A Tennessee judge who ruled that a baby could not be named Messiah has declined to explain her decision, but critics of her ruling have plenty to say.
What started as a parent's request to establish paternity and change the little boy's last name turned into something entirely different after Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew ordered the baby's first name to be changed as well, Knoxville station WBIR-TV reported.
Ballew, who serves the 4th Judicial District of Tennessee, including Cocke, Grainger, Jefferson and Sevier counties, ordered the boy's name to be changed from Messiah DeShawn Martin to Martin DeShawn McCullough. "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," Ballew told WBIR-TV about her decision last week to replace Messiah with his mother's surname. "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," she said.
Through Tennessee courts spokeswoman Michele Wojciechowski, Ballew declined to comment to ABCNews.com.
The boy's mother, Jaleesa Martin, of Newport, Tenn., said she plans to appeal the order and will not stop calling him Messiah. "I never intended on that -- naming my son Messiah because it means God," she told WBIR-TV. "And I didn't think a judge could make me change my baby's name because of her religious beliefs."
Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, which says it promotes traditional family values, said that while the group agrees "with the judge's sentiments, 'that the only true Messiah is Jesus Christ,'" it does not believe "that a judge should be able to rule on what parents name their child."