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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. dlschuch

    how does she know what this child will grow up to be?

    August 14, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • norman

      well, its better than Aquanetta

      August 14, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
  2. rizsescsoki

    Didn't T.I. name his kid Messiah too?

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

    Just call him Pleasehitme. The end result is the same.

    August 14, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
  4. The Reverend

    Jaleesa and Jawaan, what a couple of good names. If you think it's good to be ghetto. Maybe the judge looked at you, and said, "I'm going to save this baby from growing up stupid". But he can't legally take the baby away, so he took the babies name away. IN the end, the kid will probably go with "DeShawn" anyway, and prove he's a no good.

    August 14, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Punch yourself in the face...

      August 14, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
      • The Reverend

        Another violent black man.

        August 14, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          You say you love the human race....just as long as they're not black and from single parent homes-right??? You're a racist ass!

          August 14, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          I'm not black... however, that is not pertinent to my comment...

          August 14, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
        • The Reverend

          @truthprevails wow, you are a simpleton, aren't you? I'm not going to engage you further. Logic is clearly not in your repertoire.

          August 14, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
        • ME II

          @The Reverend,
          Your comment seemed racist to me also. You have a different spin?

          August 14, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          Simpleton??? I'm not the one making dumbasss assumptions on an innocent childs future based on his race or his parents marital status. Now be a good little racist ass, look in the mirror...you'll see the true simpleton in the reflection!

          August 14, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      Gotta love all you idiots making dumbass assumptions about this innocent child. No-one has the right to judge his future or his parents. Give one reason why you would even think that??? How do you justify it?

      August 14, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
      • norman

        statistics...known facts...

        August 14, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          Are those stats going to change by the time this child is a teenager?

          August 14, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
        • HotAirAce

          Statistics for the child's socioeconomic situation might suggest some outcome, but is that reason to label a less than 1 year old child as "no good" or stupid?

          August 14, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
      • Sarah

        TruthPrevails, is it really necessary to use a swear word in every single post you make? Honestly, it IS offensive & it doesn't give you any extra credibility or make people listen to you any more. In fact, I can assure you, it turns many people away from whatever message you are spreading and makes them listen to you LESS.
        Please, stop with the profanity.

        August 14, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          Dein haar muss riechen schrecklich ... mit dem kopf in den arsch die ganze zeit ...

          August 14, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • Ron

      But there is no racism in america right? Can you imagine if people like this *upstanding citizen* are in charge of hiring people? He won't hire you because you have a "ghetto" name since your name says all he needs to know about you as a person. Then will turn around and tell those same people to get a job...

      August 14, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
  5. Aine57

    Maybe it would have helped for the parents to get married before having kids. They could have chosen a last name that they both could carry and this would not have been a problem. Stupid name? Sure, but the judge should not have interfered. If they'd had a last name for the child, they wouldn't have been in court, though.

    August 14, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      Marriage means nothing. Even if married the woman can still keep her name...it happens all the time!

      August 14, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
      • The Reverend

        "Marriage means nothing to black men."

        There, I fixed that for you.

        August 14, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          Racist much?

          August 14, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
        • The Reverend

          @Lucifer's Evil Twin: Not at all. I love the human race.

          August 14, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          You didn't fix anything because I'm not quite that ignorant. I am able to see that this has nothing to do with race, except in your petite mind.

          August 14, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
        • The Reverend

          @truthprevails, clearly statistics and reality mean nothing to you. It's all about some non-existent race. I am a member of the human race. What race are you a member of?

          August 14, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          You're not acting like a member of the human race. Not when you imply racism here. We're in the 21st century, blacks and whites are equal or did you forget that the days of owning a black man are gone?? I'm living in reality, sadly your reality is more 19th century...time to join this one!

          August 14, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      My partner and I have been raising a family together for nigh on a decade and remain happily unmarried.
      What difference does marriage make?

      August 14, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
      • norman

        legal protections mostly-pretty sure your partner wants to be married, but you're kind of an ass

        August 14, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          He's an ass because he's happily living with the woman he loves without the need for marriage? How do you know he wouldn't marry her if she wanted that? Maybe they're secure enough in their relationship that they don't feel the need to add this step.

