A Tennessee judge who ordered a baby’s name changed from Messiah to Martin, saying the former was reserved for Jesus Christ, has been cited by a court panel for an inappropriate religious bias in violation of the state judicial code of conduct.
Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew of Cocke County in eastern Tennessee ordered the boy’s first name changed over the objections of both parents when they appeared before the judge seeking to settle a number of issues, including a dispute over the child’s last name.
Both the mother, Jaleesa Martin, and the father, Jawaan McCullough, were insisting on their respective surnames for baby Messiah. The magistrate instead threw out the child’s birth name and ordered the boy renamed Martin DeShawn McCullough.
“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 magistrate told Tennessee television station WBIR at the time.
The parents appealed, and in September another judge, Chancellor Telford Forgety Jr., held that Ballew’s ruling was unconstitutional.