Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 1, 2013

Fred Goldenberg: All in the name for some

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — On Alden Highway, between Alden and Bellaire, there is Messiah’s Tree Farm.

For as long as I can remember I’ve gotten a chuckle out of the name and had visions of a guy in a long white robe, flowing silver hair, radiating a glow pruning the soon to be harvested Christmas trees. I don’t know who named it, nor have I ever been offended that they used the name Messiah for commercial purposes. For all I know, people may feel that their tree has a higher spiritual content because of it.

Now comes along Tennessee judge Lu Ann Ballew who told Jallesa Martin that she could not name her 7-month old baby Messiah DeShawn McCullough and he will be renamed Martin DeShawn McCullough. Ballew stated, from the bench, that the name was a title and it has “only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ.”

Not many people have named the child Messiah but I did find one other. The Rapper T.I. has a seven year old son named Messiah.

What about the millions of Hispanic men named Jesus? If I were a Hispanic mother in front of Ballew and I was asked her babies name, I’d quickly say “ahhh...his name is Jes.., ummm Joe.”

I hate to tell Judge Ballew, but according to Google there are four people in the United States right now named Jesus Christ. While the name Mohammed is ranked 430th most popular in the United States, it has shot up to the number one boys name in England.

For as long as people gave names to individuals (instead of pointing and grunting) there have been some really crazy names. Celebrities are the all-time leaders in name craziness. Detroit Tiger fans cheer a Prince; Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have a newborn named North; Penn Jillette and wife Emily Zollen named their daughter Moxie CrimeFighter Jillette; David Bowie and wife Angela named their son Zowie Bowie; and who can forget Frank Zappa’s Daughter Moon Unit Zappa. We even had the singer Prince change his name to some unpronounceable symbol, which was later, dubbed “love symbol #2” and that became too weird for even him and he changed it back.

Granted Moon Unit or Moxie CrimeFighter aren’t biblical in nature, as Messiah, Jesus or Mohammed, but let’s all agree they are certainly weirder. Except for being crucified in the pres, Frank Zappa and Penn Jillette were allowed the freedom of naming their children any psychologically scarring name they wished. And at some point in the future for a $10 filing fee (extra $10 for an extra certified copy) the heavily scarred child can change their name to something less provocative, like Englebert Humperdinck.

All kidding aside, what is so disconcerting about this ruling is that Judge Ballew has imposed her personal religious beliefs through the auspices of her judicial position. She says she’s protecting the child, although I’m not an attorney and can’t be absolutely sure, her ruling seems to fly in the face of the separation of church and state? I’m sure there are people who are applauding Judge Ballew but in reality those are the same people who would impose their religious beliefs on all of us if they could. And for the sake of all the Messiahs, Jesus, Mohammeds, or Speck Wildhorse Mellencamps (yeah, that one came from John Cougar Mellencamp and his wife) I am grateful that they can’t.

But they keep trying and we need to keep fending them off.

According to Wikipedia there are 4,200 religions in the world today. We seem to get hung up on what we call the big three- Judaism, Islam and Christianity. But as you can see the world is made up of many people with diverse beliefs. For one individual to impose their particular beliefs and dogma upon another is far more anti-American than one might believe.

The first white men who set foot on this continent were escaping religious persecution. And, although it hasn't been entirely smooth sailing, religious freedom has been a cornerstone of American rights ever since.

Fred L. Goldenberg is a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) and the owner of Senior Benefit Solutions, LLC, a patient & consumer advocacy and financial services organization in Traverse City. If you have any questions or comments about this article or any other senior issue he can be reached at 231-922-1010 or