A judge has ordered a seven-month-old baby’s parents to change his name from Messiah to Martin after they appeared before her in a dispute about the child’s surname.
Instead, the pair were ordered to change the baby’s first name, because, according to the judge, only one person earned the name Messiah, ‘and that one person is Jesus Christ’.
According to WBIR Newport, the mother of the child, Jaleesa Martin, and his father couldn’t agree on whose last name the boy should have, so they went before child support magistrate Lu Ann Ballew at Cocke County Chancery Court on Thursday to decide the matter.
However, Ballew took issue not with the baby’s surname but his first: Messiah.
The baby’s full name was officially Messiah DeShawn Martin, but Ballew told the baby’s parents that they must change it to Martin DeShawn McCullough, which incorporates both mother and father’s surnames but leaves out 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,” Judge Ballew told WBIR.
A WBIR reporter asked the judge what she thought about all the children named Jesus.
‘Well, I thought about that,’ she responded. ‘That’s not relevant to this case.’
Martin is amazed a judge could force her to change her son’s name because of their own religion.
‘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.’
Judge Ballew said she was thinking of the child’s future wellbeing when she made the decision.
The area of Newport where Martin and her son live has a large proportion of Christians, said the judge.
‘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,’ Judge Ballew said.
Martin, who has two older children named Micah and Mason, intends to fight Ballew’s decision.
‘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,’ she said.
An appeal will go before the Cocke County Chancellor on September 13.