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. nuclear mike

    So while the Mother & Father argue over whose last name wins out...the Mother decides I like how the name sounds but has no understanding of the meaning the Savior's name carries...ghetto trash pure & simple or at least project trash with little hoe for the child to ever be "saved" himself from his dark future...

    August 14, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      Who are you to judge this child or his Mother???? I pity people who think like you...racism is destructive!

      August 14, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        @Truth – he's obviously a christian... you shouldn't be so surprised by now...

        August 14, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      "has no understanding of the meaning the Savior's name carries..." Did you have to go to some special school to learn how to be a dumb shlt? First, the word "Messiah" is not anyones name, it was a tltle. Second, the Jewish people are still waiting for their Messiah as the carpenters son 2000 years ago is not recognized by the original faith. The bast ard child of Judaism that is Christianity don't care what the Hebrew word Messiah really means anyway so they abandoned it quite a long time ago and now rarely use it when they can use the word "Christ" which is the greek word for Messiah.

      August 14, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
  2. Janet

    This is the christian taliban at work with their own version of sharia law. Dangerous stuff!

    August 14, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
  3. thereisnogod

    Some uppity christtard pushing her beliefs on people... like that's never happened before. *rolls eyes*
    But this time from the bench of a judge? Pathetic. Keep the asinine situations coming, xtians... Show the world your hate and self rightous idiocy. The bible is the #1 tool to convert to atheism. Please keep reading.

    August 14, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
  4. Scott

    The judge was very wrong here and should not be preaching from the bench. This woman has, and should have, every right to name her baby Messiah.

    That said...what a horrible and dumb name for a baby. What is why thinking? Just because you CAN do something does not mean that you SHOULD.

    August 14, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
  5. Barbara

    I think its inappropiate to name your child Messiah.

    August 14, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • Athy

      Why? Do you object on religious grounds? Or just because you don't like the name? It isn't your baby.

      August 14, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • Johnny

      Well I think it is wrong to name a child Barbara, I mean what kind of name is that anyway?

      August 14, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
      • Athy

        Barbara is a barbaric name! Punny, eh?

        August 14, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
  6. PimpDaddy

    Um wait a second did we forget that Beyonce named her little girl BLUE IVY!?!? Are you kidding me?! Who cares what people name their kids. They'll get a nickname anyway. this is 'MERICA!

    August 14, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • Momynwifey3281

      THANK YOU!!!!

      August 14, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
  7. jo2

    This is absolutely ridiculous. This judge is preaching from the bench. Kids get teased if their names are dick and sally. I hope the ACLU steps in on this one.

    August 14, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
  8. Momynwifey3281

    Ok so being a pentacostal christian woman, i see nothing wrong and think it is a beautiful name. Why are there no other "ordered name changes" for those out there that bare the name of Jesus? and excuse me "judge" who are you to be the judge and the jury...you are calling yourself then a christian, does it not say in the bible "do not judge". I think Jesus would love the name....i think the judge needs to focus on why the parents where there to begin with and not on what SHE THINKS NEEDS TO BE DONE....

    August 14, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      Way too much fuzzy thinking (and poor spelling) there to cover it all, but the only thing you have correct is that this judge is wrong.

      Guess what? You have judged the judge, though!

      August 14, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
      • Momynwifey3281

        spelling or not i was making a point i never said i wasnt judging but i didnt mean to judge. but that is not why we were put on this planet. We will all be judged one day. for every action and word. People think we christians are crazy and while some may be not all are out to cast you down for everything you do. Which is where this judge is wrong, and by that i mean as our so called freedom as citizens of the United States. When some one can name their child North, apple, blue bear, blue ivy, or something else no one cares. But let one woman and man name their son Messiah (and not for religious reasons) the gov't freaks out....It just goes to show that people in the justice system and gov't only care about what THEY want done. She renamed the child because "SHE didnt like it" I think that is what irritates me the most. Who cares? That is what the mother picked....im sorry it just goes to show what our country is coming to and it makes me so mad!

        August 14, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
  9. QS

    Just more proof that religion can and does simply make people dumb.

    August 14, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • Athy

      I think it's the other way around. Dumbness makes a person religious.

      August 14, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
      • QS

        It can work both ways, but in this case I have to assume a judge is reasonably intelligent to get to that position, which only leaves the religious beliefs to explain how a presumably intelligent judge would do something so dumb!

        August 14, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
  10. annier

    The judge is wrong. Having said that, with regard to the choice of the name by the ridiculous parents, NEVER has the old saying been more true:

    'Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise'.

    August 14, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • StrongPapa

      Ignorance INDEED...So mom, do you consider the ramifications of growing up with this name?? I ask that question not only to this ignorant lady, but to all the parents who give their children these crazy names...WHat if your child grows up to be a teacher, military commander, CEO....STOP BEING SO THOUGTLESS about the potential impact this name will have down the line...For the other parents who do the same thinking it's cute, may the Messiah help you!

      August 14, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
  11. Padric2

    Half the baby boy's in Mexico are names Jesus.

    August 14, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Dippy

      It's boys, not boy's
      It's named, not names
      And it's far less than half.

      August 14, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      I just want to point out that calling your kid Jesus (HehZeus) or Mohammed is just as stupid as calling your kid Messiah... but regardless, it is still none of your or the government's business what a parent wishes to name their kid.

