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Judge Decides Baby Didn’t Earn His Name, Changes it

Judge Decides Baby Didn’t Earn His Name, Changes it

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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Photo Credit: kaatjevervoort via Flickr

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158 comments

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4:59PM PDT on Oct 3, 2013

A higher Tennessee court has overturned the decision - and the child can keep the name "Messiah".

http://nation.time.com/2013/09/18/judge-resurrects-messiah-name-in-tennessee/

4:26AM PDT on Sep 7, 2013

Yes, I thought it absurd too L.G. that they couldn't agree on the last name for the baby. How nutty is that?

8:02AM PDT on Aug 30, 2013

the religious are poisoning every aspect of our society. now we can't even name our children what we want without their permission? This is getting ridiculous

3:46PM PDT on Aug 23, 2013

John S.,

Humans, when they reach adulthood should be and are allowed in many states to change their names and that it should every where in the world.

3:44PM PDT on Aug 23, 2013

John S.,

I strongly disagree with your idea of guidelines for any Being being named. I am not a crazy Libertarian, but this is Governments going way, way and way too far, for only sick control, so those offended and profiting from it do not have to evolve.

2:45AM PDT on Aug 23, 2013

Perhaps they should introduce naming guidelines similar to that of horses or (purebred) dogs!

7:06AM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

From what I heard on WLRN (I think 'The Weekend Edition' show) all countries have restrictions (even Western European & Democratic Socialist Countries) and Denmark restricts guardians & parents to I think they said 7,000 names.

This is FLAT OUT WRONG!!! What happened to being able to ignore words???

4:32AM PDT on Aug 20, 2013

I can't see anything wrong with the name...Does the judge have a problem with Adam, Eve, Joesph, Mary, Jesus, Abraham or the many other biblical names that have been given to children for 2000 years or so? My goodness gracious me, I seen a program from Africa and nearly every baby boy was Jesus or Messiah and the people think it is an honour to name their children after such historical sacred and holy people. The worst case of a name abuse with little thought for the baby was a little boy who was named Match but the sad part was his surname was Box and so when he went to school he got teased for being a match box. Now Judge whatever your name is please explain to me which is worse? I propose that the latter is far worse because no forethought went into the consequences. Having the name Messiah wouldn't even register with lots of folk as to it's origins. Peace and Love.

5:29PM PDT on Aug 19, 2013

Idiot judge.

7:50AM PDT on Aug 19, 2013

While parent(s) seemingly fail to have the foresight in considering the long range issues and impacts that an unusual name for their child will cause to the child, there seems to be little reason for this particular name to be struck as the child's moniker.

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