          August 14, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          @norman
          Judgemental much?
          She's always been adamant that she has no desire to get married and would refuse me if I asked.
          We allready share our lives in every meaningful way (including legal ones like filing taxes jointly, being each other's next of kin, sharing power of attourney, joint bank account etc) – what would a public ceremony give that we don't all ready have?

          August 14, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
        • Johnny

          Well Doc, first and foremost the ceremony would give someone else quite a bit of your money.

          August 14, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
  6. smit

    The judge should not have brought religion into this. She is correct though that he might be made fun of. While I fully respect the meaning of Messiah among Christians, parents can name their kid whatever they want to.

    August 14, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
  7. Name*

    Messiah means "annointed one"......
    Just wanted to throw that out there... lol.
    They are wrong for making her change his name though... i can understand where the judge is coming from but there are ppl that name there children "Jesus" which means "Yahweh saves" and no one makes them change there names. The problem here is the judge isn't being very fair.
    Just a personal opinion... I wouldn't mind naming my child after the Son of God... and I'm Christian... I'm crazy for my Jesus!

    August 14, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
  8. Michele

    OMG, these wacko parents and their special names! The names look very prestigious when they appear on the indictments!!! I am sure when little "Messiah" is arrested and goes to court, the judge will be very impressed with his special, special name.

    August 14, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      What makes you think he'll ever get arrested and have to appear before a judge?

      August 14, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      Why the hell would you be so blatantly ignorant to assume that this innocent child will eventually end up a criminal? You're not raising him, so he already has a step up on society!

      August 14, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • VictoryGin

      C U Next Tuesday

      August 15, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
  9. Honey Badger Don't Care

    She should name the kid Skittles Arizona in tribute to Travon Martin.

    August 14, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • Dravis14

      Skittles Arizona..........too much..ROTFLMAO....great name Honey, I like it.

      August 14, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • vikki

      Wouldn't that be Skittles Florida? (in other words, the incident happened in Florida, Not Arizona)

      August 14, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
      • The Reverend

        You appear to be ignorant. Trayvon Martin was carrying a bag of Skittles and an Arizona Ice Tea.

        August 14, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
        • vikki

          Ah yes , I see. Not ignorant, but I missed the reference, had forgotten about the tea. You call yourself Reverend, but yet you name call? Not very nice, sir

          August 14, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
  10. Just wondering

    Buttom line the judge is wrong. I think parents should give careful consideration to what they name their children especialy if they want to give them some weird out there name. But this is not a government issue they government should stay out of it. This judge should leave her religion out of it as well. forcing her relegion on this people is wrong and that what she did. I hope the parents when on appeal.

    August 14, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
  11. BRC

    I'm interested. Is there anyone out there reading this article who would legitimately be offended by someone being named Messiah. If during the course of your day you ran into some normal person, who was polite and friendly, and then you found out their name happend to be Messiah, would you suddenly be offended that someone had dared to name them that? If so, why?

    August 14, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      Not at all.

      August 14, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • smit

      No, I would not be offended.

      August 14, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      I get offended by the name "Paula Deen"

      August 14, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
      • The Reverend

        That's because you're a racist.

        August 14, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • The Reverend

      Not in the least, but I know religion is hooey.

      August 14, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • Just wondering

      not offended but don't care for it either. Still the judge seriously abused her power

      August 14, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
      • BRC

        I agree it's not a very good name, it sounds awkward and doesn't flow well (his nickname could be Si I guess).

        August 14, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
        • Just wondering

          then he could grow a beard drinka lot of tea say say 'Look Jack' before he says most every thing else.

          August 14, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
  12. Nicole

    It is not up to ANYONE other than the parents on choosing a childs name.

    August 14, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
  13. NonSense059

    Why is this even news?

    August 14, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      Because it is another case of a government official making decisions based not on law, but on their own religious belief, which is, as we all know, a violation of the separation of church and state.

      August 14, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
      • Brother Maynard

        ... and this is a PRIME example of why atheists get so passionate.
        I've heard on here from many Xtians something to the effect "If you don't believe in god ... Why are you atheists so angry? What does it matter what I believe? "
        BELIEVERS - This is why. Because you cannot keep your beliefs to yourself. You make rulings based on Biblical law or references NOT on state / civic law. You impose your belief system where it has no bearing what-so-ever.

