Cocke County opinions differ on judge's 'Messiah' ruling

Cocke County opinions differ on judge's 'Messiah' ruling

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"Let me say I'm very proud of our judge, the stand that she's taken," said Tom Shelton. "Let me say I'm very proud of our judge, the stand that she's taken," said Tom Shelton.
"I don't agree with the judge telling her what to name her child," said Rita Messer. "I don't agree with the judge telling her what to name her child," said Rita Messer.
"It's not right for the judge to rule along religious reasons," said Grace Delanzo. "It's not right for the judge to rule along religious reasons," said Grace Delanzo.
Messiah's mother Jaleesa Martin says she is not going to stop calling her son by his name and plans to fight the ruling. Messiah's mother Jaleesa Martin says she is not going to stop calling her son by his name and plans to fight the ruling.

By JOSH AULT
6 News Reporter

NEWPORT (WATE) - A judge's decision to force a Cocke County mother to change her baby's name is making national headlines.

Child Support Magistrate LuAnn Ballew issued an order last week for Jaleesa Martin to change her son's name from Messiah to Martin.

The mother spoke to CNN Wednesday about the order and described what happened in the courtroom.

The judge wrote in her opinion it is not in the child's best interest to have the name Messiah, explaining that Messiah means Savior, Deliverer, the One who will restore God's kingdom. She says the title is "held only by Jesus Christ."

Ballew argues further that labeling him Messiah places an undue burden on him that as a human being he cannot fulfill. She adds the number of Christians in the area makes it highly likely he will offend many Cocke County citizens by calling himself Messiah.

To see if Cocke County citizens agreed, 6 News went to Newport to hear what they thought about the judge's decision.

Tom Shelton, an ordained Baptist minister in Newport, had a strong reaction to the case.

"Let me say I'm very proud of our judge, the stand that she's taken," said Shelton. "There is only one Messiah and we know he's a Jew. We know he went to the cross and died for us. I just feel it would be wrong to name a child after him."

Shelton says he agrees with the judge that it would be difficult for a child to have the name Messiah in Cocke County.

"I think the judge is really looking out for the child too because him being in this area here," said Shelton. "When he goes to school, you know, he might be made fun of. Some of the kids might even pick on him because they have a religious background also."

Not everyone in Cocke County agrees with Shelton or the judge. 

"I don't agree with the judge telling her what to name her child," said Newport resident Rita Messer. "I don't know why anyone would want to name her child that."

"It's not right for the judge to rule along religious reasons," said another Newport resident, Grace Delanzo. "It was more it went along with her two other kids names. Both of them started with an 'M'."

Delanzo says she does not feel the child will be bullied because of his name.

"Messiah is a common name, but it's not common around here and that's a reason why," said Delanzo. "The name doesn't sound bad. It's not going to get the kid ridiculed at school."

Everyone we spoke with Wednesday said they were amazed at all the worldwide attention the story has gotten in the media.

Messiah's mother says she is not going to stop calling her son by his name and plans to fight the ruling.

An appeal has already been filed and is expected to go to court on September 18 at the Cocke County Courthouse.

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