In Tennessee, one unfortunate soul has just learned that there is a list of forbidden names that one cannot and must not name their offspring. Jaleesa Martin was in a child custody/support dispute with the father of her child who was christened Messiah DeShawn Martin, over the child’s surname – Martin, that is. The father apparently desired his own name be used as his son’s last name – McCullough, that is.
The Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew (or Lu Ballew to those who know her) had other matters on her mind, and when asked to render judgment on which of the two surnames the child was to have, came in with another idea: Martin DeShawn McCullough.
Now, not to fault the judge, who was probably rendering a decision in the spirit of Solomon who decided that two women should share motherhood of a disputed baby by cutting it in two, but it did open up a can of worms on the right of a parent to decide what the given name of their child shall be. The magistrate’s decision to rechristen the boy Martin instead of Messiah has chilling consequences: if a parent isn’t allowed to name their own child, where does intervention by government stop?
I know of no law on the books that gives state governments the right to rename a child, even if the state considers the child’s name inappropriate. Oh, did I not mention the fact that the magistrate, upon giving her reasoning for the child’s new given name actually said that the name Messiah has “only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ.”
Forgot to mention that, I guess.
Now we live in a world where people name their children some unusual names, godawful names sometimes. Names that bespeak true evil like Damien, names that honor prophets like Muhammad (did you know that Muhammad was the most common given name on Earth?), and names that speak of people who don’t really exist, like Khaleesi, which means “Queen” in Dothraki, a language that doesn’t exist. We have all kinds of names.
But this is the first time I have ever heard of someone naming their child Messiah. Jesus, yes, Emmanuel, yes, but not Messiah (although I have a dim memory of someone once naming their child “God”). Messiah, in Greek, means anointed one. I have often heard of new executives being referred to as “anointed” or even “golden-haired boys.” But not Messiah. So this must have blown Lu Ballew’s mind.
But back to governmental authority.
It is a little bit of an overreach for government to mandate what a child’s name should be. If, as I intimated above, government is allowed to mandate a child’s name, what’s next? Demanding that a woman submit to a transvaginal sonogram? Determining whether a woman shall consume tools of birth control? Determine who should and who shouldn’t vote in an election based on their party affiliation?
We could all be going the way of Iceland, you know.
You know, Iceland, where people are named names like Bjork and Olafur. In Iceland they have a list of approved names and you can only have 3 given names. In Iceland you can be 15 years old before the government allows you to use the name your parents gave you, in the case of this story, young Blaer, which is Icelandic for “breeze” finally got her given name on a government-issued passport. Blaer is a perfectly appropriate Icelandic name, and is found on the list of those so-approved, but the name, quite unfortunately, is restricted to children of the male gender. So she was not allowed to use the name, and had to be called “Girl” for her entire young life.
In Iceland you see, it is perfectly within the law for the government to mandate a child’s name, and even there the law is seen as ridiculous. So if that is the case, how ridiculous is it that a magistrate in Tennessee should be able to decide unilaterally about the appropriateness of a child’s given name based on her religious creed?
The whole thing just creeps me out. What’s in a name anyway?
And I know that my son, Antichrist, would agree.