Judge rules baby can keep 'Messiah' as first name

(WBIR-Newport) A judge reversed a ruling Wednesday ordering a Newport mother to change her 8-month-old's name from "Messiah."

Jaleesa Martin and the father of Messiah could not agree on a last name, which is how they ended up at a child support hearing in Cocke County Chancery Court last month.

Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew ordered the baby's name be "Martin DeShawn McCullough." His name included both parents' last names but left out Messiah.

MORE: Tennessee judge orders baby's name be changed from 'Messiah'

"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," explained Judge Ballew in an interview with 10News last month.

Judge Ballew, through a spokesperson with the Office of the Courts, had no comment on Wednesday's decision.

Jeleesa Martin appealed the ruling following that decision. Her attorney, Kristi Davis, said they appealed for two reasons: the mother and the father agreed on the first name, and the decision was unconstitutional.

The case went before Chancellor Telford Forgety Wednesday.

"The magistrate's decision is vacated in part," Honorable Forgety announced in court.

"This has been an interesting case -- it's been widely reported, people have been very interested in it, and I think that's a good thing," said Davis. "We, as Americans, care about our civil liberties."

It took the judge 30 minutes to overturn the magistrate's ruling during an appeals hearing Wednesday. The judge said the court's purpose was to decide the last name of the child, not determine the child's first name.

Martin said she's relieved with the decision.

"I was ready to get it over with...I was kind of nervous..." Martin said, following the decision.

The 8-month-old's name is now Messiah DeShawn McCollugh. McCollough is the father's name. According to Judge Forgety, the decision was mutual between both families.

"Everybody's just happy," Martin smiled.


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