Baby's Name Can't Be 'Messiah,' Tenn. Judge Rules

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on August 12, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Deemed a mere mortal, a baby originally named Messiah is now just "Martin." A Tennessee Child Support Magistrate ruled the baby can't be named "Messiah" because it's "a title that's only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ."

Does the magistrate's ruling have a prayer of holding up under Tennessee law?

Tennessee Law

In Tennessee, an unmarried mother has the sole legal right to choose her child's first name and middle name. In such cases, the child's last name must be the mother's last name, the mother's maiden name, or a combination of the two surnames.

The only exception is when the dad signs a sworn acknowledgement of paternity on a special state form. If he signs the "I-am-the-baby-daddy" form, then the unmarried mother may (but doesn't have to) give her child the father's last name.

Messiah Martin DeShawn McCullough

When unmarried mother Jaleesa Martin and the baby's father couldn't agree on a last name, Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew resolved the issue at their child support hearing, reports Time.

While she was at it, she nixed the baby's first name, too -- which went directly against Jaleesa's wishes. Essentially, the unmarried mother lost both the first name and last name fights (lest he be named "Martin Martin"), which is repugnant to Tennessee law.

Jaleesa is appealing the decision. Because none of her naming wishes were respected, she may very well have a successful appeal.


What Would "Jesus'" Child Support Magistrate Do?

In 2012, "Jesus" was the 101st most popular name in the United States, according to the Social Security Administration.

Magistrate Ballew, however, didn't believe that minor fact was relevant to this case. Yet she didn't offer an explanation as to how they were any different...

Is it because of popularity? "Messiah" was the 387th most popular name. Still, plenty of people have relatively uncommon "God"-like names from other faiths -- Krishna, Muhammad, and Moses, to name a few. So what makes this different?

Your guess is as good as ours, but if a dad could give his kids Nazi-inspired names, we're going to call a legal bluff on Magistrate Ballew using law as a proxy for her personal beliefs.

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