It's not exactly in the Constitution, but it is a parent's inalienable right to have questionable taste and embarrass their children. And that is why it's disturbing that a judge in Tennessee would tell a parent what she can and cannot name her son.
OK, so the mother wanted to name the kid "Messiah." It's sort of an elegant name, actually, if it didn't mean anything to a lot of people. And that's what troubled Tennessee Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew, who did not bear the child or agree to raise the child, but who has nonetheless decided it's her place to veto the name. To which one can only respond, "oh, for God's sake."
The judge told WBIR TV:
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.
So it's about titles, is it? Then how did singer Michael Jackson get away with naming his kid "Prince Michael?" You could make a stronger argument that the actual name "Jesus Christ" is pushing the envelope. But even then, "Jesus" is a popular name among Spanish-speaking people, many of whom are devoted Catholics.
So what's the problem, again? Ballew went on, saying, "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."
Well, that's another question. Silly names that feed the juvenile humor or self-aggrandizement of the parents? Yes, let's then get rid of Moon Unit Zappa, Gwyneth Paltrow's kid, Apple, and all those names by parents who think it's just adorable to name their kids things like "Candy Bar" and "Claire Voyant."
It's simply not up to a judge to rename a child, especially when the alleged offense is against a select group of people with a particular view towards religion. The name "Messiah" might mean a lot to some people, but it means basically nothing to a whole group of other people. It's not as though the name is, on its face, obscene. Though it might be humorous to go on TV and have one's own name bleeped out when you're introduced.
The judge pledges to protect respect of religion, but she's really just imposing her own beliefs on everyone else, and in a way that is intensely personal. And if it's really religious names that get her into a lather, she ought to have a long chat with Paltrow. The actress's second child is named "Moses," after all.
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