August 8, 2013: A judge in Tennessee ordered a name change for a baby named Messiah at birth. His parents were in court because of a dispute over what the kid’s last name should be, not his first name.
Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew took it upon herself to change the baby’s first name as well. “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 judge told a local channel, WBIR-TV, a local channel.
Messiah Deshawn Martin was born on January 9th. His mother, Jaleesa Martin, is going to appeal the decision because she says: “I didn’t think a judge could make me change my baby’s name because of her religious beliefs.”
Judge Ballew renamed the baby Martin Deshawn McCullough, which includes both parents’ names, and further defended her decision in a televised interview by citing the area’s heavily 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 said.
Messiah is on our nouns and adjective lists, both MALE and FEMALE. Those lists had the counts for 2011, when there were 54 girls and 368 boys named Messiah. In 2012, the number of girls went down a little to 49, but the number of boys almost doubled at 762, and the name leaped into the Top 500 Popular American Boys Names at No. 387.
There are undoubtedly a bunch of other names that Judge Ballew would take exception to, like Heaven, Prince, Governor, Amen, Blessed, Saint and Demon. But there’s nothing to worry about — the judge clearly overstepped her authority and will be reversed on appeal.
UPDATE: In 2015, 1509 American baby boys were named Messiah, making the name No. 243 in Most Popular American Boys Names. 49 girls were Messiah.