Parents intend to fight judge's order to change child's name

Parents intend to fight judge's order to change child's name from 'Messiah'

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Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew ordered Jaleesa Martin and Jawaan McCullough to rename their son Messiah, saying he should be named Martin. Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew ordered Jaleesa Martin and Jawaan McCullough to rename their son Messiah, saying he should be named Martin.
"I never intended on naming my child Messiah so he could feel like he was God or anything. I would never raise him to feel that way," Jaleesa Martin said. "I never intended on naming my child Messiah so he could feel like he was God or anything. I would never raise him to feel that way," Jaleesa Martin said.
"The Savior is the messiah, not Messiah. That's his name, Messiah. The Savior is The Messiah," Jawaan McCullough said. "The Savior is the messiah, not Messiah. That's his name, Messiah. The Savior is The Messiah," Jawaan McCullough said.
Jaleesa Martin says she thought 'Messiah' went well with the names of her other two sons, Micah and Mason. Jaleesa Martin says she thought 'Messiah' went well with the names of her other two sons, Micah and Mason.

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

NEWPORT (WATE) - A Cocke County judge's order to rename a child shocked two parents who were in court last week to settle a support dispute.

Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew ordered Jaleesa Martin and Jawaan McCullough to rename their son Messiah, saying he should be named Martin.

Both parents told 6 News they agreed on the name Messiah. Jaleesa Martin says she heard the name on a TV show and thought it went well with the names of her other two sons, Micah and Mason.

Martin says she and McCullough like how the name sounds and don't think the magistrate should be able to change it.

Martin works full time to support her three sons.

Messiah, the youngest, is a happy, healthy seven-month-old baby boy.

His parents say he understands his given name, which Ballew ordered changed during a hearing last week.

"She was like, his first name and I'm like, what about it? And she was like, it means God and there's only one god and it's not your child. And that was her exact words," said Martin.

"I was in shock," said McCullough. "I was like, she really did this to my son, gave him a name that she wanted him to have?"

Martin says she chose the name Messiah because she thought it was unique.

"I just decided to name him Messiah because I liked it. I did not know what it meant at all," said Martin.

McCullough also likes the name and thinks the judge is in the wrong.

"The Savior is the messiah, not Messiah. That's his name, Messiah. The Savior is The Messiah," said McCullough.

McCullough says during the hearing the judge went on to say the name change was in the best interest of the child.

"She was like, he's growing up in Cocke County and Cocke County is basically Christian-based. And I'm like, that ain't got nothing to do with my son," said McCullough.

"I never intended on naming my child Messiah so he could feel like he was God or anything. I would never raise him to feel that way," said Martin.

Martin says she now knows there are many people on both sides of the debate, but that doesn't change her decision to fight to keep her child's name Messiah.

"It's my child. Everybody names their kids what they want to and you shouldn't judge me for what I name my child, whether you disagree or agree," said Martin.

Martin and McCullough say they hope the judge will reverse her decision, but no matter what the outcome they will continue to call their baby boy Messiah.

"I call him Messiah because that's what I named him," said Martin.

6 News made several attempts to reach Ballew for comment, but she did not return the calls.

According to the court clerk, no written order has been entered yet.

The parents have already filed an appeal to change the name. A hearing on the name change will be held September 18 in the Cocke County Courthouse.

According to the Social Security Administration, Messiah was the 387th most popular name for baby boys born in the United States in 2012. That ranks it between traditional names Scott and Jay on the administration's list of most popular names.

6 News Legal Analyst Greg Isaacs says the magistrate's order raises a spectrum of legal issues.

"It's going to be interesting in terms of the judge's role regarding the best interest of the child standard to intrude on the parental right of privacy," Isaacs said. "But really, if you wanted to open up a can of constitutional worms, this is one of tremendous magnitude, and really surprising that the judge said you can't name your child this."

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