        August 14, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          Well said. 🙂

          August 14, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          HOOAH

          August 14, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
        • VictoryGin

          Ramen! These are the cries of the Carrots, and for them, it is the holocaust...

          August 15, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
  14. Debbie

    It doesn't matter. Giving a kid a controversial name will just result in everyone calling him something else, anyway, and it won't be very pretty.
    Naming him Messiah will result in a lot of unpleasantness for his whole life. Gee, thanks, Mom.

    August 14, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      Kids have been named wacky, controversial and bizarre names for centuries.

      Parents can name their kids anything they want. The government shouldn't have the right to change it, particularly not on religious grounds.

      August 14, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • mk

      They could shorten it to "Messy".

      August 14, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
  15. Russ

    Where are the fathers of the other two children or is the same baby daddy?

    August 14, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      Why does that even matter?

      August 14, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      The other two children are not who this is about, so where their father is (if it isn't the same one as the babe) is not the business of anyone.

      August 14, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • Allie

      I don't think it's necessarily relevant, but I doubt that it is the same father. If it were, they would have previously agreed on a last name twice & therefore (most likely) not have been in court arguing over a last name for their third child.
      I could be wrong. This is just a logical summation & only my best guess.

      August 14, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
  16. Mom

    Funny, I knew a real creepy girl named Lu Ann when I was a kid. My friends and I would go to the movies on the weekend and Lu Ann (we had no idea who she was, other than her name) would come there alone and would always try to *hit* on me. She didn't like my name though, and decided to call me by a different one. C-r-e-e-p-y!

    August 14, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • Allie

      If I was hitting on ya, I wouldn't call you Mom either! That's definitely creepy 😉

      August 14, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
  17. Jen

    No one has the right to tell you what to name YOUR child...granted, I'm not a fan of that name myself but the courts shouldn't get involved in this at all. There are tons of questionable names out there...

    August 14, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
  18. Tony in Phoenix

    Messiah was chosen as a LAST name, not his first name. The parents were not married and could not decide which of their last names should be used. This was their compromise. But is the name Messiah odd for a last name? Just go to the white pages web site and you will find 100 people all over the US with the last name Messiah. I think that should pretty much settles the issue. The name has precedence as a last name in the US. That should be enough to overturn the judge's ruling along with the First Amendment issue.

    August 14, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • Scott

      No, it was the first name. The couple couldn't agree on the last name, but the judge said the first name needed changing. Reread the article.

      August 14, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • flintcastle

      No, the article clearly states that the judge shifted attention to the baby's first name - Messiah. So this isn't the last name we're talking about.

      August 14, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • First Name Please

      ....where did you get that from?

      the article says.....

      ***********************************************************
      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 Wednesday
      **************************************************************

      August 14, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • IndTxn

      The baby's name was changed from Messiah DeShawn Martin to Martin DeShawn McCullough. Messiah, which is not uncommon for a first name, was his first name prior to the judge's intervention.

      August 14, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      Tony: Reading comprehension skill issues??? Messiah was the babes first name, not the last name. Know the facts before you sound like an idiot!

      August 14, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • Dippy

      Tony doesn't appear to be the sharpest knife in the drawer.

      August 14, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
  19. Kristjan

    Wait a second. Wow..sorry US you have gone totally nuts. Now the courts are deciding baby names? For a country that rambles on about how "free" you are et al this one cracks me up. I seem to remember a very famous basketball player Moses Malone..Isaiah Thomas?. How many Mexican Jesus are there in the US? I like the name. The judge should have prevented Frank Zappa from naming his kids Moon Unit and Dweezel!!!

    August 14, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
  20. jerome

    I'm guessing that Jesus would have been acceptable, since every other Hispanic male and their dog bears that name.
    But one question. How about separation of church and state, or this a liberal judge?

    August 14, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      It sounds as if you do not know the meaning of the word "liberal".

      August 14, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        lol

        August 14, 2013 at 1:25 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.