Yesha Callahan

Judge Orders Black Mom to Change Baby’s Name From ‘Messiah’

Judge Orders Black Mom to Change Baby’s Name From ‘Messiah’Child Support Judge Lu Ann Ballew took matters into her own hands when two parents with a dispute over their child’s last name appeared in her Cocke County Tennessee court. Not only did she change the child’s last name, Ballew decided to change the first name as well.

Messiah Martin will now be known as Martin DeShawn McCullough. The judge took the mother’s last name, made it his first and gave him the father’s last name, obviously.

“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.

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.

I guess no one has informed Judge Ballew that there’s a whole bunch of “Messiahs” walking around the world right now. Messiah was No. 4 among the fastest-rising baby names in 2012, according to the Social Security Administration’s annual list of popular baby names.

God, forbid a Latino family ends up in Judge Ballew’s courtroom, with little baby Jesus.

Martin is appealing the decision.

Clutchettes, what do you think of the judge’s decision? 

  1. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    I imagine someone will step up on behalf of the mother and file and appeal. I can’t imagine this ruling will stand.

  2. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    this is completely unconstitutional…

    • August 12, 2013 - Reply

      @Wendi Muse

      no way that ruling will stand

  3. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    Messiah?? What is wrong with people? The judge is right, its a title. Jesus is a name, i get that but what’s next… baby Pastor? Baby President? Baby Jehovah? Just stop the ignorance. This is a child’s lifelong name you have to think about their future… which a lot of parents don’t seem to be doing.

    • August 12, 2013 - Reply


      (-_- )

    • August 12, 2013 - Reply


      shut up

    • August 12, 2013 - Reply


      Apples and oranges, Shannon. Regardless of whether you like the name or not, NO ONE has the right to change a child’s name except the mother or the child when he’s of age.

    • August 13, 2013 - Reply


      So what are we? Back in slavery, or something? Come on Shannon.

  4. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    “Messiah” isn’t so out of the ordinary when we consider that there are tons of people named “Emmanuelle,” “Jesus,” and the like. This judge should have recused herself if she couldn’t be impartial. Her ruling should be challenged and reversed.

  5. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    So much for government staying out of people’s lives….

    If I were a betting man, I would wager that this judge is a conservative Christian Republican who hates big government and swears President Obama is a socialist Muslim facilitator of terrorism.

    It’s funny how all that talk of freedom disappears when someone does something the right doesn’t like.

  6. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    Is this woman out of her mind? Is this even legal??

  7. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    I agree the issue is not the child’s name but more the fact that the judge clearly overstepped her bounds by having her personal opinions influence her decision far too much. So what if it’s a title? Whether we agree with them or not, cultually many black people have historically been named titles (Sir, Mister, Major,King, Queen, Princess, etc.) And that choice should be as respected as a Martin, a Jesus, a Candy or an Apple.
    That being said, perhps the parents should have been able to decide on their own child’s name without the assistance of the court system and they wouldn’t have ever had to deal with the undue influence of a renegade judge. Why put the legal system into your most personal business if you do not have to? Just hypenate…

  8. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    To be a judge, don’t you actually have to have good judgement? I think she should be kicked off the bench for making this ruling which is SO blatantly unconstitutional. How can she enforce the laws of the land if she can’t keep her personal religious beliefs out of the courtroom? Plus the family might not even be Christians, other religions have messiahs.

  9. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    I know a few men whose names are ‘Messiah’.
    I have a feeling that the judge’s ruling will be overturned because she placed in her personal opinions in her ruling.
    I think judge neglected to recognize that even though Christianity is the most followed religion in United States, it is not the only religion that is followed in this country. I wonder if the judge considered the idea that both parents are not Christians.

  10. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    How dare she? I actually know two little boys named Messiah, and they are far from ‘godly’, with their little trouble making behinds!! Yes, we should be conscious of what we name our children, but a judge should not be the one making that decision. There was a set of parents in NJ that named their son Hitler and their daughter Aryan Nation – the children where eventually taken away from the parents child endangerment, but having names like that didn’t help their case. If Messiah bothered her so much, as stated in the story, Jesus (or pronounced Heyzeus if you are hispanic), Emmanuel, should definitely offend as well – Shiloh – Brangelina’s daughter….And I know a few Shekinah’s if we really wanna get deep. The judge needs to sit down and mind her business…..

  11. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    Her judgment in this matter is so extremely biased and prejudicial I can only imagine what her other rulings have been like. With this type of reasoning one should really question her suitability and or fitness to sit on the bench.

  12. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    This makes me VERY uncomfortable. I’m having a “Roots” flashback to the scene where massa whips Kunta Kinte until he finally answers to his new name, Toby. :-/

    • August 12, 2013 - Reply


      *church finger* Yes!

