Tennessee Judge Who Ordered Name Change For Baby Messiah Fired

Seven-month-old Messiah, who was temporarily renamed Martin by Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew.

This happy bundle of joy is back in the news again. This time, however, his story signifies an end to the court battle over his right to keep his name. The Tennessee judge, whom ordered the name change, Lu Ann Ballew, has been fired.

This past August in a dispute over the baby’s last name, Tennessee Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew ordered that the child could not be named?Messiah because it was a title that he had not earned. Ballew issued an order that changed the child’s given name to?Martin DeShawn McCullough, and ordered that the parents also change the name on his birth certificate.

Ballew had stated:

“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.”

Here is the original news story from Heidi Wigdahl at WBIR.

The story of Messiah and the removal of his birth name quickly gained worldwide attention, but not before his parents filed for an appeal against Ballew’s court order.? In mid-September, Chancellor Telford E. Forgety Jr.?overturned Ballew’s decision saying that the lower court had in fact acted unconstitutionally and violated the?Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Forgety also explained that there is no basis in the law for changing a child’s first name when both parents are in agreement. His decision came after only 30 minutes of the start of the hearing.

Before Forgety had heard the appeal in court however,? the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation?filed a complaint against Ballew with the?Tennessee state Board of Judicial Conduct.??This past October, Ballew was charged with judicial code violations before a three-member investigative panel. The formal charges stated that “she failed to promote confidence in the judiciary or uphold the law without bias or partiality.”

According to court documents, Ballew’s termination was effective this past Friday, Jan. 31. Presiding Judge O.?Duane Slone did not give a reason for his order of her termination, but the board’s chair, Judge Chris Craft of Shelby County, wrote that it is the duty of the board to inquire into the “commission of any act calculated to reflect unfavorably upon the judiciary of the state.” Judge Rex Henry Ogle stated during a phone interview that it was a group decision of local judges to replace Ballew. Ogle also stated that Ballew’s decision to change the baby’s name from Messiah to Martin was a factor, but not the sole factor, in their decision.

Ballew still faces a disciplinary hearing March 3 on accusations that she violated Tennessee’s Code of Judicial Conduct. Among other things, the judiciary code specifically requires judges to perform all duties without bias or prejudice based on religion.

Ballew still denies any wrongdoing in her decision.

You can see the full array of coverage surrounding this story courtesy of WBIR, here.

*For the history buffs, and for those that watched “Science Guy” Bill Nye debate Ken Ham the “Creationist Guy” in Kentucky this week, Newton, TN of Cocke County is about 100 miles from Dayton, TN which was the site of the infamous Scopes trial of 1925. John Thomas Scopes, a high school teacher, stood trial for violating Tennessee’s Butler Act by teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution.

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