NEWPORT, Tenn., Aug. 12 (UPI) -- A judge in Tennessee has ruled an infant boy cannot be named Messiah.
Jaleesa Martin of Newport is appealing the decision by 4th Judicial District Judge Lu Ann Ballew Thursday that her 7-month-old son's name is to be changed permanently from Messiah DeShawn Martin to Martin DeShawn McCullough.
The child's first name came into question while Ballew was adjudicating a dispute between the mother and the child's father over the boy's last name, WBIR-TV, Knoxville, reported Sunday.
"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," Ballew said.
Ballew said she's never ordered a first name be changed before but decided it was in the child's best interests.
"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 said.
Martin, who said she picked the name because she liked the way it sounded, said she was "shocked" by the judge's decision.
"I never intended on naming my son Messiah because it means God and I didn't think a judge could make me change my baby's name because of her religious beliefs," she said.
"Everybody believes what they want so I think I should be able to name my child what I want to name him, not someone else."
Martin's appeal is to go before the Cocke County chancellor Sept. 17, the TV station said.