which just isn't true.

          August 14, 2013 at 11:32 am |
  6. BSH

    Yes, the name Messiah would offend. But that doesn't justify a judge's order. And if the kid gets teased and bullied for his name (as he probably will), let him change it. Parents are allowed to pick dumb names.

    August 14, 2013 at 11:13 am |
  7. STEVE M.

    I think the judge has overstepped here. The word Messiah also means a professed or accepted leader of some hope or cause.

    a : the expected king and deliverer of the Jews
    b : jesus 1
    2 – a professed or accepted leader of some hope or cause
    — mes·si·ah·ship

    August 14, 2013 at 11:13 am |
  8. candycoatedapple

    She can name her kids whatever she wants but I can call him whatever I want... I don't have to call him Messiah... I can call him Lil M.

    August 14, 2013 at 11:13 am |
    • BobPitt

      The neighbors named their Kid with -“E”, I was curious of the unique name so I asked them how did you come up with that name? they told me that during Baptism the priest ask the what name had they choose, they said we like to call him Ugenio, the priest told the you mean With “E” ( Eugenio), they responded “Ugenio” the priest asked again, With “E”?, so they agreed to call him With-”E”

      August 14, 2013 at 11:20 am |
  9. mdk

    So I guess Messiah College in Pennsylvania now has to be renamed Martin College?

    August 14, 2013 at 11:10 am |
  10. rudy espinoza

    Messiah? All of you fighters of freedom, yet haters of God, tree huggers and pet worshippers, yet bloodless as far as the right (the wrong) to kill a baby in the other's womb, to allow knowingly a mentaly sick nurse want a be, ao a dr want abe to tear up the child alive with metal grabbers, tearing the baby alive by the head, little legs or little arms. You are discusting and shameless to post any more idiosicracies on this blog. How about naming the kid satan, or the prophet mohammed. I bet you'd chicken out. I thought you were a fighter of freedom? You see there is a point of reasoning for mankind respect each other and live in peace. Naming the kid Messiah is different than naming him Jesus, because Messiah is The One the world expected to come for thousands of years, The Savior, God incarnate. You going further with your rebellion against God will only inflame your punishment in hell, unless you repent and ask Jesus for mercy. When you break his laws, you give satan legal permission to inflict curses and pain on you and your descendants. There is a time to speak and there is a time to hush. Now is a time to fear God with any manifestation of rebellion against him by speaking (or writing) any more nonsense).

    August 14, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that


      August 14, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • BRC

      If there are gods, I'm pretty sure they have other things to care abou then what we type on a blog. If the gods are so petty that they do care, then they are sad examples of all powerful beings. If a god cares what someone names there child, which if anything should be taken as flattery, then it is a really sad god. So, the question here is, is your god a sad god?

      August 14, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • American1Fury

      You sir are a complete moron. You should not be posting your drival on here. Go back to your satanist church and enjoy that last few month/years of your life. Surely you will burn in hell or by your own stupidity blow yourself up making dinner. Either way you shall leave this world and never be missed Judas.

      August 14, 2013 at 11:18 am |
      • BRC

        Could you clarify who your bile was directed at, it's hard to tell sometimes.

        August 14, 2013 at 11:28 am |
        • American1Fury

          It was not directed at you.

          August 14, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • AdamC

      I made it to 'pet", anyone get farther?

      August 14, 2013 at 11:30 am |
      • BRC

        I "read" it all, but there were a lot of things in there that weren't real words, so I'm not 100% sure that counts.

        August 14, 2013 at 11:37 am |
      • Sue

        I didn't even make it that far. I was drawn immediately to the picture of Homer Simpson and company. I hope I didn't miss anything.

        August 14, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • frontgate

      Rudy, Rudy, Rudy take your meds and take a nap and when you awake the world will be a better place.

      August 14, 2013 at 11:49 am |
  11. Bruce K.

    What will that judge do when the first latino Jesus comes before her? If she can't follow the law and keep the bible out of it, she needs to go into another line of work.

    August 14, 2013 at 11:05 am |
  12. Clarke

    She can name her child anything she wants. Our society is getting out of control,

    August 14, 2013 at 10:59 am |
  13. Mary of Magdalene

    I think naming your child Messiah is crossing the line. Yes, there are many mohammads and Jesus but I have yet to ever run into this particular name. When are people going to respect ones faith.

    August 14, 2013 at 10:53 am |
    • snowboarder

      yeah, like the christian messiah is the only one. lol!

      August 14, 2013 at 10:57 am |
    • BRC

      Who's faith? And how is a name disrespecting it?

      August 14, 2013 at 10:57 am |
    • fintastic

      When are christians going to stop telling others how to run their lives??....... pathetic

      August 14, 2013 at 11:00 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      This is a secular nation. If you want an oppressive theocracy, try Iran.

      August 14, 2013 at 11:01 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Is the name "Madonna" offensive?

      August 14, 2013 at 11:03 am |
      • ME II

        Yes, but not for religious reasons : )

        August 14, 2013 at 11:03 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Now I've got a mental picture of Mary in a pointy, conical brassiere.

          August 14, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • Chris

      This is the United States of America. We should be able to name our children whatever we want. This judge is a disgrace.
      This ruling will get overturned. The Judge is the person who went over the line.

