Parents Can Name Baby 'Messiah,' Judge Rules

Says original judge acted unconstitutionally by ordering name change

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Sep 18, 2013 1:59 PM CDT

(Newser) – A Tennessee woman will be allowed to name her 8-month-old son "Messiah," a judge ruled today, overturning an 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." At an appeal hearing, the judge found that the original judge acted unconstitutionally and, by agreement of the baby's parents, ordered the child's name to be changed to Messiah Deshawn McCullough. The judge said that the original decision violates the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution, which mandates the separation of church and state.

Jaleesa Martin said she couldn't believe it when child support magistrate Lu Ann Ballew last month ordered her son's name changed during a paternity hearing. The parents were disputing the baby's surname, with Martin hoping to keep the name she had given him—Messiah Deshawn Martin—and father Jawaan McCullough wanting the baby to bear his last name. The decision quickly made international news, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation filed a complaint against Ballew with the state's Board of Judicial Conduct.

This photo provided by Heidi Wigdahl of WBIR-TV shows 7-month old Martin or Messiah DeShawn McCullough being held by mom Jaleesa Martin.
This photo provided by Heidi Wigdahl of WBIR-TV shows 7-month old Martin or Messiah DeShawn McCullough being held by mom Jaleesa Martin.   (AP Photo/Heidi Wigdahl)
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