What’s in a name?
August 19, 2013
There are certain sections of Happy Valley where you can stand above a crowd, loudly shout, "Hey Zeus!" and have at least two or three heads turn in direct response.
No one will be offended, however, and no one will really care, unless of course you're in a movie theater or a restaurant, in which case you should have more tact than that in the first place.
But either way, it would not be a big deal, right?
Now suppose one of our esteemed Eagle County judges told the Hispanic parents of "Hey Zeus" (Jesus) that they must legally change their boy's name because it was an affront to the judge's personal religious beliefs.
"From this point forward your son shall be called "Juan," and you must change his legal name on his birth certificate," declares the judge.
"Cow poop!" you shout, along with just about anyone else with more brains than a Kardashian on meth.
Luckily, no such nonsense has ever occurred around here, but sadly, it did last week in Tennessee.
Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew ordered the parents of Messiah McCullough to change his name to Martin McCullough, claiming the religion-based name "Messiah" was earned by one person only, and "that one person is Jesus Christ."
How ridiculously sad.
Not only has the judge stepped way beyond the boundaries of judicial matters and common sense, but she did so based solely upon her personal belief of a supernatural world. And she forced those beliefs upon others using her government employment as some sort of holier-than-thou position of power.
My guess is she champions freedom of religion, but only if the masses are following her particular version, of which there are thousands.
Look, if you want to use brain bleach, that's your choice. I personally think the parents would have been better off being forced to purchase a lifetime supply of T-shirts saying, "Please feel free to beat the crap out of me!" because that's what will happen to a kid named "Messiah."
But that is not the point, of course, as there is no state interest in any name given a child by his parents, no matter how stupid.
Besides, if improper name choices were suddenly matters of the court, why haven't Kanye West and Kim Kardashian been prosecuted for naming their daughter "North West," as in the compass direction, or perhaps in tribute to the 1959 Cary Grant classic flick, "North by Northwest."
Or how about Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin (lead singer for Coldplay) for naming their daughter "Apple," although I'm not sure if it's a tribute to the electronics firm or the fruit.
Or who can forget Frank Zappa's kids, "Moon Unit" and "Dweezil?" Shouldn't Frank have been judged before he succumbed to prostate cancer?
There are probably a few hundred million "Muhammads" on the planet, a few hundred thousand Salvadors (Savior in Spanish), and plenty named Jehovah, Elohim, Ra, Isis, Vishnu, and I even have a son named Christopher.
All religious in origin, none offensive to me in any way, but even if they were, I have no right to demand they be changed, and neither does anyone else.
This entire episode is just another sad example of how the religious right feels like they have a monopoly on silly beliefs and common sense morals in this country.
This decision will certainly be reversed, but the judge should be disbarred and forced to attend a George Lopez concert.
Richard Carnes of Edwards writes weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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