A Tennessee woman went to court to settle a dispute with her baby’s father over the child’s last name, but instead the judge ruled on his first name: 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,” Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew told WBIR-TV, a local channel.
Ballew ordered the child instead be called Martin Deshawn McCullough, which includes the mother’s surname and the father’s last name.
The judge made this decision because she felt that the child would suffer if his name remained Messiah. This decision sparked debate over how much authority a judge has in the naming of children.
Jaleesa Martin, the mother, expressed her discontent.
“I was shocked. 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,” Martin said.
Th e American Civil Liberties Union offered to appeal the court ruling for the mother, on the basis of First Amendment rights violation.
Even if she chooses not to pursue further action, Jalessa Martin will continue to call her son ‘Messiah.’
Currently, there are regulations in how long a name can be and what kind of punctuation can be in a name, but those regulations vary from district to district.
There have been similar cases in the past, such as when a judge in New York refused a couple from changing their family name to ChristIsLord.
Last year, there were 726 babies given the name Messiah and it is the fourth fastest growing name, according to the Social Security Administration Database.
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