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. mickey

    The judge was way out of line, but the mother is more worried about getting her way than the impact the name will have on her son. If she wants another "M" name how about Matthew, Mark, Micheal, Mace, Mason, Maddox, etc.

    August 14, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • Chet Huntley

      How many are bullied or teased because their name is Jesus? probably zilch.

      August 14, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Allie

      If she wants an M name, the name the judge gave the baby fits perfectly. Martin DeShawn McCullough starts with an M & carries both parents last names–it fits both of the criteria the Mom wanted when she came to court to have her child's last name assigned by the judge!

      August 14, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
      • OTOH

        Sure, that could have been possible ***advice*** or counsel or chit chat on the side from the judge - NOT a court order. They did not ask her to decide the first name - she butted in.

        August 14, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
        • Allie

          I guess I can see both sides of it.
          On the one hand, I agree that the judge should not let her own religious beliefs cloud her judgements, literally.
          But on the other hand, they WERE in court over the name. Even if they were there over the LAST name, the whole issue was the name. I can see where the judge's best solution was to just rename the child altogether–with a name that fit the criteria the mother had set. Started with an M to fit with her other two children & contained both parent's last names. Martin DeShawn McCullough.

          August 14, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      How about the fact that it is no-one's business??

      August 14, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
  2. Elexsor

    Kid's nickname is going to be Mess.

    August 14, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
  3. George Karlson

    Ridiculous name, but not out of the ordinary these days. I know someone named King David, but dropped the King part when he got out of High School. It's the parents right to put their kids in as bad a situation as they want.

    August 14, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
  4. shawn

    Should rename both the judge and the mother – Oxymoron

    August 14, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
  5. Richard Hode

    Hispanics often name their sons Jesús and everyone is okay with that. So why is Messiah a problem? A fool judge who way overstepped her charter.

    August 14, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • k

      Yes ... but it is pronounced "yeah – zoo" ... not "G-sus". Not that this impacts your point ... I'm just saying that in ordinary conversation it's not pronounced as "Jesus".

      August 14, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
      • Allie

        Um..I think it's actually pronounced "hey-zeus"

        August 14, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
  6. Child's choice?

    Do parents these days think about how their decisions will affect their children? With a name like that, they will be teased and ridiculed. Possibly bullied. It's painting a pretty big target on your child. Christians and Orthodox Jews will be offended, Muslims won't like it. If you ask me, the judge is doing the baby a huge favor. I've seen little babies less than one year old, getting tattoo's, and body piercings. To me, this is child abuse, and irresponsible parenting. Think about how your decision will affect your child's future. ( I just named them that because I like the sound of the name ) that will be comforting to your child the first time they are teased and ridiculed.

    August 14, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • fku

      You are an inbread ignorant fool, and as such you respond. I am sure, you sleep with your brother and sister.

      August 14, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
      • Scott

        Inbred smart guy. Not inbread.

        August 14, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
        • Thinker...

          Well you never know, he could be stuck in a giant piece of toast after all!

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

      you never know, maybe the baby is the messiah. wouldn't that be something.

      the judge is obviously overstepping her authority.

      August 14, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • fku

      You are an inbreed ignorant fool, and as such you respond. I am sure, you sleep with your brother and sister.

      August 14, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Chet Huntley

      "teased and ridiculed. Possibly bullied."

      By who? Christians? Got it.

      August 14, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
  7. Lucifer

    The Judge made me change my name, too. Satan. SMDH.

    August 14, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • elizabethclements

      Are you shaking your damned head?

      August 14, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
      • GettotheMiddle

        Good one E

        August 14, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Rhetorical question: How stupid do you have to be... to think there is an actual Satan?

      August 14, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
  8. NewYork10036

    the article says the mother and father aren't married yet, she has two other children. Is this guy the biological father of those other two children as well? What is the last name(s) of the other two children. Seems like this story has a lot of missing pieces....

