Friday, August 16, 2013

121.4 - Outrage of the Week: Judge orders name change based on her religion

Outrage of the Week: Judge orders name change based on her religion

Now it's time for our other regular feature, the Outrage of the Week.

Jaleesa Martin of Newport, Tennessee, could not agree with the father of her 7-month-old on what the child's last name should be. So they wound up at Cocke County Chancery Court before Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew.

The judge did resolve that issue, but that wasn't enough for her, oh, no. She didn't like the child's first name, so she she ordered the parents to change that, too, change it on the birth certificate - even though the parents had agreed on that name and didn't want it changed.

Now, be aware that the name in question was not something truly bizarre like Mr. Mxyzptlk or "an unpronounceable symbol representing the artist formerly known as Prince" - which, by the by, is something even he gave up on eventually. Knowing that, that decision in and of itself, that kind of arrogant overreach, should be cause for outrage. While a number of countries have lists of approved names or other such restrictions, the US is not among them.

But that's not enough for the lofty standards of the Outrage of the Week. The real outrage here is the reason the judge gave for demanding that change: You see, the child name is Messiah. The judge demanded it be Martin.

Now, according to the Social Security Administration's annual list of the top 1000 baby names, on the list of names with the fastest growth in popularity, Messiah was fourth among boys. Between 2011 and 2012, the name Messiah jumped 246 positions, from number 633 to number 387. It was more popular than, among many others, such supposedly more common names as Ari, Bruce, Chris, Damon, Gary, Jay, Jonas, Lawrence, Malcolm, Marvin, Ramon, and Rory.

No matter, not according to Lu Ann Ballew - whose name, speaking of names, really sounds like the combination of a cartoon character and something J. K. Rowling would make up. The child, she declared, could not be named Messiah because, quoting what she told local news, "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."

That is, "Judge" and I put the word very deliberately in quotation marks, "Judge" Ballew has decided that her religious beliefs, her religion, override all other considerations. Tradition doesn't matter, the desire of the parents doesn't matter, the law doesn't matter, the Constitution doesn't matter, the separation of church and state doesn't matter, none of it matters. Her church overrides it all.

That very concept is dangerous. Lu Ann Ballew is not competent to be in her position and the fact that she is, is an outrage.

Two footnotes to this: Jaleesa Martin, the boy's mother, said she will appeal. Good on her; the state ACLU says it will help, good on them. And in the comments on the story at the website of the Knoxville, Tennessee, TV station that reported the story, folks overwhelmingly condemned the judge's decision. There is hope for us yet.


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