Names in every country are certainly not required to track closely with the majority religion, but that’s what Tennessee Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew seems to think.
Jaleesa Martin, of Tennessee, had a child named Messiah. When Jaleesa and Messiah’s father couldn’t agree on a last name for the kid, they went to court. However, instead of just deciding on a surname, Judge Ballew unilaterally changed Messiah’s name to Martin because she believed that naming a child Messiah was just too darn unchristian:
“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 said.
It’s a title? So is “Queen,” but Dana Owens has been rocking that moniker for a couple of decades with little fuss.
Is Judge Ballew expecting another Messiah to crop up and thinks we’ll get confused? I really don’t think that we’re in for a “Life of Brian” situation where some poor schlub gets tagged as the savior of all humankind. That would be silly, given that “Messiah” is apparently the fourth fastest-rising baby name in 2012. That’s a lot of saviors.
The judge renamed the child Martin, one assumes because it’s the mother’s last name. But hey, why not stick with a Biblical theme? There are lots of cool names, like Noah or Malachi. There are also the classics: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Seriously, though. It is literally impossible for me to care less about what parents name their children. Name your kid any random string of 16 consonants. That’s between you and your baby-naming book. As long as you tell me how you want it pronounced, I’m good. This judge ostensibly made the decision because she thought it was in the child’s best interests, but, as reported in WBIR, she really did it because a lot of people in this country are Christian:
According to Judge Ballew, it is the first time she has ordered a first name change. She said the decision is best for the child, especially while growing up in a county with a large Christian population.
“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,” Judge Ballew said.
What about people who name their kids Jesus? Not relevant, said the judge. Reason? Unclear.
There is, of course, nothing inherent in Christianity that prohibits naming someone after a Biblical character. People do it all the time. Name your kid Mary and no one bats an eye. Name your kid the far more mellifluous Messiah, and a judge changes it to Martin.
The most bananas thing about this is that Jaleesa meant absolutely nothing religious in her choice of name. She has two other children, Micha and Mason, and said she liked how the three names sounded together. However, because she had the misfortune of getting this particular judge, her naming scheme was thwarted.
This may not seem like a big deal to anyone other than the people directly involved, but actually, it’s pretty likely that the judge broke the law prohibiting state officials from using their power to compel religious action when she made this decision. Religious liberty is something that needs to be protected, even when it doesn’t directly effect you.
Jaleesa is appealing the decision and will go before the county chancellor on Sept. 17.
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