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Mom Can Keep ‘Messiah’ Baby Name, Judge Rules

Expecting a baby? Considering the name “Messiah”? Good news! There’s now legal precedent for giving your little bundle this biblical moniker: A judge in Tennessee has overturned a prior court order stopping a woman from naming her child “Messiah.”

Last month, Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew ordered that the son of Newport, Tennessee mom Jaleesa Martin be changed from “Messiah DeShawn Martin” to “Martin DeShawn McCullough.” (McCullough is the baby’s father’s last name.)

“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,” Ballew told TV station WBIR last month.

The baby’s mother, meanwhile, said she was shocked that a judge could change a child’s name based on her religious beliefs. Check out CNN’s interview with Jaleesa Martin last month below.

It turns out that from a legal standpoint, Ballew — or, as the “Above the Law” blog dubbed her, “future Associate Justice” Ballew — did indeed overstep, according to Tennessee’s Cocke County Chancery Court. Chancellor Telford E. Forgety overturned Ballew’s decision, saying she acted unconstitutionally and ordered the child’s first name be changed back to “Messiah,” the Associated Press reported.

In case you’re wondering, Messiah isn’t an uncommon a first name and has grown more popular in recent years. In 2012, it was the 387th most popular boys’ name in the U.S., according to the Social Security Administration, far ahead of more conventional names like Roger (#566) and Carl (#539).

Still, Ballew might find support in a surprising place — the other side of the globe. In New Zealand, the country’s department of internal affairs maintains a list of banned names — and that list includes “Messiah.” (Other names rejected by the department include Christ, Justice, Duke and Anal.)

“A name, or combination of names, should not cause offence, be unreasonably long or resemble an official title or rank,” a government spokesman told Sky News in May.

Memo to Judge Ballew: If you’re finding the controversy over your decision a bit too much to handle, perhaps a trip to Kiwi country is in order?

 

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