Dispatches from a Struggling Buddhist Studies Graduate Student

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Magistrate Uses Judicial Power to Change Baby's Name for Religious Reasons

In August of last year in Newport, TN Cocke County Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew ordered a couple to change their newborn's name from Messiah to Martin.  The child's parents originally took the case to court to adjudicate their disagreement on which surname they should give the infant.  

The judge on her own volition decided to rule not that the baby should have the father's surname McCollough, but also that the parents must change the infant's first name to Martin, the mother's surname.   The ruling came as a shock to the parents, since they both agreed that the child's  first name should be Messiah.  Magistrate Ballew said that the name Messiah was inappropriate because:
"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."
Magistrate Ballew's order was overturned by a higher judge.  After Ballew's ruling was overturned, the parents filed a complaint against Ballew, and the State Board of Judicial Conduct agreed that she improperly let her religious views dictate the outcome of the case.

The magistrate's conduct was unbelievable and without a doubt constituted misconduct.  Her statement that messiah is only a title that has been earned by Jesus is also historically inaccurate.  Messiah means "anointed one," and in the Hebrew Bible it is a title that refers mostly to Jewish kings, but also used for some prophets and priests.  The title itself was expansive enough to be used in Isaiah 45:1 to refer not to the kings of Judah, but to the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great after he freed the Jews from Babylon.

So to Magistrate Ballew:  If you are going to use your position to impose your belief system onto people, you might want to make sure what you are saying at least holds some sort of historical accuracy.

1 comment:

  1. At least they didn't name their baby "jayden" or one of the many names that rhyme with "jayden"