Judge rules couple can’t change last name to ‘ChristIsKing’

A Staten Island Judge, citing separation of church and state, ruled yesterday that a couple cannot change their last name to “ChristIsKing.”

The same judge denied a request six years by the same couple to change their son’s name to “JesusIsLord.” The couple, Michael and Angela Nwadiuko, subsequently went to Virginia where a judge ruled in their favor on that one.


Civil Court Judge Philip Straniere said in his latest ruling that it would be unfair to force court clerks and public school teachers to call out “ChristIsKing” when referring to members of the family.

“Not only is the speaker being forced to say something which might be repugnant to the speaker, but the general public would be subjected to this unwanted intrusion of the petitioners’ religious beliefs,” Straniere found. Read CBS news account here.

Dan Amira of New York Magazine thinks the judge is taking the whole separation of church and state thing too far. Read his post here. I’m inclined to agree with him. What do you think?

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9 Comments
  1. tgflux

    Aren’t there names in other languages which make the same sectarian claims?

    And if a public official wanted to call out “Krus-Tisking”, the family couldn’t stop them, could they?

    Borrowing trouble, both sides IMO.

    JC Fisher

  2. tobias haller

    This is truly astounding, and if accurate the judge shows an appalling lack of understanding of constitutional law and basic rights, which include control over one’s name.

    Many names have meanings which some might find offensive — but there is no right to freedom from being offended!

    Bizarre.

  3. billydinpvd

    I think the judge is spot on, and if I ever had to call out their surname I’d make sure to accidentally mispronounce it. Something like Tchraistiskaing. But then, I think we should do as Germany and require approval for all names, so as to prevent morons from saddling their progeny with “names” like Dweezil, Moon Unit, or (God help us) JesusisLord (which I would probably accidentally pronounce as Haysoosislawrd).

  4. billydinpvd

    Sorry, the last comment was me, Bill Dilworth. Or as I now prefer to be called, BlessedbeGodBlessedbeHisHolyNameBlessedBeJesusChristTrueManAndTrueGod…

  5. billydinpvd

    Sorry for the multiple posts, but the Amira post is willfully wrongheaded. The point is not shielding people from the knowledge that some people like Jesus, as the judge makes clear, but to prevent others from being the nonwilling vehicles of this family’s prosyletizing, and to avoid every roll call becoming an intrusive evangelization.

    Bill Dilworth

    (Or as I now prefer to be known as, ThereIsNoGodButAllahAndMohammedIsHisProphet Q. HailSatan)

  6. tobias haller

    Billy, (or ThereIsNo… as you prefer) the point is that there is a basic right at issue — involving freedom of expression.

    There is no right not to be evangelized. The moment you start censoring speech because someone else doesn’t like that speech, you head down a road it is unwise to tread. I will say “hate speech” falls into a somewhat different category, but that is because real harm is done by its means. You may long for the state control of names as in Germany, but it is the freedom to change ones name that allows a “Moon Unit” to change names as a personal option — or to keep the name.

    Many members of my parish are Nigerian and Ghanaian, and they have in some cases names I find odd, including “Prince” and “Diamond” (both men!) A number have names which in their own languages mean something like “GodIsKing” (Chibueze) and I baptized a child not too long ago whose name in English would be “Offertory”! My point is that this seems stranger to us because the meanings of our names in English have become secondary — but in many cultures the meaning of a name is of primary significance to the bearer and the family — and it is their right to have it.

    For the record, my own name means “God is Good.”

  7. billydinpvd

    Where exactly is this supposed human right to have others call you whatever you desire enshrined, Tobias? Does any government recognize it absolutely?

    The appeal to freedom of expression is a red herring, IMO, since names exist primarily for the convenience of others, not as a way of sending a message. Some names do send a message, but that’s a secondary function.

    The exception for “hate speech” is also a red herring, since there’s no right not to be offended by others’ opinions. Either you’re for freedom of expression, or you’re not. Would you be so accepting if a family wanted to change its name to GodHatesFags? Besides, one man’s Christian testimony could very well be another man’s hate speech. I can easily imagine someone whose family and people had been the target of forced conversions to Christianity balking at having someone place the words “Christ is Lord” in their mouths as part of their job as a receptionist, clerk, or teacher.

    That many American names have religious meanings in their original languages is besides the point. There is a world of difference between “Theophilus” and “JesusIsLord,” at least in an English-speaking society.

    There may not be a right not to be evangelized (more’s the pity) but I’d argue that there is a right not to be the forced tool of evangelization. I’d love to see the Nwadiukos deal with someone who had changed their name to something that sent a less Jesus-y religious message.

    Sincerely,

    GodIsDead A. BowBeforeTheEternalLingam

    (Bill Dilworth)

  8. tobias haller

    Bill, this is a matter of both common and statute law. Even in places where it is a matter of statute, there is recognition of the right to change (or give) a name apart from intent to defraud. There are some technical limitations involving things like using numerals or punctuation marks, and varying limits on “obscene” names or the use of racial slurs in a name. That is, as with “hate speech” a touchy area, as you note. But it is far from a red herring.

    The notion that an atheist law clerk is somehow “put upon” by having to call out, “JesusIsLord ChristisKing” is, in my opinion, a non-issue. I’d be more concerned for the atheist law clerk called upon to have people swear on a Bible!

    But in the long run, this is a matter of law, and I think the judge has made a bad decision in this case, and if it is appealed, it will be overturned, as it should be. The state is not to make any rulings abridging the freedom of religion, and taking or giving a religious name is one of the primary means, in both tradition and law, of expressing ones religious beliefs.

  9. billydinpvd

    Who said anything about the clerk being an atheist? I was thinking of how it would feel to an observant Jew forced to proclaim “Jesus is Lord, Christ is King” every morning while calling the class roll, or to summon the next person at the DMV, or to let someone know their table is ready. We’ve done quite enough trying to force Christianity on minority faiths, and if it takes the State to keep us from it, so be it. (Although, for the record, I think it’s no less appalling to make an atheist parrot your religious statements; making anyone affirm your religious beliefs is horrible, whether they are a religious believer or not.)

    Far from a legitimate expression of religious faith, this is a thinly disguised ploy to get others to join in a prosyletization endeavor by what amounts to wordplay.. It’s not very much cleverer than calling up Mo’s Bar and paging Ivanna Huggaman.

    As well as fraud, obscenity, and racial slurs,, jurisdictions also commonly refuse to allow name changes that would be confusing. Changing a last name to a complete sentence is nothing if not confusing. It is bound to lead to assumptions that it’s a joke – “OK, who went into the data base and entered the obviously fake name ‘JesusIsLord ChristIsKing’?”

    They also deny name changes that fall under the category of fighting words. I put it to you that “JesusIsLord ChristIsKing” could easily fit that category under certain circumstances.

    Yours,

    NonChristiansAreDamned W. BeheadThoseWhoInsultIslam

    (the commenter formerly known as Bill Dilworth)

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