A Tennessee judge ruled on Thursday that “Messiah” is an unacceptable name for a 7-month-old baby who was brought into court because of the parents’ disagreement for a last name for the child.
“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,” the child support judge, Lu Ann Ballew, said according to WBIR-TV.
Instead, Ballew ordered that the mother of the baby, Jaleesa Martin, change her child’s name from Messiah DeShawn Martin to “Martin DeShawn McCullough,” which includes both of the parents’ last names. According to Ballew, her decision was in “the best interests of the child” if he were to grow up in Cocke County, Tennessee, which has 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,” Ballew told WBIR-TV.
According to the Social Security database of baby names, “Messiah,” as a first name, has become increasingly more common in the United States. The database also rated the name as the fourth fastest-rising baby name and in 2012, 762 babies were named Messiah.
More than 3,000 babies were named “Jesus” in 2012, according to the database.
Martin, who said she chose “Messiah” because it went well with the names of her other two children Mason and Micah, told the WBIR-TV that she plans to appeal Ballew’s ruling.
“I didn’t think a judge could make me change my baby’s name because of her religious beliefs,” Martin said. “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.”
Martin’s appeal will be heard before the chancellor of Cocke County on Sept. 17.