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News Posted on August 21, 2013

Professor Larson Cited in National Media on Parental Naming Rights

An article by Professor Carlton Larson was cited in numerous media accounts of a decision by a judge in Tennessee to rename a seven-month-old boy because she found his name, Messiah, to be offensive to Christians. Articles in Time, the Los Angeles Times, Slate, and the Arizona Republic quoted Professor Larson on the legal issues involved and referenced his article, "Naming Baby: The Constitutional Dimensions of Parental Naming Rights," published in the George Washington Law Review in 2011.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Professor Larson was critical of the judge, who changed the child's name from Messiah to Martin as part of a family court hearing regarding paternity and child support.  "You take a name, probably not a great one, but nothing harmful or terrible about it, and then say, ‘No, you can't have that name. I am going to pick a new name for you?' That's outrageous," Larson said.

Articles in Time and Slate drew heavily from Professor Larson's research on parental naming rights.  In "Naming Baby," Larson wrote that while the right to name a child is doubtless a fundamental one, it could be possible for a state to reject a proposed name if "there is an overwhelming likelihood that the name will pose serious and lasting harm to the child's emotional well-being and social development."

Carlton Larson's research interests focus on constitutional law and legal history, with a strong emphasis on the 18th century.

"Naming Baby: The Constitutional Dimensions of Parental Naming Rights"

Los Angeles Times

Time

Slate

Arizona Republic