What child is this?
Apparently not “Messiah,” regardless of his parents’ wishes.
A Tennessee judge — at least that’s what the media is calling her, she’s really a “Child Support Magistrate,” and since this whole affair is about claiming a grandiose title, it’s deliciously ironic — has ordered that the birth certificate of a 7-month-old baby named “Messiah” be “Martin DeShawn McCullough.”
Anyway, future Associate Justice Lu Ann Ballew based her name change on her religious beliefs, making her not only wrong legally, but also religiously….
Jaleesa Martin and Baby Messiah’s father (according to reports, not, in fact, God) could not agree on a last name, so at their Thursday child support hearing in Cocke (yes, pronounced “Cock,” but we don’t even need to make dick jokes on this story though) County Chancery Court, they asked Magistrate “Don’t Call Me Cat” Ballew to resolve the issue. She went further and changed the kid’s first name as well. Martin (the mother, not the newly dubbed baby) is appealing the decision. The appeal will go before the Cocke County chancellor on Sept. 17.
Lost in all the crazy here is the fact that, because the first name was changed to “Martin,” the mother (who by all accounts seems to have not married the father and is the child’s primary caregiver) clearly lost the last name fight, too. Unless the goal was to name a kid Martin Martin.
Shouldn’t a good religious judge be incentivizing men to put a ring on it?
Indeed, Tennessee law doesn’t support that conclusion. Requiring instead:
An unmarried mother has the sole legal right to choose her child’s first name and middle name. Her child’s surname (last name) must be either the mother’s surname, the mother’s maiden name, or a combination of the two surnames – unless the father signs a sworn acknowledgement of paternity on a special state form.
If the father signs the sworn paternity acknowledgment, then the unmarried mother is allowed — but not required — to give her child the father’s surname.
So unless every media outlet is just glossing over a divorce, Magistrate Ballew may be completely unable to interpret Tennessee law, which comes as an absolute shock.
Here’s a video where you can see Magistrate Ballew in a fetching lime green P.O.S. and pontificating with the deer in the headlights look that the American justice system reserves for its most talented jurists:
As Jezebel notes, Messiah is the number 4 fastest-rising baby name of last year, so it’s actually a name used by a lot of people. But in the video, Magistrate Ballew points out that “[t]he 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.”
But more importantly, on the question of whether “Messiah” is a title “earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ,” Magistrate Ballew is wrong. Where does one have to go to find other people who have earned the title Messiah? Well, the Bible is a good place to start:
Mashiah simply means “anointed” or “anointed one.” The Old Testament writers use it and its verb form, mashah, to describe kings (David, Saul, even Gentile kings like Hazael — II Samuel 1:14; 12:7; I Kings 19:15); priests, including the high priest (Leviticus 4:3, 5); and prophets (I Kings 19:16; Isaiah 61:1). Normally, these people were anointed with oil in a ritual as a sign of being set apart for the office that they were about to fulfill. Thus, at its most basic, mashiah indicates a person God authorizes and sets apart for His service.
Even Cyrus the Great gets the Messiah tag.
You know what Messiah translates into in Greek? Χριστός, which is to say, Christos, which is to say Christ. That’s the same title. Yet, Magistrate Ballew is probably not going around changing the names of every Christopher and Christina that rolls through her courtroom, even though the latter is just a smooth diminutive of Messiah.
We do know that Magistrate Ballew has at least considered one other name change. In the video, she’s asked about Latino boys named “Jesus.” The Magistrate explains that she’s given that a lot of thought, but that the question is not relevant to this case.
Good job! Wouldn’t want to add giving an advisory opinion to violating the First Amendment and misinterpreting Tennessee naming law.