      August 14, 2013 at 11:03 am |
    • Vic

      Many people on this Belief Blog noted that in Spanish, the name "Jesus" is not the same as the Lord Jesus. it just so happens that it is spelled the same in English. So, technically, no one is really named after the Lord Jesus.

      Furthermore, if anybody is named after a prophet, that's not the same as being named after the Deity!

      August 14, 2013 at 11:05 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        I know two guys (unrelated to each other) named Odin and Thor.
        Is that offensive?

        August 14, 2013 at 11:09 am |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

        I have a pet Guinea Pig called Yahweh. KNEEL TO MY GUINEA PIG AND TREMBLE IN HIS VENGEFUL GLORY!!!

        August 14, 2013 at 11:11 am |
        • All Hail HAL

          Any relation to @Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom, who frequents this blog?

          August 14, 2013 at 11:18 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          He acts as a kind of subsidiary. Yahweh The Vengeful Guinea Pig is the boss.

          August 14, 2013 at 11:28 am |
      • G to the T

        No... they don't call the guy in the bible "gee-zus" and their buddy "hey-zeus". It's all "hey-zeus" in spanish my friend.

        August 14, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • DrBen

      You didn't read the fulll article did you?

      "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."

      "Messiah" is a Hebrew word meaning "anointed"; it's Greek translation in the New Testament is "Christos". Many Greek men are called "Christos". Many Hispanic men are called "Jesus".

      The judge, who apparently doesn't get out much, will be overturned on appeal.

      August 14, 2013 at 11:07 am |
  14. Black_Jesus

    They should have given him a good Christian name like Keyshawn, Jamal or Darnell.

    August 14, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • ME II

      Thanks, Bubba Joe, for your input.

      August 14, 2013 at 10:52 am |
  15. I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

    I find the name 'Keith' grossly offensive yet would never impose legal restrictions on parents giving this name to their child.

    August 14, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • mk

      You're right, Keith is just an icky name.

      August 14, 2013 at 11:18 am |
    • Keith

      I, Keith, take offense to your offense...

      August 14, 2013 at 11:20 am |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

        And I, HAL 9000, take offense to your name, so I guess we're even.

        August 14, 2013 at 11:29 am |
  16. dl

    Tennesse – no surprise there
    What about all the people named 'Jesus'? Isn't that an 'undue burden'

    August 14, 2013 at 10:41 am |
  17. The Truth

    This is a violation of their rights to freedom of speech and a violation between Church and state. You know how me Jesus's I know! How many Mohammads are out there in the world. The judge has no right to impose a name change on the family. They need to sue the state and the judge....GET A LAWYER!

    August 14, 2013 at 10:38 am |
  18. Andres

    Only in the good old south. Were the people hold on to the past with tooth and nails. What a stupid story. What stupid parents too, with made up names.

    August 14, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • Thinker...

      Uhh... care to tell me what names weren't made up? I am pretty sure that everyone I know has a name that was made up at some point in history. Are you saying we should be like some other countries and work off of a list of 7000 approved names? Or even better, we could have individual lists for boys and girls! No confusion at all and everyone will conform with your expectations! The real question is who gets to decied what names are OK and what names aren't?

      August 14, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • Vic

      We can never outgrow being humans, no matter how advanced in technology we become! Social issues are real, and we need to work them out with objectivity and respect.

      August 14, 2013 at 10:59 am |
      • VictoryGin

        Not true Vic, some people still think and act like animals. Not even the cute and cuddly kind...

        August 15, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
  19. Messiah

    If these two couldn't even decide on which last name to give this kid, they probably can't decide anything at all. Sounds like they need to step out of the gene pool.

    They can name the kid whatever they want. This judge was out of line.

    August 14, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • Idiotic Judge

      HEY! You cant use that name!

      August 14, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • Rasputin

      Am I the only one that wonders how this woman's 3 children are being supported? She states she isn't married to the father of this child, so what is the status of the other two boys? Are all being supported by the state? that being said, I don't believe the judge has the authority to force a name change. If the parents have never been married, or if they were at time of conception, then divorced and the mother took her maiden name, she should have the right to name.

      August 14, 2013 at 11:00 am |
      • @@

        Yes, you are the only one because that is illrelevant to the topic.

        August 14, 2013 at 11:24 am |
      • Lime486

        really? Since the mother is not married she MUST be on welfare??? unbelievable!!! and exactly where do you live? Where I live there are many women who are the head of their household and receive no government assistance at all. I am living proof of that I work a fulltime job in corporate america and have a bachelors degree NO HUSBAND and 1 child oh and your tax dollars do not pay one bill or put food in our mouths at all. you may need to get out more lol

        August 14, 2013 at 11:42 am |
        • ME II

          Well said!

          August 14, 2013 at 11:43 am |
      • goodpoint

        If she is on welfare the state is like the parent and the state should pick the name.

        August 14, 2013 at 11:52 am |
        • ME II

          Welfare is not "like a parent". That would be a ward of the state, i.e. an orphan.

          August 14, 2013 at 11:57 am |
      • Sara

        Not that it is relevant, but part of the dispute regarded child support, so clearly this isn't a case of two entirely unemployed moneyless people.

        August 15, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
  20. snowboarder

    obviously the judge overstepped her authority by interjecting her religious beliefs into someone else's lives. i would have told her to pound sand.

    August 14, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • AdamC

      It is a sad state of affairs when the average Belief Blog poster apparently knows more about US Law than a judge.

      August 14, 2013 at 11:36 am |
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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.