  13. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    Who is she to change the first OR last name? I can see her ordering a hyphenation in the child’s name but to totally dismiss the mother’s name is wrong. I’m not even going to touch the “messiah” changing. cleary she was wrong for that.

    • August 12, 2013 - Reply


      The thing is, as far as the last name goes, they gave the judge that power when the decided to go to court to have someone else decide what their child’s last name should be. I really can’t belive 2 people who are supposed to raise this child forever couldn’t decide on a last name without court assistance!!

  14. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    Another example of a judge over stepping their bounds, she shouldn’t have done that. I mean it a lot of people name their babies questionable names but I don’t think a judge should be allow to change names as they see fit. How is this even possible? Is the court going to pay to have the baby name changed on the birth certificate and other documents?

  15. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    Despite the judge overstepping her boundaries clearly. Id like to know how it gets so bad b/w you and the man u JUST had a baby with that you all have to go to court to fight over the last name, thats crazy to me.

    Also, I think the Judge in a way had a good compromise in the sense that since moms last name is Martin which could also be a first name What about Messiah Martin McCullough or Martin Messiah McCullough *shrug*

    I still just cant wrap my mind around this going all the way to court in the first place those two need a mediator not a judge to work on the art of compromising since they have 18 years to go trying to raise this kid together and they are already in court over something as simple as a last name and hes only been here 7 months

  16. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    This judge should be sanctioned immediately. It is a clear infringement of this mother’s civil liberties and the judge’s bigoted actions should be enough to disbar her. This is exactly why Tennessee has the reputation it does as a racist, regressive state.

  17. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    1. the judge is wrong and i hope her decision is overturned.
    2. the parents need to grow up and hyphenate at the very least.
    3. that baby in the pic bought a smile to my face. he is so happy and tickled by something you can’t help but laugh with him.

  18. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    How about if the father gave the mother his last name before impregnating her there would have been no quarrel as to what the child’s last name would be. Also, if the last name was the name in question, the judge most definitely overstepped her bounds in changing the first name.

    • August 12, 2013 - Reply


      And what if they were to get married but the woman wasn’t interested in taking the man’s last name?

      • August 12, 2013 - Reply


        I know married women with hyphenated names and I have never seen an example of a woman not giving her children the father’s name. I doubt that what if would happen.

    • August 13, 2013 - Reply


      Actually Dr. Laura gave her son her last name instead of her husband’s.

  19. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    Another perfect example of how religion makes people stupid.

  20. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    One: that is one of the cutest babies I have seen in a long time. Now, that is a cute baby ladies and gentlemen now you with those troll looking kids, lol.

    Number 2: Ok seriously, the Judge overstepped and this will win in appeal (for the parents).

    Number 3: Why are black people so obsessed with Christianity. Messiah? Really? Even if they named it Messiah, so what? Jesus was just a man. A great man and teacher but just a man like everyone else. Plenty of Jesus in Latin America.

    Number 4: Do your kids a favor and name them something of value. Research has shown that a kids’ name determines a lot of self confidence and also determines what they do with their lives. Yes, Oprah and Barack are famous and rich but LaShaniqua will have a hard time getting a resume on the desk of a Fortune 500 and I am just keeping it real real. Certain names alienate kids. There are plenty of beautiful African names why add just LA or DA in front of names just for the sake of it? Messiah? Heaven help us.

    • August 12, 2013 - Reply


      I agree with your statements, except for this one:

      “Jesus was just a man. A great man and teacher but just a man like everyone else.”

      As a Christian, I believe that Jesus is fully God and came to earth as a man. While on earth, He was fully God and fully man at the same time.

      Also, I wouldn’t name my child “Messiah” as I think it’s borderline blasphemous. I feel the same way about JayZ calling himself “Hova” (short for Jehova). By the same token, I would empathize with a Buddist who was opposed to someone naming a child “Buddah;” or a Hindu who is opposed to someone naming a child after a Hindu god, etc… Nevertheless, no matter how much it may irk me, parents have the right to give their children whatever name they choose.

      I respect others’ rights to make their own choices about religion and their beliefs, even if I don’t agree with them. I respect the judge’s right to her own beliefs in this case. HOWEVER, she has no right to force those beliefs on the mother as she did. That was just draconian. I hope this ruling is reversed on appeal. If not, we are on a slippery slope that will lead to more “takeovers” of our personal rights and decisions.

      • August 13, 2013 - Reply


        Oh please. Jesus was a man who married Magdalene and had kids with her. Such small mindedness taught to you by massah. Slave mentality. Why are black people so obsessed with Jesus? cause your master told you that you had to and you still believe him. Christianity is a white man’s trap and black people cosign.

