Baby Name Ruling Violates the Constitution

Church and State

An interesting little news story is coming out of Tennessee, where a pair of parents are being told that they cannot name their son Messiah. A judge has ordered that 7-month-old Messiah DeShawn Martin must have his name changed to something else. She has recommended instead the name Martin DeShawn McCullough. The problem began when the parents couldn’t decide what the child’s last name should be. They both agreed on the first name “Messiah” but Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew denied them the right to use that particular name.

“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,” Ballew said. As WBIR reports, the boy’s mother, Jaleesa 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.”

The mother Jaleesa Martin is not accepting the judge’s ruling; she has appealed the decision to the Cocke County Chancellor set for next month.

I agree with the parents that the judge doesn’t have the authority to rule that the baby’s name cannot be Messiah. The reason I disagree is because, not only that the idea of controlling names is unnecessary, but also that the reason for the ruling violates the Constitution. The judge cannot ban the use of a name simply because she believes that the only true “Messiah” is Jesus Christ.

The constitution is very clear that there is a separation between Church and The State. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment in particular is what I would use in the filing of an appeal against the decision. The Establishment Clause was created in 1947 from the Everson v. Board of Education ruling. Justice Hugo Black wrote the following:

The “establishment of religion” clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion to another … in the words of Jefferson, the [First Amendment] clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect ‘a wall of separation between church and State’ … That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.”

I think there is a very clear violation of Establishment Clause in the bolded section of the ruling. Magistrate Ballew’s ruling made it quite clear that she believes that Jesus Christ is the only true Messiah. Just about every religion has the belief in some form of Messiah. The Magistrate is making it the position of the court and the government that Jesus Christ is the only real Messiah, meaning that all others are false. If this ruling remains in place it demonstrates that it (the court and government) does “prefer one religion to another” as it is calling the other religion’s Messiahs false.

The appeal would most certainly have to contain at least something close to this argument. I believe there is a clear Constitution issue here. The Magistrate’s ruling contradicts the Constitution and that must be dealt with or that “wall of separation between church and State” will begin to shrink. The ruling should most definitely be over turned.

In this ruling by the Magistrate we can see that there is still very much the influence of religion in the courts. This Magistrate very openly and confidently made a religious ruling right out in public. It was done in Tennessee, so you can take what you will from that. I think it is a tremendous cause for concern that this still goes on in modern society. If such a religious ruling can be made on something as small and relatively innocuous as a baby’s name, then I think there is a threat to larger more emotionally charge social issues.

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References:
Time NewsFeed, Judge: ‘Messiah’ Is Not an Acceptable Baby Name
http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/08/12/judge-messiah-is-not-an-acceptable-baby-name/

Establishment of Religion
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution#Establishment_of_religion

Everson v. Board of Education
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everson_v._Board_of_Education

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