A child’s name is one of the most important things that a parent can give him. Names are often passed down from one generation to the next or reflect something or someone of great importance in the parents’ lives. In other instances, a parent may simply like the sound or spelling of a name.
A few months ago, a judge ruled that a Tennessee mother had to change the name of her child from ‘Messiah’ to something that she deemed to be more appropriate. She told the young mother that “Messiah is a title that is held only by Jesus Christ.” She feared that others would misunderstand and the child might be subjected to ridicule and taunting.
The child’s mother, appalled by the decision, fought back. The Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation agreed to file a complaint with the Board of Judicial Conduct against the presiding judge. They perceived that she allowed her personal beliefs and biases to interfere with making an objective decision about the young man’s name, especially since the original case was about parental rights and child support allocations.
Once the media found out about the court’s ruling, it instantly became an international story about the rights of parents versus the oversight of the courts. Even those who disagreed with the mother’s choice of a name were outraged that the court overstepped its boundaries.
Today, a Tennessee Court of Appeals has ruled that the mother has the right to name her 8-month-old child whatever she wants.
During the appeal’s hearing, Chancellor Telford E. Forgety overturned Ballew’s decision stating that it violated the parent’s constitutional rights. He found that the law did not support the judge’s decision and instead, the judge violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
He ruled that the child’s name should revert back to how it appeared on his original birth certificate: Messiah Deshawn McCullough.
Some are hailing this ruling as a breakthrough for parental rights. Atheists are applauding the decision of course. But I have heard mixed reactions amongst Christians. Is the name Messiah to sacred to use? Or was the mother honoring God by using the name. The mother’s motives are still unclear.