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In August, Tennessee Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew ordered a baby's name changed from "Messiah" to "Martin," saying the former was reserved for the original JC (as in Jesus Christ). Ultimately, another judge deemed Ballew's ruling unconstitutional and restored the child's name to Messiah. (Hallelujah!)
Now Ballew is facing formal disciplinary charges for expressing an inappropriate religious bias.
Your Honor Can't Be Holier Than Thou
A joking judge found this out the hard way. It seems Ballew will, too.
Tennessee's judicial code of conduct explicitly states that religion and other personal biases must not play roles when judges are performing their duties.
The most damaging example that Ballew was acting on her personal religious preference -- in violation of the state judicial code of conduct -- was her court statement that "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."
She also said it was the first time she'd ordered a first name changed, but that the decision was best for the child -- especially while growing up in a county with a large Christian population.
In light of such evidence, a three-member investigative panel of the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct concluded there was "reasonable cause to believe [Ballew] has committed judicial offenses," and directed the state board's disciplinary counsel to file charges, reports Reuters.
Thou Shalt Be Sanctioned
Ballew has 30 days to file an answer with the court, at which time a hearing will be scheduled to impose sanctions, reports Reuters.
Those sanctions can range anywhere from a public reprimand to removal from the position.
Considering the Board believed Ballew's behavior "undermined confidence in the judiciary, manifested prejudice and partiality, and constituted impermissible commentary on a pending case," her punishment could be severe.
It's now up to Ballew to seek penitence not from her savior, but from her judicial board. Fingers crossed she steers clear of a martyr syndrome.