Judge reverses order to change baby’s name from Messiah

Judge reverses order to change baby's name from Messiah (Image 1)

NEWPORT (WATE) – A Cocke County judge reversed a court order Wednesday that would have forced a mother to change her baby's name from Messiah to Martin.

Chancellor Telford E. Forgety Jr. vacated Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew's order, which would have forced Jaleesa Martin to change her baby's first name.

The case made national headlines in August when Ballew said the name Messiah would offend local citizens and is a name only held by Jesus Christ.

Court paperwork shows the judge originally ruled the name was fine, but then went back on her decision, changing the baby's name from Messiah to Martin.

The baby's mother appealed that decision, and her son will now keep the name she gave him.

It all started at a paternity hearing when Ballew was asked to decide on the baby's last name: Martin after his mother, or McCullough after his father.

After first approving Messiah Martin, she called a special hearing a week later, announcing she had changed not only his last name but his first as well, to Martin McCullough.

She said Messiah was a name reserved only for Jesus Christ and would offend the large Christian population of Cocke County.

“I couldn't believe it. I was shocked when my son called and said mom, she changed his first name,” said Pamela Goins, Messiah's paternal grandmother.

Messiah's parents appeared in Cocke County Chancery Court Wednesday, appealing the magistrate's order.

Their attorney argued that Ballew had no authority to change the baby's first name against his parent's wishes, stripping them of their right to select their own child's name.

The court agreed.

Chancellor Forgety vacated the name change order, ruling that the lower court had acted unconstitutionally.

“It's a great day for Ms. Martin and Mr. McCullough but it's also a great day for Constitutional rights,” said attorney Kristi Davis.

Messiah's parents are not only overjoyed with the courts reversal to change the baby's name back to Messiah, they're just glad the controversy has now come to and end.

“I'm just happy. I'm just glad it's over with,” said Jaleesa Martin.

“His name is Messiah and we're keeping his name Messiah,” said Jawaan McCullough, Messiah's father.

Messiah's parents say they can now focus on their baby, who they say they never stopped calling Messiah.

Martin says she chose the name because she thought it was unique and went well with the names of her other two children, Micah and Mason.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee backed the family's appeal.

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