August 19, 2013

"'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,' Judge Ballew said."

"The word Judge is a title that should not apply to anyone who would ever say that in a ruling."

Yes, and also "Judge" could be a name — Judge Reinhold — and other "titles" are used as names. I think of Prince Rogers Nelson and Sargent Shriver. And Earl Butz.

It is confusing and invites jokes. A bad idea. I don't recommend it. But not everything inadvisable is a legal issue, and the Jesus-is-the-one argument is blatantly wrong.

Interestingly, the Judge in the Messiah incident changed the baby's name to Martin. I was going to add "Dean" as another title that is used as a name and is therefore confusing. But isn't it more confusing to name the kid Martin, since if he ever acquires the title Dean, he'll be Dean Martin, which was the joke of a name used for the Dean in Rodney Dangerfield's "Back to School"?


Robert Cook said...

Appalling. The judge's decision, that is.

Uncle Pavian said...

Seems to me that the Establishment Clause would be in play here, since the judge is presuming to determine a religious issue (viz., who is a "Messiah") as a matter of state policy. The Free Exercise Clause comes in, too.
Legal issues aside, the judge is guilty of bad theology, since Jesus did not "earn" the title of Messiah, but of course, even if He did, it's not up to a judge to say so.

Anonymous said...

This judge has no legal standing to prohibit this mother from choosing her child's first name. Tyranny.

Foobarista said...

This is pretty dumb. There are many common Persian and Middle Eastern names that mean Messiah (Mahdi, Massieh, etc), as well as the very common Spanish name Salvador (Salvatore in Italian, etc). Is this judge going to ban all of them?

Mary Beth (the commenter) said...

Messiah is the 301st most popular name given to baby boys in the U.S. this year.

A rapper (T.I.) named his son Messiah (Messiah Ya’Majesty) back in 2000. This was the only reason I could find that would cause the name to be trending up.

People should be able to name their kids any stupid-ass name they want. It lets them know starting out that parents can do dumb things too.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that because it is a title that most of us here has been used accurately only once in history (obviously man non-Christians don't accept this - but we live in a mostly Christian nation), I think that naming a kid that is extraordinarily dumb. A significant number of the billion plus Christians on this planet are likely to take exception to someone calling them self the (second) Messiah. Many may feel that it denigrates their religion.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

"Sargent" is not a title. "Sergeant" is.

Speaking of Jesus, there are an awful lot of Jesuses in the US. And a lot of Muhammads, for that matter.

Re: titles, why stop at "Earl"? There are a lot of "Dukes," too.

They had a lot of fun with this over at Volokh, including a commenter's hypothetical dialogue concerning an (actual) CA judge whose surname is Jury.

Matt Sablan said...

He'd have had firmer ground if he'd argued from the "That's just dumb" plank of legal theory. That probably wouldn't have worked either, but it would be less embarrassing all around.

RecChief said...

we had an officer on Battalion staff once whose name was Major (rank) Major (last name). I've seen other interesting combinations of ranks and names in the last 30 years, but I would assume that anyone in uniform could recount similar circumstances.

RecChief said...

This might be one of the few times I agree with Inga. I suspect we arrived at the conclusion that this is tyranny via different avenues, but she's correct jsut the same.

WaitingToBuy said...

Haven't you heard, Judges are all powerful and can ignore the votes of the people, the laws passed by state and federal legislatures and even the US Constitution.

William said...

How about Islam-Sucks as a first name. I always thought Clymidia had a kind of musical ring to it. And Mucus has a strong martial Roman sound to it. People should not allow past associations to inhibit their choice of names.

Big Mike said...

It would be so much easier if we were under shariah. Then the judge would have the option of ordering the parents stoned* for blasphemy and it would all be settled. Simple!


* Note for Progressives. Getting stoned in a country with shariah is not like getting stoned under medical marijuana.

lemondog said...

How did this become an issue before the court?

Carl said...

This judge has no legal standing to prohibit this mother from choosing her child's first name. Tyranny.

That is false. The case came before the judge because the parents couldn't agree on a name. They asked the judge (or really family magistrate) to pick the name. That's how she acquired the power to do so.

Of course, the parents thought the judge would set only the last name. But that's the way it goes in family court. You go in there thinking you only want X or Y adjudicated, but you will always run the risk that the judge thinks a few more matters need adjustment. It is quite difficult to limit what the judge decides to what you want decided.

In this case, the real court could find a reason to set aside the first-name change. Perhaps the parents were very clear in the initial filings that they wanted only the last name chosen by the court, and there's some "least action" principle that can be invoked that would inherently limit the judge's power to rule further.

But it's not nearly as clear, I think, as the frothy news stories suggest. It's not like the judge just took command arbitrarily of some random kid's name. The case came before her precisely because the parents asked the judge to pick a name -- at least part of it. The important question is whether the parents did, and could, limit the judge's power to the last name.

I don't think the reasoning is very important, colorful as it is. Some will agree, some will not, and that would be true of almost any other reasoning process for picking a name, given the idiosyncrasies of naming. (For example, some people think having husband, wife, and all children have the same initial letter in their name is cute, others are appalled. Some people think a boy named Sue is edgy, some people think it's child abuse. And so on.)

