Separation of church and state is weeping today over the Messiah baby name change court order, and many wonder whether a judge’s decision that a baby boy be renamed is legal or permissible.
The Messiah baby name change story comes out of Cocke County, Tennessee, where parents were originally in court to decide on the little boy’s surname.
But Jaleesa Martin and her son’s father appeared in Cocke County Chancery Court on Thursday and received a far harsher and more meddlesome outcome than a simple surname change — Christian Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew, who serves the 4th Judicial District of Cocke, Grainger, Jefferson, and Sevier Counties, demanded that the baby be renamed “Martin” because he wasn’t entitled to a first name of “Messiah.”
While not a parent to the child, Judge Ballew decided nonetheless that the 7-month-old be renamed to “Martin DeShawn McCullough.”
“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.”
The implications for non-Christian parents in baby naming are large, and Martin says that she is stunned a judge’s religious beliefs could force her to rename her own child. She told a local news station:
“I was shocked. I never intended to name 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.”
The Messiah baby name change decision is up for appeal and will go before the Cocke County Chancellor on September 17 — but if Judge Ballew’s order stands, Jaleesa Martin and her baby’s father will be legally forced to alter their son’s birth certificate in alignment with the magistrate’s religious beliefs.