Let us stipulate that while parents in the United States have an absolute right to name their children whatever they please, it one of those aspects of free speech that is often horribly abused by irresponsible, self-centered or just plain dumb parents who treat their children as bumper stickers or social science experiments. Naming your boy “Sue,” (You know) or your daughter “North West,” (Kanye West) or your daughter “Fifi Trixibelle” (Bob Geldof) is unforgivably and gratuitously cruel, virtually guaranteeing that your child will be a target, a head case, or will change his or her name the second legal majority comes around. Nonetheless, the state doesn’t raise children in America—yet—and parents can still decide what they wear, watch, learn and eat, as well as the name they have to answer to. The operative term is “free country.” Many of our fellow citizens don’t like or understand that concept, which is also their right in a free country. Judges, however, must not only understand the concept but constrain their power by it.
This is why Cocke County (Tennessee) Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew needs to be a) removed from her job and b) set on a more appropriate career path, like say, taking tolls in a tunnel or orders at Papa John’s. She ruled—it doesn’t matter how or why this came about—you can read the ridiculous story here-–that the parents of a baby couldn’t name him “Messiah,” because, she said in an interview with a reporter whose mouth had to be surgically closed afterward, “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.” Ironically, the description “judge” should have to be earned too, but as we all know, especially in Cocke County, it can still be assumed by officious, ignorant morons. Ballew went from rejecting a name the parents had an absolute right to bestow to naming the child herself.
Of course, the decision was reversed, and not because Ballew was factually and historically wrong, though she is—“Messiah” is not a title, and as Detroit Tiger first baseman Prince Fielder can attest, there is no reason a title can’t be used as a name——but because her action was unconstitutional and an abuse of judicial authority. Is “Messiah” a ridiculous, cruel, unethical name to saddle a child with? Of course it is. But it’s none of the state’s, or the state’s judges, business, and the parents of Messiah should have never have had to appeal such an un-American decision.
Their decision to name the child Messiah was, in contrast, very American. Also very stupid, irresponsible and wrong, but there’s nothing, unfortunately, un-American about that.
19 thoughts on “More Name Ethics: An Incompetent Judge Blocks An Irresponsible Name”
Ballew’s decision has made headlines around the world, with many observers unable to resist the urge to quote Monty Python film the Life of Brian, in which Terry Jones, playing Brian’s mother, tells worshippers: “He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy! Now, piss off!” ·
Life imitated art, if the article at the link is true and accurate. Not only did “[a] US judge [change] the name of a seven-month old baby boy from Messiah to the rather more prosaic Martin…,” but the boy’s original (and legal, notwithstanding the ruling) last name is also Martin.
So, how about “Martin Martin” for a name everyone can live with??
Reading the article, I immediately belly-laughed, but in bitter way. The judge has taken on the business of naming kids in the “rather more prosaic” manner that characters are named in Joseph Heller’s novel, “Catch-22.”
Perhaps one way of persuading the judge of her folly would be for the majority of people who speak of her to refer to her henceforth as “Judge Judge Judge Judge,” or “Lu Lu Lu Lu” similar to the Heller character, “Major Major Major Major.”
I’m totally naming my kid “Go fuck yourself”, because the image of the call and response for “So, what’s your name?” amuses me far more than it should…
Messiah is a better name than many many MANY others I have seen.
“Beware ‘It’s not the worst thing’!”
This is an interesting debate as it really does get to the heart of the definition of ethics.
Ethics is essentially a flexible framework to not cause harm, and to do anything you can to prevent it when applicable.
Although names do not matter (arguably), the reality is that this child will most likely end up being ridiculed solely based on their name (which causes harm), and the parent(s) are at fault for making their child an easy target. The parents are not at fault for the name calling and such, as that requires lack of ethic on the other people making the choice to ridicule someone based on such a silly pretense, however the choice to use a name which would obviously place a target on their child, is in fact doing something to cause harm, and is therefore unethical.
On the other hand, the judge did make a call to revoke what is known in western society as a free choice, and revoking that freedom was unethical.
It is my opinion that societal ethics supersede legal ethics, and that in fact, this judge did make the correct call to deny the parents from causing harm to their child. Just because the law says that it is ok to do something, does not make it the right thing or ethical thing to do, and the judge / worker were in a position to do something about it.
On that note, I must commend both the worker, and the judge for doing the right thing in protecting this child from that form of harm, even when the parent was abusing their legal right to name their child anything they chose.
But this—It is my opinion that societal ethics supersede legal ethics—makes no sense when applied to a judge, who is bound to know and obey the law. The Constitution sets the framework of our ethical standards as a society, with free speech as an absolute. And you can hardly argue that this judge was making her determination on the basis you posit. Hers was a religion-based judgment, which is also unconstitutional.
Unless there is a universally understood concept of “societal ethics” (and even if there was), that is an amazing amount of power to give to individual judges. Do you really want to allow judges the power to determine what constitutes “social harm” to a child? As mentioned below, that’s basically giving parental power to the state.
It will be a blessing when a on line service and/or phone in service offers accurate and unbiased information concerning all law firms no matter how small and/or how large for each attorney and their firm as a whole as to their total number of winnings and / or losses of cases and types of cases that were won and/or lost as what Lexus Nexus gives but is not made available to the general public. Then maybe citizens will have a better chance.
Law firms / attorneys have so few legal guidelines that they have to follow, after all when you think about it they are the ones writings the laws for the citizens and somehow they do not have to hold themselves accountable , and/or have to have show they have ethics and morals.
“Few guidelines?” What more do you want? Hey, read through these… http://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/publications/ethics_opinions.htmland…and the rules…http://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/publications/model_rules_of_professional_conduct.html…and, let’s see, I don’t want to over-burden you…maybe these…http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/migrated/2011_build/dispute_resolution/settlementnegotiations.authcheckdam.pdf.. thoroughly, now…and get back to me on this.
I recall some idiot naming their kid Adolf Hitler not too long ago. 😦
Nature should have built a filter into humans, if the IQ is below a certain number, that particular human is also sterile.
Stupid people should not be breeding.
(Or voting, for that matter.)
Messiah is not that uncommon of a name, and from what I hear is gaining in popularity in recent years (akin to Trinity for girls). There are enough Jesus, Moses, and Mohammeds running around here that I hardly think Messiah will raise eyebrows, so I fail to even see the harm. It isn’t like she named the kid Barkevious or Taco BM Monster…
I agree with you, and also agree with Jack. This post caused me to wonder: Who is the former pro basketball player, God Shammgod, working for these days? The answer, at least insofar as this article presents, is uplifting: http://theclassical.org/articles/god-is-not-dead
In Japan they take the view that the child needs to be protected. We had a similar case in 1993, when two parents tried to name their child ‘Akuma’ which means ‘devil’. The Ministry of Justice is in charge of a list designating acceptable kanji for given names. This is to be sure that all names can be read by the average literate person, and to restrict the usage of archaic difficult kanji. Right now there are almost 3,000 that can be used. After a huge public outcry, the Ministry of Justice ruled that the child could not be given a name ‘that obviously would make his life difficult’.
Yes, that’s called “statism”, “paternalism”, and “wrong” is the US.
How’s this for Naming Ethics?
Colt .45 Stratemeyer
Cool name. As would be Winchester ’73, Magnum 45, and especially, Glock. I wish my name were Glock.
Then there’s Machine Gun Kelly…
Not that it really matters, but North West is a girl.
Sure it matters. It makes it worse.