Just recently in the United States a court ordered a couple that was fighting for custody of their son, to change their child’s name from Messiah – to something else. The Tennessee judge handed down a court order that said the name ‘Messiah’ belonged solely to Jesus Christ, and that his life would be harmed if he kept that name. This case brought to the forefront the question of who has the ultimate say when it comes to a child’s name. Should parents be limited by laws when naming their child, and does the court have a right to hand down a court order requiring a parent to change his or her name?
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, “Parents, not the government has the ultimate right to name a child.” Interestingly enough, Messiah – as a name for a child is one of the top tens baby names today. Even more interesting is the amount of people that are names Jesus, Muhammad, or even Lucifer – each of which have religious correlation, without any governmental recourse. In fact, there are very few recent judicial cases where names in any country have been denied and while some countries around the world do have laws to prevent people from naming their child certain names. According to the Calgary-Herald, the following list of names are the only ones that have been denied to parents in modern times. Messiah, Blaer, Lucifer, Baron, Bishop, Duke, General, Judge, Justice, King, Knight, 89, C, D, I, T, Doctor, Reverend, Benson and Hedges (twins), Tulula Does the Hula from Hawaii Venerdi, rfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116, Metallica, Ikea, Q, Veranda, Fish and Chips (twins). Some were banned or denied for obvious reasons, and most name complaints arise from custody or familial issues.
That being said, it really is not the duty of the government to interfere and monitor the name choices of parents today. In some countries, such as Germany – a name must be gender specific and it is a law that someone must be able to know the gender of a child based on the chosen name. In Sweden, a law was enacted in 1982 which does not allow parents to name a child any name that could be taken offensively, such as those referring to Hitler, or like in the above case, Messiah. In Denmark, there is an approved list of 7,000 names that parents can pick from when naming their child. Recently, China enacted a program that requires new babies in China to be named based on the ability of computer scanners to read those names on national identification cards. The government recommends giving children names that are easily readable, and encourages Simplified characters over Traditional Chinese ones. This is just the beginning of government involvement in names, but is it okay?
When celebrities name their children, they often choose names which others see as outlandish or odd – yet the government doesn’t seem to interfere. In fact, Hollywood is none for choosing baby names that push the envelope on what is considered normal. And these kids have to live with their names for the rest of their life. Are these names considered acceptable simply because the children will be raised in the spotlight, rather than in mainstream society? It seems to most that parents should have reason to give ample consideration when naming their child. Often times, parents choose family names. Many parents today name their kids after inanimate objects or idealisms. Some choose names based on a name they like, a favorite friend, or a distant relative. New age thinking asks that parents think twice before naming a child after a deceased loved one, believing that it has some spiritual effects on the child in question. Still, parents should be the ones most concerned with giving their child a name for success.
There are several books on the market today, which help parents name their child for success – giving advice such as “Allison’s have a higher chance of getting into law-school whereas John Smith’s are so common, that they have a greater chance of getting passed over.” Essentially, the thinking is that the chosen name for your child is no different than a brand – and that by naming your child, you are also branding your child for a life of success, or a life of failure. Additionally, according to experts, names give others a quick peak into the socioeconomic and educational background of your family tree which are just as impressive on others as a first impression.
The truth is finding a name for your child is a difficult task. Still, it is one that the government should not be involved in. Obviously, if parents lack the commonsense or decency to name their child an apprpriate name, that won’t reduce them to a live of being teased or harassed, then the problems in that family unit are larger than just a baby name. If you name a boy Sue, while your intent may be to make him tough – the larger picture shows signs that the parents lack good judgment. In these situations, courts should be able to step in and advocate for the child. As far as Messiah, the baby boys whose name was changed to Martin by a judge – his parents were not alone in choosing Messiah as a baby name. According to statistics, there were 700 babies names Messiah in the United States in 2012. Is the judge going to try and rename all of those people?
What do you think? Should government have a say so in a child’s name?