Baby 'Messiah' Name Change Order Overturned

A Tennessee woman will be allowed to name her eight-month-old son Messiah, a judge has ruled, overturning an order from another judge.

Child support magistrate Lu Ann Ballew ordered the name change last month, saying: "Messiah is a title that is held only by Jesus Christ."

But Cocke County Chancellor Telford Forgety overturned the decision on Wednesday, finding Judge Ballew acted unconstitutionally.

Judge Ballew surprised both parents by ordering the baby's name be changed to Martin during a paternity hearing.

The parents were disputing the baby's surname, with Jaleesa Martin hoping to keep her name, and the father Jawaan McCullough wanting the baby to bear his last name.

Judge Ballew's written order stated: "Labelling this child Messiah places an undue burden on him that as a human being, he cannot fulfil."

She also said that the name would likely offend many residents of Cocke County, with its large Christian population.

Chancellor Forgety, however, said there is no basis in the law for changing a child's first name when both parents are in agreement about it.

He also said that Judge Ballew's decision violates the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution.

By agreement of the parents, he ordered the child's name be changed to Messiah Deshawn McCullough.

Speaking after the hearing, Ms Martin said she found Judge Ballew's original ruling "ridiculous" and had been confident it would be overturned.

She never stopped calling the baby Messiah, a name she picked out because she liked the way it sounded with the names of her other two sons, Micah and Maison, she said.

"Everybody's just happy," Ms Martin said. "I'm glad it's over with, and I know they are too."