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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. John Mann

    I thought a judge was a secular job and that they should be objective. She should keep her silly religious views to herself. And for any christians who object to this post, just imagine if the judge belonged to a religion you don't agree with and imposed her views on you or your child.

    August 14, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  2. Vic

    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:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_impression_%28law%29

    August 14, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      not likely since the judge based her decision on her beliefs, it will get thrown out...no precident set here.

      August 14, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • ME II

      @Vic,
      Not sure what you think is a first impression (thanks for the link, by the way), but apparently Messiah has been used before.

      Popularity of the male name Messiah
      Year of birth Rank
      2012 387
      2011 633

      ( http://www.socialsecurity.gov/cgi-bin/babyname.cgi )

      August 14, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
  3. se123

    what happned to seperation between church and state? I beleive the mother is pretty stupid, however there are plenty of religions that believe Jesus is not the mesiah. I do not associate myself with any religion and could care less. The judge over stepped her bounds and I was the mother I'd sue.

    August 14, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
  4. meandmyopinion

    what a completely rediculous name...I can see if they named him Dog *hit or something equally classy, but some Latinos name their children JESUS...same thing. Not for the court to rule on this one.

    August 14, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
  5. ro

    How do they let folks like this graduate from Law school?

    August 14, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  6. Richard Cranium

    Doing a cursory check, there were in 2012, 194 children named Messiah per 1 million names. She is not the first to choose this name.

    August 14, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Mellow out

      I wonder I everyone would be OK with a boy named Erekshun?

      August 14, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      From http://www.babycenter.com/0_unusual-baby-names-of-2012_10375911.bc

      Check out some of these.

      And who could forget Moon Unit Zappa or Moxy Crimefighter Gillette ( Penn Gillette's daughter)

      August 14, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
  7. ReadTheBibleFirst

    The judge needs to read her Bible because her premise is entirely wrong. Jesus is not the only one who was a messiah. The word messiah is Hebrew for "anointed one." All of the priest and kings of the Old Testament were anointed ones.

    August 14, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  8. PaganScorp

    Messiah is an issue, but Mohamad and Jesus are alright?

    August 14, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Z_2k

      Christ Almighty McCollough...now that would be a good one.

      August 14, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
      • PaganScorp

        Christ Almighty Smith

        August 14, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  9. indy505

    and how typical that the parents aren't married. Who cares what the kid is named; He is doomed.

    August 14, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      The child is doomed because the parents aren't married? Exactly what are you basing that on?

      August 14, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        Answer: southern religious intelligence

        August 14, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      I was a single parent and my daughter is a great person...college educated; doesn't smoke; doesn't do drugs. Marriage is not a guarantee a child will be better than other kids....it's how they raise this child that matters.

      August 14, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  10. Miked

    That mother is just asking for her son to be picked on, and possibly get hurt in school, to see if he can heal himself or others like the real Messiah. Not a very smart parent.

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

      Picked on at school? How about instead we teach our children to obey and respect others regardless of names, etc.

      August 14, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
  11. OnTheRoad

    It is not the job of the judge to tell anyone what they can or can not name their child!

    August 14, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Z_2k

      Messiah Lemonjello Martin.....sounds good to me.

      August 14, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
  12. EldRick

    While I think the judge overstepped his bounds, the mother is an idiot, and should not be allowed to burden her child with a moron name like "messiah".

    August 14, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
  13. bookman

    Yeah, right. There is only one messiah. A cosmic Jewish zombie who was his own father who promises you eternal life if you symbolically drink his blood and eat his flesh and meditate telepathically to him to be your lord and master so he can remove an evil force from your soul that exists in all mankind because a middle-eastern rib woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat an apple from a magic tree. Yikes!!

    August 14, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Conner

      Haha, very nice! This one made me chuckle.

      August 14, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
  14. disanitnodicos

    Blacks!

    August 14, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • ME II

      Racists!

      August 14, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
      • Z_2k

        Packers.

        August 14, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          Patriots!

          August 14, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
  15. Kiss Mah Grits

    Well, Lu Ann made it to be a judge with a name that sounds like it belongs to a truck-stop diner waitress...

    She sure ballew this decision.

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

      Lu Ann sounds more like a lot lizard to me.

      August 14, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
      • Kiss Mah Grits

        Lu Ann ballew you?

        August 14, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
  16. RedskinsFan

    Personally, I have to ask: why in the world do you name your kid Messiah? It's not like the kid may not be bullied enough due to if he can play sports well or does well in class, or looks like I did when I was 15 (I'm still fairly sure I had some unknown pox.... not just bad acne). No, let's give him a name that a large majority (and yes, a large majority) of his classmates WOULD make fun of it once they heard their parents talking about his name... because they would, we all know it. Don't make your kid go through that.

    Be a parent: it's your child... you are supposed to help them thrive and live and be happy. It's not a toy poodle you carry in a purse as an accessory.

    Still... the judge was wrong.

    August 14, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      I hate to point this out... but maybe you had the pox because of being a Redskins fan? Being a Patriots fan will clear that right up! 🙂

      August 14, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
  17. farger

    I live in tn christians or those who claim to be need to stfooit and buy some of jesus' lessons wwjd here? Call the kid bob. Get a sense of humor folks

    August 14, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
  18. joney

    You can't defend stupid...

    August 14, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
  19. snowboarder

    the name messiah has a nice ring to it. i like it.

    August 14, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • Z_2k

      Why settle for the Son, when he could have been named Yahweh ....... Yahweh Messiah Martin

      August 14, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • JB

      Ring? It's a halo 😉

      August 14, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  20. tbay

    Periodically we see articles about courts not allowing people to name their kids certain things. And if this story had been presented as any of those other stories, it would be a non-issue.

    It is only because the judge said that there was only one Messiah that people even care.

    So here is a better justification... don't name the kid Messiah because it is a bad name for a kid and condemns him to a life of teasing and wedgies.

    August 14, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      No-one can say what the future holds for this child. Societal opinions on these things change over time. You hope for the best for the child and leave it at that. The decision belongs to the parents regardless of what anyone thinks.

      August 14, 2013 at 12:40 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.