After telling Tennessee parents that they couldn’t legally call their infant son Messiah last month, Judge Lu Ann Ballew’s ruling was overturned on Wednesday.
When parents of 8-month-old Messiah Deshawn Martin went to court in August to argue over what the child’s last name should be, they were in for a surprise when Ballew decided the baby’s first name should be changed, too. “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,” Ballew said.
The judge further explained her decision saying that the name could cause a lot of trouble for the child growing up. “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,” Ballew said. Ballew decided that Messiah’s name should be changed on his birth certificate to Martin DeShawn McCullough, a combination of both of the parents’ names.
Jaleesa Martin and Jawaan McCullough, Messiah’s parents, were less than thrilled with the judge’s decision. “I should be able to name my child what I want to name him, not someone else,” Martin said after the ruling last month. The Tennessee mom defended Messiah’s name, saying she chose the name because it goes well with the names of her other two kids, Micah and Mason.
The news of the judge’s order eventually reached the ACLU. “Parents, not government, have the right to give a child a name,” Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the Tennessee ACLU, said. “While the judge certainly has a right to her religious faith, she cannot impose that faith on people who come to her courtroom. The promotion of religious beliefs from the bench challenges our belief in due process in the legal system.”
— Betsy Turner (@BetsyTurner) August 12, 2013
Wow…major fail here judge. Apparently you forgot your Constitution when you became a judge. http://t.co/YehapjG7GY
— Konwakeri Kenra:ken (@Razn_Cain) August 12, 2013
Chancellor Telford Forgety agreed that the child’s name shouldn’t have been changed from Messiah and overturned Ballew’s ruling after the family filed an appeal. Martin said that she was happy the case was over with after the ruling. “I was ready to get it over with…I was kind of nervous,” Martin said.
The government does have some rules and restrictions in place regarding baby names. For example, obscenities or a combination of letters and numbers, such as “R2D2,” aren’t allowed. Otherwise, titles such as Messiah or Master are fair game.
Was the decision to overturn the ruling on Messiah’s name right, or are there certain names that should be off-limits? Add your comments below.