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Messiah Baby Name Ruling Overturned, Child Can Keep His Moniker

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Thursday, 19 Sep 2013 11:33 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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A Tennessee judge who ordered a mother to change her baby's name from "Messiah" to "Martin" last month was overruled Wednesday.

When Jaleesa Martin and her 8-month-old son's father went to court last month to settle on a last name for their child, she never expected the judge to take issue with the baby's first name, Messiah.

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But Judge Lu Ann Ballew ruled that the name be changed to "Martin DeShawn McCullough," a combination of both parents' last names.

"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," the judge said at the time. "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."

Martin was outraged by the ruling and said she was planning an appeal.

"I was shocked," she told local NBC affiliate WBIR.com. "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."

Now, Chancellor Telford Forgety has reversed Ballew's decision, allowing the baby to be named Messiah. Ballew's original ruling was unconstitutional, Forgety said, because it violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Kristi Davis, Martin's attorney, said their case was helped by all the media attention it received.

"I think it's truly a recognition by the citizens of our country that when a judge oversteps his or her bounds and infringes on the constitutional rights of the people that come in front of them, it's something that we don't like, and it's something that we pay attention to," Davis told CBS News.

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