A Judge Ruled Not to Change This Baby’s Name: Do You Agree?

Photo: AP
Photo: AP

A few weeks ago, we brought you news that a Tennessee judge ordered that parents change their 7-month-old baby boy’s name from “Messiah” to “Martin” because the name “Messiah” is a title that has “only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ.” After the story was picked up by mass media, Messiah’s mom, Jaleesa Martin, told reporters that she planned to appeal the ruling. “I never intended on naming my son Messiah because it means God,” she said, “and I didn’t think a judge could make me change my baby’s name because of her religious beliefs.” The case went to the Cocke County chancellor on September 17 and now, a verdict is in!

Chancellor Telford E. Forgety of Cocke County ruled that Jaleesa and the baby’s father, Jawaan McCullough, would be allowed to keep their now 8-month-old son’s name as Messiah, which overturned the initial ruling made by Lu Ann Ballew. The baby’s full name is now: Messiah Deshawn Martin, which was what Jaleesa had intended for her boy all along.

During the hearing, Forgety ruled that Ballew had acted unconstitutionally when she ordered the parents change Messiah’s name to Martin DeShawn McCullough. He said there was “no basis in the law for changing a child’s first name where both parents are in agreement about it,” adding that Ballew’s initial ruling violated the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution.

Following the appeal, Jaleesa told reporters that she found Ballew’s original ruling “ridiculous” and was confident that the ruling would be overturned. She also admitted that she had never stopped calling the baby Messiah, which was a name that she initially picked because she liked the way it sounded with her other two sons, Micah and Maison. Jaleesa’s mother and other family members accompanied the parents to the appeal hearing and following the ruling she said, “Everybody’s just happy. I’m glad it’s over with, and I know they are too.”

Kristi Davis, the Martin family attorney, said that after the initial hearing she wasn’t surprised by the public interest and attention on their case. She called it a “reflection of the fact that we, as Americans, care about our civil liberties. I think it’s truly a recognition by the citizens of our country that when a judge oversteps his or her bounds and infringes on the constitutional rights of the people that come in front of them, it’s something that we don’t like, and it’s something that we pay attention to.”

Do you think the judge should have changed baby’s name in the first place?

Plus, more from The Bump:

Baby Names We Can’t Believe Are Baby Names

Banned Baby Names: How to Keep Yours from Landing on the List

The Rules on Naming Your Baby