    August 14, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • ME II

      Is any of that relevant?

      August 14, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • Chet Huntley


      August 14, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
  9. Victor

    And this judge is considered intelligent too?

    August 14, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
  10. Janelle

    This judge has completely taken advantage of her position and her past rulings should be investigated. This is "supposed" to be a free country where you are "supposed" to be able to practice any religion you please. You cannot base a decision in court on your own personal religious belief. Taking away the right of this mother to name her child what she wants to is just ridiculous. There needs to be some consequences for this ruling. Judges should not feel that they have free reign to do whatever they want because they have a gavel in their hands. Not liking a child's name is NOT a good enough reason to force the parents to change it.

    August 14, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
  11. MD

    I see nothing wrong with the name. Especially when we have celebrities picking the world's dumbest names...just to name a few: Blue Ivy. North West. Apple. And we are going to complain about Messiah? I think this judge's power went to her head a little too much.

    August 14, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • ME II

      The name was a stupid choice, in my opinion, but the judge was still out of line.

      August 14, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • skybill40

      "Pilot Inspektor" is still my favorite when it comes to asinine celebrity child names.

      August 14, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • Priv62

      I would never call anyone with that as a first name by that name. I would refer to them by their last name, or at most an abbreviated form of the first...probably 'Mess."

      August 14, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
  12. gager

    They call the wind Maria and the call their son messiah...I'd rather be the wind.

    August 14, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • tapu

      The point is that it doesn't really matter what someone else might "rather."

      August 14, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
  13. Joe

    This judge has some set of ball. Not only does she decide she doesn't like the name the mother picked, but then takes it upon herself to pick the baby's name? This broad should be disbarred.

    August 14, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • christina knight

      The Judge clearly violated the first amendment by imposing her religious beliefs on the litigants. I agree that she should be sanctioned for abusing her authority in this case. That being said, I also feel sorry for the child for having parents that do not consider that the child may be subjected to teasing and other forms of abuse for having the name Messiah (that may impact its psychological health as it grows up). Why load the dice against an innocent child..

      August 14, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
  14. SuperDave

    What a great name! I have no idea why a judge is involved, or what the problem is. We have plenty of folks with the name of Jesus, Moses, Mohammed, etc. So why is Messiah so bad?

    August 14, 2013 at 11:47 am |
  15. Smith

    A young boy named Adolf Hitler, who attracted national attention when a local supermarket refused to make a birthday cake with his name on it, has been taken away from his parents by authorities, according to a local website.

    LehighValleyLive.com reports that Adolf and his sisters, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation, 1, and 8-month-old Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie, were removed from their home by New Jersey's Division of Youth and Family Services.

    No reason was given for why the children were removed, however, and Holland Township police chief David Van Gilson told the site they had not received any reports of abuse or negligence.

    Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/report-child-named-adolf-hitler-removed-home-new-jersey-article-1.371485#ixzz2bxVRgA3O

    August 14, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • ME II

      Sounds like there were accusations of domestic violence.


      August 14, 2013 at 11:52 am |
  16. gager

    No winners here. The judge was wrong and the mother's an idjut.

    August 14, 2013 at 11:45 am |
  17. Tom

    I wonder if the judge's race also plays a role here. In that, she might have found it difficulty a black child would be a "Messiah." Would she object to a White family giving such a name to their child? Ultimately, the judge had no right naming a child (unless there is a law that may necessitates that). Parents can name their child with whichever dumb name they choose. A smart judge would have gently tried to persuade the parents into changing the name by explaining the impact of such a name on the child's emotional development. Finally, who knows, the name could soon be non-controversial. We have people named Angel, and people are not offended.

    August 14, 2013 at 11:45 am |
  18. egret

    Not a name I would choose, but it sounds like a name, has meaning and history, is easy to spell, fits with her other kids' names – I can see why she likes it. That judge is a misery – imagine what other ridiculous and unfair decisions she might have made that could have even more long-term negative effects on people! I wouldn't come before her bench and expect a fair hearing, that's for sure.