If you ask a judge to select a name, you're pretty much surrending your power to control the reasoning process, such as it is, in selecting a name. You don't have much standing to complain about it afterward. So I think it's probably just a question of how much rigid limitation the higher court is willign to set on the family court's interpretation of its own scope. As a rule, I'd say not too much, although they can probably find some way to save face by overruling the decision in this case.

William said...

Wasn't there a recent case where parents named their child Adolf Hitler. Not only was the child's name changed, but the child was taken from the parents. I don't think the case sparked any outrage against the judge. So we're all agreed that a child's name can be changed for reasons of decency, but we're not agreed on what are reasons of decency.

Michael said...

My great-great uncle named his sons:

Major Benjamin Washam
Judge Clarence Washam
General Andrew Jackson Washam
Colonel Henry Washam

Michael said...

My great-great uncle named his sons (born in the 1870s):

Major Benjamin Washam
Judge Clarence Washam
General Andrew Jackson Washam
Colonel Henry Washam

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

Tyranny would be a cool name for a child. But, inevitably, schoolyard bullies would call the kid Tranny.

gadfly said...

Who will ever forget indiana's favorite boilermaker, Earl "Rusty" Butz. He should never have left Albion.

His legacy is defined by "the joke" but at least he never referred to New York City as Hymietown.

Sam L. said...

I recall reading that some guy new to the State Dept. kept calling Dean Rusk 'Dean', because he though it was a title. And I met a man named Senator.

And Baron, as a name. Also, King Donovan, an actor. said...

Can't help but be reminded of Admiral Dewey Adamson, whose trial for murder gave rise to Adamson v. California (1947), a key Bill of Rights incorporation case.

traditionalguy said...

I always liked the sound of "Anti-Christ." But that name may be taken.

Anonymous said...

Carl, with all due respect, baloney. They may have asked for the judge to decide the last name. That still didn't give the Judge the legal right to change the first name, especially based on the Judge's reasoning.

YoungHegelian said...

"Mom, mom, I found out at school today that Handel wrote an oratorio all about ME! Izzat cool or what?"

Dr Weevil said...

Amazing: 25 comments as I write this, and no one has mentioned that the title-as-first-name phenomenon is particularly strong in jazz: Duke Ellington, Count Basie, King Pleasure . . . I'm forgetting at least one obvious example. Those may not have been their legal names, but they're still pertinent here.

Revenant said...

Most of the kings of Israel were messiahs, as were a number of prophets and non-Israeli kings.

Colloquially in English it only refers to Jesus, but the word itself refers to any virtuous ruler annointed with oil.

William said...

Will his nickname be. Maz or Messy? You're certainly not giving your child a leg up in life with a name like this. In a mostly Christian country, why give your kid a name that so many people find objectionable? Your free speech stops at your child's identity.

Ira said...

Isaiah 45:
1 Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut;

2 I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron:

3 And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.

4 For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.

5 I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:

6 That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else.

7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

(hey, and dig that last line)

kermitt said...

"christ" is a title,the word means rabbi

traditionalguy said...

Messiah refers to ceremonial anointing oil poured over a God selected King.

The anointing oil was the symbol for Ruach Hakodesh being poured out on God's chosen king.

Ruach Hakodesh translates as God's Spirit of Holiness, who played a major role in The Book of Acts and is recognized as the Third Person of the Godhead in the Apostle's Creed that Christians all over the world proclaim as the truth every Sunday.

Jesus also mentioned that in His opinion insulting the Holy Spirit's presence in the working of miracles by calling Him Satanic was the only unforgiveable sin, implying that God has strong feelings on the subject and would not come back again to help such persons. Hmmm.

Kate Danaher said...

Sorry Kermitt.

"Christ" is from the Greek & means anointed, and is a direct translation of the Hebrew word "Moshiach" (which has been anglicized to "Messiah")

"Rabbi" isn't actually a Hebrew word at all, but is a loose anglicization of the Hebrew word "rebbi", meaning "my teacher" or "my master".

Clyde said...

I saw this story a week ago, and commented to a friend that while I thought the judge was overstepping her bounds, she was probably doing a good thing for the child. I work for the USPS and I see a LOT of weird names. Many of them are coming from the jails. My own personal theory is that if you give a child a name that is so far out of the mainstream that he gets teased and picked on, he joins a gang, he starts dealing drugs and then he goes to prison, and you have nobody to blame but yourself. Giving a child a name like Messiah is parental malpractice.

kermitt said...

Kate Danaher: So,you agree "christ" is a title not a name?Annointed/teacher/babbi/bebbi ?

Kate Danaher said...

@Kermitt -

Agreed, "Christ" is very much a title, that has been also been used as a name at times (cf., the artist Christo or the use of Cristo/Crist as a last name in some cultures). Likewise, the Hebrew "Moshiach" ("Mashiach")has been used as a family name among some Sephardic Jews. Generally in those cultures there would have been widespread acceptance of such a name.

In the case of the baby named "Messiah", it seems to follow upon a custom in some quarters of American society to give a child a name based on how it sounds (ergo, the baby's mother "Jaleesa", which might sound mellifluous, but is not a recognisably common name). That said, I think that the baby is probably better off not being saddled with such a name. Like Grace Slick's daughter, God. I don't know that it warranted judicial intervention, though. Don't judges have better
things to do? Anyway, a baby graced with a daft name - like "Zowie Bowie" - can always grow up and take on something more dignified - like "Duncan Jones".