Ballew’s “Messiah”

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Early August, Jalessa Martin of Newport, Tenn., went to court to legally change her son’s last name. Martin was not married to their son’s father, Jawaan McCullough and the two could not decide on the last name for their 7-month-old. According to multiple reports, including The New York Times, child support magistrate LuAnn Ballew of the 4th Judicial District of Tennessee decided to not only change the baby’s last name, but took it upon herself to change the first, saying “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.” According to CNN.com, she continued to declare that the name “places an undue burden on him that as a human being, he cannot fulfill.”

Wait. Isn’t there such a thing as separation of church and state?


According to U.S. Social Security Administration statistics, Messiah was the fourth fastest-growing name for boys in the U.S. from 2011-2012. It falls after Scott (ranked 386) and before Jay.

But these Messiah’s have one less in their group, as little Messiah Martin is now to be known as Martin DeShawn McCullough.

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CNN reports that the mother intends to continue to refer to her son as Messiah and told Ballew, “I’m sorry that you have your own beliefs, but you have no right to change my child’s name.”

Martin has appealed the court’s decision and is supported by the Tennessee American Civil Liberties Union.


Let’s be honest. There are a lot of, let’s call them, unusual names out there. Out of curiosity, I downloaded the Social Security Agency’s list of names of boys and girls born in the U.S. in 2012.

Last year, five boys were named Prinston and another five Princeten, which, if the parents were thinking would give their sons any sort of hook when applying to Princeton, may backfire.

Seven boys were named Logic. And with 212 girls in 2012 named Unique, it might not live up to its moniker.

The largest women’s Zionist group in the world may want to send out membership applications to the 317 little Hadassahs born last year.

And I wonder if those of us who watched the Saturday morning cartoon lineup in the 1970s and remember the live action show about the Egyptian goddess chanted “Oh, Zephyr winds which blow on high, lift me now so I can fly,” when hearing of the 465 little girls named Isis.

Ballew is reported to have expressed concern that the name Messiah was too much for any human to live up to. Which makes me wonder about the 3,201 Trinitys, 981 Heavens, 313 Temperances, 310 Patiences, and six Greatnesses. Not to mention Honesty and Desire. Or the five Siddarthas, five Prophets and the five named Godswill. And what about the 3,758 boys who carry the name Jesus? Jesus, by the way, falls between the Nickelodeon-child-star-sounding names Ryder and Cole.

But I wonder. It’s easy to shrug off Messiah. But how do we feel about Heath Campbell, who among his eight children by four women are son Adolf Hitler Campbell and daughter JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell? Or, as reported in The New York Times, the family that wanted their last name changed to ChristIsKing and their children’s first names to be changed to JesusIsLord and Rejoice. (The New York judge refused the request on the reasoning that it could infringe on the religious liberties of others as in, for example, a clerk of court would need to call out “JesusIsLord ChristIsKing.”)

And last year, 39 baby boys were named Adonai.

Bottom line, parents have a right to burden their child with whatever name they wish. It’s one of the perks of parenthood. And judges should not use the bench as a pulpit, using legal powers to espouse a set of religious beliefs. So, good luck, little Messiah. Perhaps one day, you’ll meet one of the 581 girls named Justice.

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