    August 14, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  19. Joe Herald

    In the video, it appeared to me that the judge's office was decorated with several obviously Christianity-related items.
    The judge should be providing public service in a religiously-neutral environment. She expressed that the name was disrespectful to Jesus Christ. This may be so in her church, but this type of reference should not be part of a legal decision in the secular setting of a public court. If, it can be shown that her ruling showed bias toward a particular religion it will likely be overturned on appeal. As she is an educated legal professional, I suspect that she knows this. Yet, for reasons known only to her she proceeded with this ill-fated ruling.

    August 14, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  20. whereislogic

    It seems that there is something missing in this story. Why were they there in the first place, because the two parents wouldn't agree to a name for the baby – for 7 months? With no last name, the first name isn't official as well. Did the parents agree on the first name? Since they've come in front of the judge, it is then that look after the welfare of the child, not the rights of the parents.

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


      August 14, 2013 at 11:53 am |
      • Thinker...

        W h e r e i s t h e s p a c e b a r.

        August 14, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
    • Angel

      They were there for a child support hearing. Dad pointed out that the child still had no last name. Let me point out we are talking about a really small town where most people are Southern Baptist. So yes, the judge thought the name was a big deal. I don't care if they want to name that kid Oops. I am so tried of hearing rather this was wrong of the judge or not. Realize that all judges are going to take their beliefs in to any choice they make. I don't care if you agree or not. Neither does the court system. Trust me most of the people in this area agrees with what the judge did. They all thought the name was laughable to start with. Those who didn't just took it as another poor woman that was to dumb to know what she was naming her child before she did so. Kind of like the woman that attempted to name her child chlamydia in the hospital before a group of nurses had to talk her out of it. She didn't care what it meant she thought it sounded pretty. She was going to change the spelling some to make it not as bad. Sorry but you can't fix stupid.

      August 14, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
      • deadlyserious

        Judges aren't supposed to go by their religious beliefs. Their job is to uphold and enforce the law.

        August 14, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
        • J

          Really in the Court, Judges are not supposed to make decisions based on her own religious beliefs. This shows she most
          definitely does, so anyone that isn't a christian will not get a fair trial. This is how it is with 90% of Judges, they make judgements on defendants everyday on what they believe is right and that is mostly the Religion, and some just morals. I wonder if she would do if the child's name was Jesus, because you do realize that Jesus ( Heysoos) is a common mexican name. and for the people that say what this poor child will be ridiculed at school, do you remember other weird names that you made fun of when you were in grade school, I am sure those kids didn't have all these emotional development problems that other writers are talking about. come on is the government going to now tell us what we can or can not name our children. will we have a list mailed to us in our 9th month. puleeze!!!!

          August 14, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
      • Allie

        No, every news outlet has clearly stated they were NOT there due to a dispute over child support, but because they could not agree on a last name for the child. They went to court for the specific purpose of naming their child. Not the first name, I understand, but the last name.
        While I agree that the judge should not let her own religious beliefs influence her rulings, I do see her reasoning here. The mother stated she wanted a name that started with an "M" to fit with her other two children's names & both parents wanted their last names given to the child. So the judge came up with the name "Martin DeShawn McCullough" which fits both of those criteria. To me, its a much more practical name then Messiah. I believe that it will save the child a lot of heartache & bullying as well as discrimination. I read a report earlier on CNN that cited a HR manager as saying that they do gloss over names such as Messiah on job applications.

        August 14, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
      • ME II


        August 14, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
      • truthprevails1

        Ignorance is bliss. The judge is wrong and no matter what the uneducated hick-a-billies may think of the name, it doesn't matter...it's not their child to decide this for. Angel is just as laughable...you're too hypocritical to be one! Maybe you don't give a damn about rights but others do!

        August 14, 2013 at 12:49 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.