I remember my grandfather telling me what he went through when my dad was born in 1921 in the rural southern Illinois farm country of Union County. He wanted to name his son Willie, not William, not Bill, but Willie. The hospital tried to tell him that he couldn’t name his son Willie because it wasn’t a proper name and that he could name him William and call him Willie if he wanted to. My grandfather was a stubborn man who never back downed to anyone that I know of. He threatened to fight anyone that tried to prevent him from naming his first born son Willie. Eventually, the hospital gave in and my dad’s name on his birth certificate reads Willie Eugene Jolly.
In my life time, I’ve seen kids given some of the weirdest names imaginable and no one seems willing to say anything nor do they try to stop them. I could give you a list of names but will suffice to say that the first boy to date my youngest daughter was named Harry Topliss III. It’s bad enough to do it once but he was the third one in his family given the moniker that always draws chuckles. Perhaps the worse naming I’ve seen was a lady years ago back in Arizona whose birth name was Ima Hore. I don’t know how any parent could do that to a girl, but they did.
But do hospitals or judges really have the legal authority to dictate what parent can name their own children?
Evidently one judge does and even though I understand her reasoning, I don’t agree with her actions.
A Tennessee couple ended up in court because they could not agree on which last name their seven month old boy would have. It seems the parents had different last names and each wanted their son to bear their names. The mother, Jaleesa Martin wanted her baby boy to be named Messiah DeShawn Martin.
However, when Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew saw the boys full name, she ruled that the boy’s first name had to be changed from Messiah to Martin. In her ruling, Ballew said the child’s name must be changed to Martin DeShawn McCullough stating:
“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.”
“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.”
While I would not name my child Messiah, I have to ask if the judge made her ruling on law or upon her own personal Christian faith? According to the Social Security Administration, more than 700 kids in the US were named Messiah just last year. The name has gained in popularity as in 2011 it was ranked 633 in most used names and in 2012 it jumped to 387th.
What about all of the people in world named Jesus or Mohamed, Muhammad and every other form of the name?
Jaleesa Martin doesn’t believe that the judge can legally order the boy’s first name to be changed and is planning on appealing Ballew’s ruling. She said she did not choose the name for any religious connotation but because it sounded close to her other to boys Micah and Mason.
Like I said before, I don’t agree with naming a child Messiah, but I also don’t think a judge in any court should be able to dictate the name of someone else’s child based her own religious beliefs. In this case, I hope Jaleesa Martin prevails and Ballew is informed that she does not have that kind of power over anyone.