COPPERAS COVE, Texas, August 12, 2013 — Using her own religious beliefs as the standard, child support magistrate Lu Ann Ballew ordered on Thursday that a 7-month old child’s name be changed from Messiah DeShawn Martin to Martin DeShawn McCullough.
When Jaleesa Martin and the father of her son could not agree on a last name, they ended up at a child support hearing before Ballew in Tennessee’s Cocke County Chancery Court. Ballew, who serves the 4th Judicial District of Tennessee, ordered that the child’s name be changed to “Martin DeShawn McCullough,” which includes the last names of both parents. She omitted the name “Messiah.”
“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,” Ballew said.
According to Ballew, this is the first time she has ordered a first name change. She said the decision is best for the child, especially while growing up in a county with a large Christian population. “It could put him at odds with a lot of people and at this point he has had no choice in what his name is.”
“I was shocked,” Martin said in response to the judge’s decision. “I never intended on naming 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.”
Martin, who has two older children named Micah and Mason, said she liked how the name Messiah sounded alongside the other two siblings and thought it was unique. “Everybody believes what they want so I think I should be able to name my child what I want to name him, not someone else,” she said.
When asked about people who named their children “Jesus,” Judge Ballew said she had thought about that, but it was “not relevant to this case.”
Martin is appealing the judge’s decision, and is scheduled to go before the Cocke County Chancellor on Sept. 17.
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