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Filler: What it means when a judge bans the name 'Messiah' -- and what it doesn't

In this undated photo provided by WBIR-TV, 7-month

In this undated photo provided by WBIR-TV, 7-month old Martin DeShawn McCullough is held by his mom, Jaleesa Martin. A judge in eastern Tennessee changed the boy's first name to Martin from "Messiah." Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew ordered the name change, saying Messiah is a title that has been earned by one person "and that one person is Jesus Christ."(AP Photo/WBIR-TV, Heidi Wigdahl) (Credit: AP Photo Heidi Wigdahl)

It’s so tempting, when we hear of something painfully and obviously stupid being done, to get all downcast about the state of things and declare, “Well, that just proves the world is going to heck in a hoopskirt.”

Such is the case of the judge in Tennessee who legally changed a baby’s name from Messiah to Martin because, in Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew’s words, “The word Messiah is a title, and it’s a title that’s only been earned by one person, and that person is Jesus Christ.”

But do not get crestfallen. This does not prove we are, as a society, hurtling downward at approximately the speed of a greased rollercoaster run by a drunk carny barker. It just means one person did a painfully, in fact, almost magnificently, silly thing.


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This all went down in Cocke County, Tennesseee, when a couple went to court to argue about the baby boy’s LAST name. Mother Jaleesa Martin named the boy, born Jan. 9, Messiah Deshawn Martin. The daddy, a Mr. McCullough (his first name has not been released) wanted the boy to carry his last name.

But in a stunning double defeat for Ms. Martin, Judge Ballew decreed the baby’s name would be Martin DeShawn McCullough, making her last name the baby’s first, letting the father provide the surname and banning Messiah all together.

Martin says she will appeal. Neither the father, nor God, had weighed in at press time.

If Ballew were actually going to stop the name Messiah in its tracks, she’d need a lot of energy and a significant increase in authority: It was the fourth-fastest growing name for boys in the United States between 2011 and 2012. With a popularity rank of 387th, it edged out popular standbys like Jay, Trey, Devon and Donald.

And God help Ballew if she tries to stamp out the name Jesus, which outranked Messiah in baby names by 19 spots and is likely to keep climbing the charts faster than Bruno Mars as the nation trends more and more Hispanic.

Over the next few days you may well hear that Ballew’s act shows the line between church and state is thinning, that no one cares about the separation of church and state any more, and blah blah blah. It doesn’t. It just shows that there is a child support magistrate in in a local courthouse in Cocke County, Tennessee whose understanding of the niceties of the Constitution is less than perfect, as is her understanding of her powers.

And that’s not really so surprising, now, is it? 

Tags: baby , name , tennessee , magistrate , messiah

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