      • August 13, 2013 - Reply



        You can believe what you want about Jesus and “the white man’s religion.” Christianity existed in African long before Europeans discovered it, some twisted it to suit their own purposes (like they do just about everything else). I’ve known this since childhood, but here’s a link that talks about it a little:

        h t t p://w w

        Believe it or not, there are many black people, like myself, who are able to separate Christianity from the white slavers who misused it. If I were to take a wedding cake and stuff it in a toilet then flush, the toilet would back up and probably break. Would the fault be with the wedding cake itself, or would the fault be with me for using the wedding cake for a purpose it was not intended for?

    • August 12, 2013 - Reply


      The difference between everyone else and ‘Jesus’ is that we exist and ‘He’ never did.

      • August 12, 2013 - Reply


        Even if you’re an atheist, that statement is not true. Jesus of Nazareth was a real man who actually did exist and was crucified. The debate between Christians and non-Christians is whether he was divine, rose from the dead, and was born of a virgin.

  21. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    But celebs (not sure if I should include the fact that they’re white) can name their kids Tu Morrow; Audio Science; Moxie Crimefighter; Pilot Inspektor; Apple… like really?! Smh can we live???

    • August 13, 2013 - Reply


      Yeah but we go there too with Porsche, Alize and all that nonsense.

  22. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    well people have had stupidier names (like Listerine, Cognac and Or-ange), so i don’t see the big deal with this one, i was kind of with her until she mentioned jesus, i thought she was gona some how mention how a stupid name could be a set back or influence on the child (trust me i know i have a stupid name)

  23. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    “…Yes, Oprah and Barack are famous and rich but LaShaniqua will have a hard time getting a resume on the desk of a Fortune 500 and I am just keeping it real real. Certain names alienate kids. There are plenty of beautiful African names why add just LA or DA in front of names just for the sake of it? Messiah?…”

    Even children with African names are facing discrimination as well, so what’s the point?
    If an employer doesn’t want to hire a black person for their business, that one job interview is not going to stop an employer from hiring you. All that job interview ensures is for the interviewer to pretend that he/she is interested in you while you recite your job history. Then he is going to hire that 2520 that doesn’t have a ‘strong work experience’ that is waiting in the waiting area. If an employer don’t want to hire a black person, he/she is not going to hire a black person for their business… Period.
    Also, here’s another thing: there are people who will believe that a black child’s name is ‘ghetto’ regardless of the name because the name is attach to a black child. If it is not Christian in origin, there will be people out there who frown up their faces and say “What a ghetto name!”, when they meet a Vincenzo, a Lysander, a Tamak, a Olushola, etc.

    • August 12, 2013 - Reply


      Thank you!!! All a resume serves to do is get you an interview. Someone who is racist is not going to hire you regardless of if your name is “Laura” or “Lashawnda”. Unless you’re someone who has the ability to “pass” once they see you’re black the interview is already over in their minds.

  24. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    This is deep on so many levels…If you put 100 Christian people in a room, one thing they will all agree on is that Jesus represents truth…but why do these Christian people continue to withhold the truth? Mother names her son Messiah. Judge strips him of his name to a more “identifiable” name to prove yet again the whole take over everything process.

  25. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    The judge has a problem with Messiah? But there’s no problem with Apple, Blue Ivy, or La Tonishika? There are plenty of names that I can’t stand, but I would never force a parent to change a child’s name, or tell them what to name their kid.

    • August 12, 2013 - Reply


      don’t forget North! i’m still having a hard time believing that is real and on the birth certificate.

  26. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    This Judge needs to be off the bench. She has no legal right to do what she did!

  27. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    Didn’t a couple name their kid Hitler or something related to Hitler and they weren’t required to change his name. Also people have been giving their babies names like Messiah, Lord, and all other types of biblical references since forever now, this is what defines over stepping one’s boundries. You were suppose to rule on the last name which was what the case was about, not the first name. This judge is so smug I can tell she is one that probably has disdain for certain black people’s names. Messiah is wrong but, people can name their kids Auto Science, Pilot Inspecktor, Moxie Crimefighter, Tu Morrow. I wonder what other rulings has she made over the years that are suspect.

  28. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    Incorrect. Non Christian historians mention Jesus and how his actions impacted their culture. The Romans and the Jewsish historians just to mention two. There are others also

  29. August 12, 2013 - Reply


  30. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    If they don’t make Pilot Inspektor’s parents change his name then they need to leave little Messiah alone as well. The nerve of this judge.

  31. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    Absolute violation of the family’s civil liberties by an activist judge. I can’t help but think there’s a racial angle to it as well, like how dare they name this black child after the the (presumably white) baby Jesus. All this judge’s past rulings need to be looked at.

  32. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    Separation of Church and State! I hope this family knows enough to pursue an appeal. Some of the most egregious abuses of power happen when people who know the law meet people who don’t and defecate all over the unknowing people’s rights just because s/he knows they don’t know enough to challenge him/her. I bet the judge knows clear well that changing the baby’s first name was outside of the scope of the case before her, but she did it because the parents probably didn’t seem to know their rights. Judicial abuse of power — that’s what that is!

