Judge: Boy In Tennessee Can Keep Name 'Messiah'

Sep 18, 2013
Originally published on September 18, 2013 3:34 pm

A judge has ruled that a Tennessee woman can name her 8-month-old son "Messiah" — a decision that overturns a ruling last month that drew international attention to the boy.

In a paternity hearing in August, Jaleesa Martin and Jawaan McCullough brought a dispute over their son's surname. Martin had given her son the name Messiah Deshawn Martin, but McCullough wanted the boy to have his last name.

As NPR's Bill Chappell reported at the time, Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew ruled that both of the boy's names be changed on the birth certificate, telling Knoxville's WBIR TV: "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 ordered that the child be named Martin DeShawn McCullough.

According to The Associated Press:

"That decision quickly made international news, and the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a complaint against Ballew with the state's Board of Judicial Conduct. The board has not yet made any public ruling on the complaint."

A ruling on Wednesday by county Chancellor Telford E. Forgety in Newport, Tenn., overturned Ballew's decision, allowing the name on the child's birth certificate to stand.

"Everybody's just happy," Martin was quoted by the AP as saying after the ruling. "I'm glad it's over with."

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