What’s in a name? For a New Jersey couple who named their first-born Adolf Hitler, the answer was a loss of custody, and not just of young Adolf but of their three other children as well. For a Tennessee mother who gave her child an unusual name, the courts were more lenient — but that was because the name was “Messiah.”
According to the newspaper The Tennessean, the mother, Jaleesa Martin, is appealing the decision of a judge who ordered that her son’s name be changed. The issue of the name arose when Martin and the child’s father were required to appear in Cocke County Chancery Court because they were unable to agree on a last name, which the court required for an order of child support.
It was then that Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew first learned that the 7-month-old child had been called Messiah and ordered that his name be changed to “Martin DeShawn McCullough,” which includes both parents’ last names. In her ruling, Ballew 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.” It is a position that non-Christians would take issue with, but Jaleesa Martin had other fish to fry.
“I was shocked,” she told The Tennessean. “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.”
For her part, Ballew acknowledges it is a first for her. She maintains that the decision is best for the child, especially one who will be 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,” she added.
Martin’s two older children are named Micah and Mason. She liked how Messiah sounded as a companion to the other two names and thought it sounded unique. No argument there.
“Everybody believes what they want so I think I should be able to name my child what I want to name him, not someone else,” Martin said. She is appealing the judge’s decision. It will go before the Cocke County Chancellor on Sept. 17.
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