A mother in eastern Tennessee says she will appeal a court's decision that she can't name her son "Messiah," as the "title has only been earned by one person, and that one person is Jesus Christ."
Jaleesa Martin and her husband, who live in Newport, Tenn., went to the Cocke County Chancery Court after they couldn't agree on a last name of their 7-month-old baby, whom the mother had named Messiah Deshawn Martin. They never knew the child's first name would become an issue.
Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew, who serves the 4th Judicial District of Tennessee, ordered the child's name be changed to Martin DeShawn McCullough, so that it includes both parents' names and excludes the "title" 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," Judge Ballew told WBIR-TV.
Martin says she was surprised by the judge's decision. "I was shocked. 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," she was quoted as saying.
Martin plans to take her case to the Cocke County Chancellor on Sept. 17, and insists that it is her right to name her child as she wants to.
This is the first time the judge has ordered a first name change, and she believes it is in the interest of the child to leave out Messiah from his name because the county he will grow up in 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," she said.
Martin named her two other children Micah and Mason, and chose to name her youngest child Messiah because it is a unique name and goes well with the names of the other two siblings. "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.