Should mother be forced to change Messiah's name? - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

Should mother be forced to change Messiah's name?

(WMC-TV) - A legal war is waging over whether a mother has the right to name her child "Messiah" after an East Tennessee judge ruled that his name had to be changed.

Child Support Judge Lu Ann Ballew ordered that a 7-month-old boy's name be changed from "Messiah Deshawn Martin" to "Martin McCullough".

"The world 'Messiah' is a title and it's a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ," said Ballew.

The child's mother, Jaleesa Martin, does not agree with the ruling, nor do many people who recently learned of the debate.

"She made the ruling based on her personal feeling," said Andrea Walker. "We have a separation of church and state here. So that's unconstitutional."

"There are many unusual names in the world these days, and I think the parents have the right to pick the name," agreed Nancy Edmondson.

Former judge and practicing attorney D'Army Bailey shares the same opinion as the baby's mother in this case.

You cannot base a deprivation of a personal right, the right to name one's child, on religious precepts," said Bailey, who spent 19 years on the bench as a Shelby County Circuit Court judge. "The references to Jesus being the only Messiah and therefore this is not an acceptable name, that just offends the most fundamental concept of the first amendment."

Jaleesa Martin plans to appeal Judge Ballew's decision. Bailey suspects that Martin will have no problem winning that appeal.

"My own training in the law and constitution tells me that it's far out of line with even the most elementary precepts," added Bailey.

The debate began when the baby's mother and father could not agree on a last name. It was the last name debate that brought the two to a child support hearing. They never intended the first name would end up being the big battle.

Martin says she named her boy "Messiah" because she liked it and thought it was unique.

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