Alex Witt   |  August 17, 2013

Judge rules against naming child 'Messiah'

Lisa Green talks about the controversy surrounding the name "Messiah" and provides the legal perspective for the case.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> is messiah a name or a title reserved for only one person? that's the debate in tennessee where a judge ordered an infants name changed and the parents were in court arguing over the child's last name when his first name came into question. we have the report from tennessee.

>> reporter: at seven months old her son is teething.

>> he has two at the bottom.

>> reporter: he's ready to crawl but his name is still up for debate.

>> i was shocked.

>> reporter: his birth certificate reads me sigh ya martin but they couldn't decide on a last night.

>> i thought out into the future.

>> reporter: child support judge ordered his name be martin m mccullough. it includes both last names.

>> 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 .

>> never intended on that naming my son messiah because it means god. i didn't think a judge could make me change my baby's name because of her religious believes.

>> reporter: it's the first time shes ordered a name change . she says the decision is best for the child growing up in a county with a large christian population.

>> it could put him at odds with a lot of people. at this point he's had no choice in what his name is.

>> everybody believes what they want. i think i should be able to name my child what i want to name him.

>> reporter: her two older children are name ed micah and mason.

>> what are you thought for children with the name jesus or jesus?

>> i thought about that as well. that's not relevant to this case.

>> reporter: the parents will have to change the name on the birts scertificate. regardless.

>> will you still continue to call him messiah ?

>> i will.

>> reporter: what's in name.

>> now martin says the appeal will go before a chancellor or september 17th . here is the question. the mom says i didn't realize the judge could impose her religious believes or interpretation of the bible on to the name of her child. can she?

>> mom is a winner. it's almost a certainty. we're seldom in the prediction business when we talk about legal cases but it's a near certainty this will be overturned.

>> let's talk about this whole thing happened. they were coming because the family could not decide on the last name.

>> that's right.

>> how did it swing from that to the first name?

>> it looks like the judge took it upon herself to weigh in with her own religion based upon about what was going on. last name fights are very common amongst parents. should they use the father's name, father name. often paternity is involved. first name is much less kplon where we unbelievably wide berth to name our kid just about everything if it doesn't have a number or too many characters in the state of massachusetts . that's another reason this case has gotten so much attention. we live in land where people are free to express their individuality.

>> here is a statement that explains her thinking. the word messiah is a title and it's only been earned by one person and that person is jesus christ . is this as much about choosing a name but have we seen a clash of religious believes?

>> it's a combination platter. the mom has a justification of her choice. who would know baby name could rise to the name of constitutional law . first amendments rights about the judge not imposing her religion and a general sense that supreme court have found we as parents have a lot of authority to make choices when it comes to our kids.

>> the judge is saying change the name on the birth certificate . let's say the judge wins. is there anything legally speaking to sprent the family pr saying we don't care if you changed his name from joe, we'll call him messiah .

>> it's funny. these names come up with celebrity names.

>> like northwest.

>> there's so many more. in new zealand. a family wants to name their kids fish and chips. that was overturned by a judge. there are countries much more conservative. america not so much.

>> i was about to use the question if you want to name your child king or queen. what about president. that's a monoker reserved for one person.

>> it can be the president of your pta board or condo. people get into more thoughtful anl ses or names truly difficult for kids to carry. there's a case of a new jersey family that named their child adolf hitler . you can see how well meaning judges might want to say that's not fair but then they have a collision with parental rights .

>> how do you see this playing out?

>> very well for mom and baby me messiah . as a mom that's one cute baby.

>> very cute. thank you so much.