A Tennessee mother is appealing a court's decision after a judge ruled her son's name be changed from Messiah because the only true "Messiah" is Jesus Christ.
The child's parents attended a child support hearing in Cocke County, Tenn. Thursday after they were unable to agree on their son's last name. Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew ordered the child's name be changed to Martin DeShawn McCullough, which includes the last names of both parents, but called into question the seven-month-old's first name.
"The word Messiah is a title that has only been earned by one person, and that one person is Jesus Christ," Ballew told WBIR-TV.
Ballew said her decision was made in the child's best interests, and that the name would not bode well amongst the community's 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," said Ballew.
Jaleesa Martin, the child's mother, told WBIR-TV that she did not choose the name because of its religious connotation, but rather to fit in with the names of her other two children, Micah and Mason.
"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," said Martin. Her appeal will be heard by the Cocke County Chancellor on Sept. 17.
According to the Social Security Administration, more than 700 babies were named Messiah in the U.S. last year. It was the fourth highest-rising name in SSA's popularity rankings between 2011 and 2012 for males behind Major, Gael and Jase.
"Everybody believes what they want to, so I think I should be able to name my child what I want to name him, not someone else," Martin said.