Heidi Wigdahl, WBIR-TV
NEWPORT, Tenn. - A Tennessee mother is appealing a court's decision after a judge ordered her son's name be changed from "Messiah."
Jaleesa Martin and the father of Messiah could not agree on a last name, which is how they ended up at a child support hearing in Cocke County Chancery Court on Thursday.
That is when the first name came into question.
The name change was part of Judge Ballew's case; however, the parents did not think the first name would be changed.
Judge Ballew ordered the 7-month-old's name be "Martin DeShawn McCullough." It includes both parent's last names but leaves out Messiah.
"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," Judge Ballew said.
Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew serves the 4th Judicial District of Tenn.
Martin responded saying, "I was shocked. I never intended on naming my son 'Messiah' because it means God, and I didn't think a judge could make me change my baby's name because of her religious beliefs."
According to Judge Ballew, it is the first time she has ordered a first name change. She said the decision is best for the child, especially while growing up in a county with a large Christian population.
"It could put him at odds with a lot of people and at this point he has had no choice in what his name is," Judge Ballew said.
Martin's two older children are named Micah and Mason. She liked how the name Messiah sounded alongside the other two siblings and thought it was unique.
"Everybody believes what they want so I think I should be able to name my child what I want to name him, not someone else," Martin said.
Judge Ballew said the parents will have to change the name on the birth certificate.
However, Martin is appealing the judge's decision. It will go before the Cocke County Chancellor on Sept. 17.