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Posted by on Aug 13, 2013 in Law, Religion, Society | 13 comments

And She Called Her Son Messiah – Until The Judge Forced A Name Change

This story came out over the weekend and is beginning to gain wider attention. It’s another example of people using their positions of power to project their religious views on others and why things like the First Amendment, including free expression and separation of church and state, matter.

The place is Cocke County Tennessee. That’s in the Appalachian foothills. Jaleesa Martin, a young mother, went to court to determine the legal paternity of her child. As part of the paternity proceeding, the mother wanted the child’s last name changed from Martin to the name of the father. But, the judge went a step beyond the mother’s request.

Acting contrary to the mother’s wishes, Judge Lu Ann Ballew ordered that the child’s first name must be changed as well. By the time the hearing had concluded, the child had been renamed Martin DeShawn McCullough. The judge offered her explanation in a local interview which AP describes:

“The word messiah is a title, and it’s a title has only been earned by one person, and that one person is Jesus Christ,” she told WBIR-TV in an interview from her office, which had a ceramic figurine of Joseph and Mary with baby Jesus on her desk. A copy of the Ten Commandments hung on the wall.

The Social Security Administration tracks the popularity of names given to babies. Messiah has been gaining popularity.

While Messiah may not be a traditional English name, it is becoming more popular. Messiah was No. 4 among the fastest-rising baby names in 2012, just ahead of King but behind Major at No. 1, according to the Social Security Administration’s annual list of popular baby names.

The mother is appealing the judge’s decision. The report in Politico is here .

Author’s Note: To the literalists out there, yes, I know that “separation of church and state” is shorthand and does not actually appear in the First Amendment which frames the issue in terms of establishment and free exercise.

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