Tennessee Judge Lu Ann Ballew Orders Baby’s Name Changed from ‘Messiah’; Says Only Jesus Deserves Title
When Newport, Tennessee mom Jaleesa Martin and the father of their 7-month-old baby Messiah couldn’t agree on whose last name to give the boy, they turned to the court system to settle the dispute. But what happened next deeply disturbed Jaleesa, who found herself stripped of the very right to give her child a first name.
The Tennessean reports Cocke County Chancery Court Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew, a devout Christian, not only ruled on the child’s last name, she also changed his first name because she believed only Jesus Christ should ever be called ‘Messiah.’
“The word Messiah is a title and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ,” Judge Ballew declared as she re-christened the child ‘Martin DeShawn McCullough,’ a combination of both the boy’s parents’ names.
Judge Ballew insisted that the name change was for the child’s own good, being that he will grow up in a Christian-dominated county.
“It could put him at odds with a lot of people and at this point he has had no choice in what his name is,” the magistrate explained.
Martin told the Tennessean she was “shocked” by the judge’s decision to strip her of her parental right to give her own son a first name.
“I never intended on naming my son Messiah because it means God and I didn’t think a judge could make me change my baby’s name because of her religious beliefs,” she said. Martin added that she named her baby Messiah because her other sons are called Micah and Mason, and she liked the alliterative sound of the names together.
“Everybody believes what they want so I think I should be able to name my child what I want to name him, not someone else,” Martin told the Tennessean.
Martin said she will appeal Judge Ballew’s decision. Her appeal will be heard on September 17.
ACLU of Tennessee executive director Hedy Weinberg told the Tennessean that the judge should not have ordered Messiah’s name changed and that Judge Ballew’s religious beliefs should not interfere with her dispensation of justice.
“She does not have the right to impose [her Christian] faith on others,” Weinberg said. “And that is what she did.”
“A parents are has the right to choose their child’s name,” she added. “In this case, the judge is creating a culture where she is imposing her religious beliefs on others. And that is unacceptable.”
According to Nameberry.com, a popular baby-naming blog, ‘Messiah’ was the 387th most popular name for baby boys in 2012. ‘Jesus’ ranked 101st.