Officials tell couple that they can’t name their child ‘Allah’
The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia has filed a lawsuit against two state officials for refusing to grant a birth certificate to a child because of the last name given to her by her parents – ‘Allah’.
According to this report, the ACLU filed the suit Thursday on behalf of Elizabeth Handy and Bilal Walk, who want their child’s name on her birth certificate to be ZalyKha Graceful Lorraina Allah. The girl was born on May 25, 2015.
The group is asking the court to force state officials to issue the birth certificate.
Named in the suit are Dr Brenda Fitzgerald, the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, and Donna L Moore, the State Registrar and Director of the State Office of Vital Records.
Without a birth certificate the child, who was born in Fulton County, has not been able to obtain a Social Security number.
The suit claims that the action has prevented her parents from obtaining medical coverage under Medicaid and stopped them from obtaining food stamps through the SNAP programme. Handy and Walk will also be unable to enroll their daughter in public school.
Said ACLU of Georgia Executive Director, Andrea Young:
Government has no business telling parents what they can and cannot name their children. Elizabeth and Bilal jumped through every bureaucratic hoop that’s required to obtain a birth certificate for their daughter, but officials at the Department of Public Health refused to record the birth certificate with the name of their choice. The department’s actions interfere with the couple’s right to raise their child and are a clear violation of the right to freedom of speech and the right to equal protection under the law.
The department has also caused real harm, preventing this couple and their child from receiving the benefits they need and deserve.
In a letter dated December 13, 2016, the Georgia Department of Public Health cited a code which requires that a baby’s surname be either that of the father or the mother for purposes of the initial birth record.
The code does allow for names based on cultural naming conventions in the parents’ country of origin to be honoured but it said that Handy has not claimed that her chosen surname for ZalyKha is based on such a foreign cultural convention.
The code forbids names that include obscenities, numbers, symbols or other non-identifying information.
The letter went on to say that once the birth record is created, the child’s surname can be changed through a petition to superior court.
Why on earth do the couple want to call their daughter Allah, the name for God, the Supreme Being, in the Arabic language?
This report says Handy and Walk gave her the name because it was “noble,” and it has nothing to do with religion.
Handy, who is six months pregnant, added:
We don’t want to go through that process again. We are still in the process of coming up with a name, and we don’t even know if it will be a girl or a boy. But the child will definitely have a noble title. Something to live up to.
Carlton F W Larson, a law professor at the University of California at Davis, has written extensively about parental rights to name their children. He said:
Naming your child is an expressive action, and the idea that you get to name your child, and not the state, is a fundamental right. The state would need to have a compelling reason for rejecting a name, and I don’t see it. I would hope that (Handy and Walk) would win this case.
There is no court decision that the couple could point to that would restrict Georgia from rejecting their case (although in 2014, a Tennessee judge was fired for refusing to allow a family to name their son Messiah), but Larson said the state is clearly infringing on their rights to freedom of speech and equal protection.
Although there is no indication that the parents are Muslims, it should be noted that Islam expressly forbids giving certain names to kids, particularly those that relate to Christianity, Judaism, Kufr leaders, “lunatic film actresses and dancers” and atheists, notably Lenin and Marx.
Back in 2014, Saudi Arabia issued a list of forbidden names.
Along with Western names such as Sandy, Linda and Elaine, the Interior Ministry has forbidden Saudi parents from giving their children names with royal connotations, such as Malika (Queen) and Amir (Prince).
Some religious names have also been deemed inappropriate, or even blasphemous.
Parents will no longer be able to have a baby called Malak (Angel), Nabi (Prophet) or Jibreel (Gabriel), names which are popular across the Middle East and in Islamic countries.