Court Orders Couple to Change their Son’s Name

October 24, 2013

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. order [AWR-der] (v.) – to require to do something
Example: The president ordered the army to transfer to a different base.

2. hostile [HOS-tl  or –tahyl] (adj.) – having an unpleasant feeling
Example: The student felt hostile towards the bullies in school.

3. devote [dih-VOHT] (v.) – to commit something for a certain purpose
Example: The pastor devotes his weekend in community service projects.

4. upbringing [UHP-bring-ing] (n.) – the care and training that a child receives as he or she grows
Example: He became a God-fearing individual because of his parents’ religious upbringing.

5. exceptional [ik-SEP-shuh-nl] (adj.) – being extraordinary
Example: The audience applauded the exceptional performer in the play.


Read the text below.
A judge from Cocke County, Tennessee ordered the parents of a baby not to use Messiah as their son’s name.

The couple was prohibited from naming their son Messiah because according to the court, only Jesus Christ deserves the name. The court also argued that with such a name, the child may be treated differently. Thus, the judge ordered the couple to name their son Martin DeShawn McCullough [muh-KUHL-uh] instead.

This is not the first time in the US that a child was named Messiah, and those who grew up having that name do not seem to encounter serious problems. For instance, a 26-year-old documentary maker named Messiah Rhodes said that no one was hostile to him for his odd name.

His name does not make him exceptional either. Rhodes frequently attends church and devotes much time for his spirituality, but it is his Methodist upbringing that made him disciplined with spiritual matters.  According to Rhodes, he has always been just like any other person.

Rhodes thinks that the court’s decision shows the close tie between the church and the state in Tennessee. But, he stressed that faith should not be forced on people. Besides, there is no existing list of names that cannot be used in the US.

Nowadays, more people seem to be using the name Messiah in the US. Records show that 762 boys have this name. According to the Social Security Administration, the name jumped from 633rd place in 2011 to 387th in 2012 as the most popular name for boys. Furthermore, it now ranks fourth among the fastest-growing names.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Is the court’s decision valid? Why or why not?
·         If you were the parents of the child, would you appeal to the court? Please explain your answer.

Discussion B

·         Should there be rules when naming a person? Why do you think so?
·         What do you think of having a list of banned names?


October 24, 2013