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Monday, August 12, 2013

Mother Says Son Is Messiah, Judge Says No

Asked to settle a dispute between a mother and a father over what their child’s last name should be, Martin or McCullough, a magistrate in Tennessee in search of a Solomonic compromise decreed last week that the boy should be known as Martin McCullough. The child’s mother, Jaleesa Martin, told the NBC News affiliate WBIR-Knoxville that she would appeal the ruling, mainly because the court order meant scrapping the first name she had given her son, Messiah.

A WBIR-Knoxville video report on a legal dispute over a child named Messiah.

The magistrate, Lu Ann Ballew, justified her decision by telling a WBIR reporter that the name Messiah was inappropriate. Ms. Ballew, who wore earrings in the shape of a crucifix during the interview, said: “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.”

Ms. Martin, whose appeal is scheduled to be heard next month, said she was shocked by the ruling. “I didn’t think a judge could make me change my baby’s name because of her religious beliefs,” she told the channel.

Hedy Weinberg, the director of the state’s American Civil Liberties Union chapter, agreed. She told The Tennessean that the magistrate was “imposing her religious beliefs on others,” and offered legal aid to Ms. Martin to fight the ruling.

According to a searchable database maintained by the federal government, Messiah is an increasingly common name for American boys, reaching number 387 in the charts last year. The female name Nevaeh, or Heaven backward, was 24th most popular in Tennessee last year.