  33. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    Is this dumb ass judge aware of baby names Christian, Jesus, Noah, Mohammad, Neveah, (my friend just named her baby that)Isiah and Ezekiel. This is why organizations such as the ACLU are important because a lot of people just don’t know what rights they have. This ruling is a violation of church and state, which is why separating it is a good thing just for examples like this. No matter our personal feelings on a lot of these baby names and how goofy and outright crazy, parents have the legal right to name them whatever they want. She allowed her personal religious belief to rule on something and it was not even about the last name, which I think personally the parents should have compromised on that in the first place but, that’s another topic for another day. This judge needs to be off the bench before she’s serving on somebody’s Supreme Court one day, and we have seen some of the folks they have let in there.

  34. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    Now I have not earned a degree in jurisprudence but, er, the United States does NOT have naming laws so what legal statute or precedent did this judge invoke to arbitrarily change a child’s legal name? I hope some enterprising attorney cleans her clock for using the bench to impose her personal religious views on folks who appear before. This is a serious ethical issue and I hope she faces serious scrutiny on not just this case but on other cases she has presided over. If she has this level of ethical violation here, who knows where else she has allowed her personal beliefs speak instead of the law.

  35. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    The judge sounds dumb quite frankly dumb. As already mention A) the child’s first name wasn’t up for dispute B) how does she even know that these parents are Christians and C) she can’t impose her views, particularly religious, on others while on the job and D) where is her proof that this name is going to make it harder on this child as oppose to any other name? A lot of things can put him at odds with a lot of people like his skin color, gender, etc. this judge really tried it and fail. Someone needs to look into her background and pass cases because I would not trust her on the bench. I am so glad that the parent is fighting for her and her child’s rights. You don’t have to like the name but you can’t willingly change it.

  36. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    I’m glad that she’s continuing the fight. The nerve of that batch to think she can impose her issues on that baby. Love his little face!

    The judge needs a swift kick…off the bench.

  37. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    I wouldn’t name my kid Messiah; but I think it’s none of the judge’s business, and that he judge has over stepped her boundaries

  38. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    The thing that P’s me off is that this woman may have to pay an attorney to fight this. Why should she have the financial burden because a judge made a stupid mistake.

  39. August 12, 2013 - Reply

    That child is too cute.

    Definition of Messiah:
    1.The promised deliverer of the Jewish nation prophesied in the Hebrew Bible.
    2.Jesus, regarded by Christians as the Messiah of the Hebrew prophecies and the savior of humankind.

    Now having stated that. It is none of that Judge’s name and I hope that they were advised that they can appeal that. So sad!

  40. August 13, 2013 - Reply

    While Messiah is not a name I would choose for my child, I don’t agree with the judge forcing the parents to change their baby’s name. What legal reason could she give for making this decision? It seems like her reasoning was based in religion and we have a separation of church and state for a reason. This judge is a representative of the state and has no right to force her religious opinion on this family.

  41. August 13, 2013 - Reply

    If I meet one more black Porsche or Alize. SMDH. Messiah? Lawd.

  42. August 13, 2013 - Reply

    This is a disaster.

  43. August 13, 2013 - Reply

    First why is it that you mention in the title that the mom is black. What does that have to do with anything? There are other nationalities that name they kids ridiculous names. Gwyneth Paltrow named her baby Apple. Drew Barrymore named her kid Olive. Kim Kardasian…for God’s sake NORTH O.O. Frank Zappa with Diva blah blah blah Zappa (not blah but it is something crazy. just look it up) lol As far as the judge, personal views are clearly seen and over power professional views. If this child is going to be at odds with other people, let the parents deal with it when they see the need to deal with it. It isn’t the judge’s child and she doesn’t have to deal with it.

    • August 13, 2013 - Reply

      @Jean Waddell

      Because I felt like mentioning it seeing as though this site is geared towards black women.


  44. August 13, 2013 - Reply

    The race of the mom is relevant due to the history of black people being re-named during slavery, which may very well have overtones in this story. Look at the naativity scene on the judge’s desk in the video. She sits there in a taxpayer funded office with a depiction of a white Baby Jesus and tells us that a black child does not deserve the name Messiah. There’s an inherent bias on the judge’s part that needs to be questioned.

  45. August 13, 2013 - Reply

    ^^@Jean Waddell

  46. August 13, 2013 - Reply

    So… I guess the whole separation of church and state thing was never thought about in this case huh?

  47. August 15, 2013 - Reply

    I am not particularly partial to the name myself, but it’s a PERSONAL decision on the part of the parents and has nothing to do with the judge or her religious proclivities. Church and state are two separate entities for a reason.

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