A Tennessee couple will be allowed to name their 8-month old baby "Messiah," after a judge reversed an earlier court order that blocked the name, arguing that it was a title reserved solely for Jesus Christ.
"The magistrate's decision is vacated in part," Chancellor Telford Forgety announced in court on Wednesday, WBIR reported.
The decision allows the mother and father, Jaleesa Martin and Jawaan McCullough, to name their baby boy "Messiah," reversing Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew's decision in August to name the baby "Martin DeShawn McCullough" instead.
"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 explained in an interview last month. The judge added that such a name was likely to offend the residents of Cocke County, which has a large Christian population.
Groups such as the American Family Association protested against the decision, arguing the judiciary should not be able to dictate what name parents give their child.
AFA President Tim Wildmon agreed with the judge that the only true Messiah is Jesus Christ, bur noted that "a judge should be able to rule on what parents name their child."
Martin's attorney, Kristi Davis, said that an appeal was launched because both parents had agreed on the first name, and argued that Ballew's decision was unconstitutional.
"This has been an interesting case – it's been widely reported, people have been very interested in it, and I think that's a good thing," Davis said.
The court ruling on Wednesday took just 30 minutes to overturn the magistrate's earlier deicsion, with the judge noting that the court's purpose was to decide only on the last name of the child, which is why Martin and McCullough turned to the court system in the first place.
"I was ready to get it over with...I was kind of nervous..." Martin said after the decision, revealing that the 8-month-old is now called Messiah DeShawn McCollugh. She added that she never stopped calling the baby "Messiah," the Associated Press shared.
"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," the mother previously explained, saying that the chosen name goes well with her two other children, named Micah and Mason.
Davis added that the great national attention this story has received is reflective of America's deep interest in civil liberties.
"I think it's truly a recognition by the citizens of our country that when a judge oversteps his or her bounds and infringes on the constitutional rights of the people that come in front of them, it's something that we don't like, and it's something that we pay attention to."