      August 14, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • Athy

      I can think of literally hundreds of stupid names, but it all boils down to one's opinion, right? Almost any name will be objected to by someone somewhere.

      August 14, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
      • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

        Boils is not in the top 1000 names for any year of birth in the last 13 years.
        Please enter another name.

        August 14, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
      • lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

        Athy sayz,
        "I can think of literally..................................."

        Literally is not in the top 1000 male names for any year of birth in the last 13 years.
        Please enter another name.

        Litter is not in the top 1000 names for any year of birth in the last 13 years.
        Please enter another name.

        August 14, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
  12. Danielle

    My son's name is Messiah. There are no issues with this in our Roman Catholic church because we understand that he is not The Chosen One. He is the THE MESSIAH. It is a name and that's it. If people have an issue with it we tell them that they can call him by his nicknames, which are Siah or Si or even by his middle name Antonio. He is now 4 almost 5 and not one person has made fun of or commented on his name they honestly don't even think of us referring to him at the Holy One they see an innocent little boy with big brown eyes. No outrageous standards are being held for him because of his name. I don't expect him to be an innocent little boy but if he chooses to go by his middle name when he older that's fine. The judge should not have changed that little boy's name. There is a separation she needs to identify with and she can't do that so she needs debarred.

    August 14, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • Jackson

      He's 4, almost 5.

      That means he hasn't started school yet.

      Get back to me after he gets bullied at school for that name.

      August 14, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
      • Danielle

        He is in school. No name calling. He does sports too

        August 14, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
        • Billy

          At the age of 4 or 5 kids haven't started to get that sort of mean yet. The real trouble is going to be come middle school, and high school time. Or just imagine walking up to a woman in a bar and saying, "hello my name is Messiah."

          August 14, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
      • truthprevails1

        I'm sure that if this little boy gets bullied his Mom is quite capable of handling the matter and helping her son through it. Bullies don't care about names, they care about causing harm...the name is just an excuse.

        August 14, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • wawawa

      terrible name... plain terrible.. as bad as naming kids king or prince.. way to inject some undeserved ego in his head.. just terrible..

      August 14, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
      • Danielle

        It is a name not a definition of who he is. If it was a huge ordeal with the religion then I don't think my son would be alive today because he had God and angels looking out for him at birth and he's had health issues and always shows progress and improvements. So highly doubt the NAME Messiah is a bad thing

        August 14, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          I wasn't sure if you were stupid or not but "God and angels looking out for him at birth" kind of confirms to me that you are most definitely not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I sincerely hope your 'Messiah' has continued progress in his health and well-being... but your credibility is now suspect...

          August 14, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • Momynwifey3281

      Danielle I think it is a BEAUTIFUL NAME! And look no worries for your son as, other than some idiot judge, will be for this child. If people in the community are that worried that he will be bullied then maybe they need to take a step back look at themselves.

      August 14, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
  13. lol?? Pithiest, YES!!

    Wurld Class Catfight, and it's time for Thunderdome!!!!!

    Mama Beast....................................VS

    Mama Joe Q Slave

    Use of SWAT teams will be considered an infraction of the rules.

    August 14, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • jo2

      Get back on your medication.

      August 14, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Even atheists pray that lol will start doing the Thorazine shuffle sometime soon....

        August 14, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
  14. TN Grandma

    Where is the separation of Church and State on this one? Where is the ACLU on this one, do they only fight against religion and can't fight for the right to have it? This judge is way off base !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh by the way, this little one is a beautiful baby, just love his happy face.

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

      Hi, I'm Reading. Have we met?

      August 14, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        Give Grandma a break... you know it probably took her all day to type that on her AOL dial-up account...

        August 14, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
        • Ringer

          Gramps, what is a dial up?

          August 14, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          @Ringer – it's kind of like DSL.... but WAY suckier (if that's possible)

          August 14, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
  15. wondersnevercease

    Dumb idea to name the kid Messiah. Parents should be charged with child neglect if anything (jk). They certainly set him up with a name that begs for him to be picked on and teased. The judge, apparently trying to protect the kid, overstepped her boundaries though.

    August 14, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
  16. DeMarcus

    I'm Catholic and I think the judge is wrong! Next we'll be saying Emmanuel is inappropriate!?

    August 14, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
  17. TAK

    Seems like this judge is practicing her brand of sharia.

    August 14, 2013 at 1:33 pm |

    doesn't matter if I agree or not, No one has a right to tell you what to name your child.

    August 14, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
  19. Jim

    Only an idiot names the kid Messiah. Way to get your kid into fights and be picked on for your own stupidity and selfish desire to make sure your kid's name is uneeque

    August 14, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • Padric2

      Did you get picked on for your inability to spell the word "UNIQUE" correctly? Only an idiot would do that.

      August 14, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
      • Jemma

        I'm pretty sure that Jim was being facetious when he misspelled unique.

        August 14, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
      • Jackson

        Congratulations for COMPLETELY missing the point of the joke in the way the poster spelled unique.

        You're beyond clueless.

        August 14, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
      • Dippy

        Only an idiot would not recognize the facetiousness in Jim's comment.

        August 14, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
        • Padric2

          Well, at least you're named correctly

          August 14, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
  20. citizenUSA

    Everyone knows why it's wrong to change the name. The judge should step down for not knowing better.

    August 14, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • Momynwifey3281

      I agree it is none of her business...

      August 14, 2013 at 1:58 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.