*A Tennessee judge ruled that Jaleesa Martin will be allowed to name her son ‘Messiah.’
The judge’s ruling overturned the order from another judge who said the boy’s name should be changed to Martin because “`Messiah’ is a title that is held only by Jesus Christ.”
Last month child support magistrate Lu Ann Ballew ordered a name change for Martin’s son during a paternity hearing. Jaleesa wanted to maintain the last name of Martin for her son, while the son’s father Jawaan McCullough wanted the baby to have his last name.
Both parents were surprised when Ballew ordered that the baby’s name be changed to Martin Deshawn McCullough. She felt the name Messiah was not in the baby’s best interest.
“`Messiah’ is a title that is held only by Jesus Christ.” She added, “Labeling this child `Messiah’ places an undue burden on him that as a human being, he cannot fulfill,” Ballew stated.
Ballew felt that the name might offend many residents of Cocke County who are mostly Christian.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation filed a complaint against Ballew with the state’s Board of Judicial Conduct. The board has not yet made any public ruling on the complaint.
At an appeal hearing in Cocke County Chancery Court on Wednesday, it took Chancellor Telford E. Forgety all of 30 minutes to overturn Ballew’s decision, finding that she acted unconstitutionally.
Forgety said that there is no basis in the law for changing a child’s first name where both parents are in agreement about it. He also said that Ballew’s decision violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“Everybody’s just happy,” Martin said after the ruling. “I’m glad it’s over with, and I know they are too.”
Martin’s attorney, Kristi Davis, said after the hearing that she was not surprised by how much public interest there was in the case, calling it “a reflection of the fact that we, as Americans, care about our civil liberties.”
“I think it’s truly a recognition by the citizens of our country that when a judge oversteps his or her bounds and infringes on the constitutional rights of the people that come in front of them, it’s something that we don’t like, and it’s something that we pay attention to.”