Officials tell couple that they can’t name their child ‘Allah’

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.

27 responses to “Officials tell couple that they can’t name their child ‘Allah’”

  1. remigius says:

    So much hassle over a silly name! Maybe these guys could offer some legal advice…

  2. Brian Jordan says:

    There’s a family story of a vicar who, at a baptism, was asked to christen a baby “Bing”. Doing the deed, the vicar declared “I name this child John”. I imagine that the boy, if he ever found out, was eternally grateful to the vicar.
    The present story is a clear case of the lunacies of the parents being visited on the children.

  3. andym says:

    “There’s a family story of a vicar who, at a baptism, was asked to christen a baby “Bing”. Doing the deed, the vicar declared “I name this child John”. I imagine that the boy, if he ever found out, was eternally grateful to the vicar.
    The present story is a clear case of the lunacies of the parents being visited on the children.”

    This. To me the religious aspect is irrelevant here. The law should protect children from being given names by stupid, egotistical parents which will disadvantage them for life. It’s not a freedom issue, it’s a safeguarding one.

  4. barriejohn says:

    This obviously explains one of the great mysteries of the Bible. The priest said: “Emmanuel? Where did you get that stupid name? I’m going to call him Jesus“, and the rest, as they say, is …er…history(?).

  5. L.Long says:

    Hey! It Georgia! One of the states that is scared spitless of xtians! They would be terrified of isLame! Besides allah is a satan word, so a highly xtian state like Georgia would hate the name as well!

  6. Lurker111 says:

    Let me put in a counterpoint. There are various countries in Europe where it is illegal to saddle a child with a burdensome name. Suppose some nut job wanted to name their kid George Shithead Jones. Would you object?

    Just a thought.

  7. sailor1031 says:

    Too bad the ACLU hasn’t anything better to do ; like suing the Federal Government over its flagrant violations of the Bill of Rights for instance, or its constant illegal war making.

  8. remigius says:

    “Suppose some nut job wanted to name their kid George Shithead Jones. Would you object?”

    No – Shithead is quite a common name in India.

  9. remigius says:

    Apparently the name ‘Shithead’ bestows many admirable qualities…

  10. Rob Andrews says:

    I wonder what’ll happen if the parents refue, then, to give any name:

    Will the court step in and issue a name?
    Will the child be taken away and put in a foster home?
    Will the future adult be a ‘non-person’.

    A 70’s hippy couple gave their kid a name but refused to register the birth. And he had real problems as he got older. I don’t know exactly how it all worked out, as I lost contact with them.

  11. Edwin Salter says:

    Some accord is pleasing. It seems the ACLU rather discredits itself.
    (Could it be that those who heap empty abuse around this site are the diabolically cunning agents of foul fervent faith? What then the counter strategy?)

  12. Dianne Leonard says:

    My sister and brother-in-law, then living in France, had their daughter at a hospital in Switzerland. I’m not sure which country it was (I think France) that had a law that “Christians” (they are atheists) must give their child a “Christian” name, Jews a Jewish name, etc. The names are from the Greek and Hebrew Bible respectively, or the names of saints. I don’t remember what they originally chose, but they eventually named their kid Claire, a name neither of them liked, but put up with. So, no naming your kid Sunshine, like you can in the U.S.

  13. Daz says:

    I think it’s rather silly on both sides.

    It’s a daft name that will no doubt cause much teasing and bullying for the poor kid. I agree with comments above that there should be laws to prevent children being saddled with really silly names (although defining a line between what’s silly and what ain’t would doubtless be something of a task, to say the least). But such a law doesn’t exist at present except for some very specific cases.

    The law which does exist regarding the mother’s or father’s surname seems pretty clear; but it also looks like one of those petty, forgotten little laws which someone quite probably had to dig for in hopes of finding a reason to deny the choice—probably ’cause they had a prejudice against “Allah.” And surely there must be provision for cases where the parents’ names can’t be used, as with foundlings, for instance.

  14. Vanity Unfair says:

    Maybe the child will not be teased and tormented at school.
    Maybe no religious fundamentalist will ever be “insulted.”
    Maybe she will one day forgive her parents.
    All these are possible. After all, I recently found out that pork wings exist.
    Perhaps it would be playing safe to have a compound surname. I propose “Jehovah-Allah.”

  15. Vanity Unfair says:

    Incidentally, why would a US child have a UK birth certificate?

  16. barriejohn says:

    Dianne Leonard: Many countries have naming laws, but only a minority have lists of acceptable names. France does, of course, have a council (“The Immortals”) which decides which words are acceptable in the French language, and produces an official dictionary (though they are not unique there, either).

    I do think that it is strange that parents don’t look into names and choose one that is appropriate.

  17. Stuart H. says:

    Wonder if the mother’s middle name begins with a B, which would make her Betty B. Handy.

  18. Gui says:

    Fun thing: the child’s father name, Bilal, is a expression used in Brazil that means penis .

  19. John the Drunkard says:

    Damn’ silly name overall. But ‘allah’ is tucked in the middle. Still, what about all the latin-american kids named Jesus?

  20. barriejohn says:

    John the Drunkard: But I can’t imagine any parents actually naming their child “God”!

  21. Daz says:

    @Barriejohn & John the Drunkard

    Still not exactly “God,” but the Great Orange One’s father’s middle name was “Christ.” Greater minds than mine bullshitters than I have struggled with the nature of a three-in-one godhead, but if he’s the son of the son-who-is-god, what does that make Agent Orange?

    Also note: Thor Heyerdahl.

  22. barriejohn says:

    Daz: I was just imagining the scene as the vicar nearly dropped the baby, and said: “I christen thee Frederick Christ Trump”, when my reverie was brought to a sudden end by the realization that it was from the German surname Christ. Oh well, never mind.

    PS I read The Kon-Tiki Expedition at a very young age, as my dad was a great admirer of Heyerdahl!

  23. Daz says:


    Didn’t Dave Allen do a sketch along those lines?

  24. barriejohn says:

    Daz: I don’t recall it, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit!

  25. RussellW says:


    I can vaguely remember a Dave Allen sketch where the Vicar baptises a child “Mephistopheles Beelzebub Jones”or something similar.

  26. The Badger says:

    Gotta tell you this story…

    When in southern Spain on holiday a few years ago my wife and I attended the Spanish equivalent of a “boot fair”.There were several English sellers there including a very nice young woman, dressed like a “hippy”, and her daughter (about 6y old). The youngster was sitting on the ground on a blanket with various things for sale scattered around her. We said hello and the mother said to us “Moon is selling her toys !”.
    I wondered what name she would have chosen if she had of born a son ?

    Back to the post. Of course the issue about permitted names only arises due to government idiots as the recording of newborn names is a government function (albeit with some religious/cultural contamination). And is now compounded by limits on the number of characters some programmer deems appropriate in the design of a database. See UK passport form guidance notes for the waffle on what to do if your real name is TOO LONG !!
    Of course the perfect solution for the couple in question is… Alar. It would have got through first time no problem. Unlike the Irish racehorse owner who failed with his attempt at..well oil beef hooked…for his nag.

  27. barriejohn says:

    Badger: I like a little flutter, and there are many stories of horses with “rude names”, but Graham Norton featured a definitive list of them by the BHA (not the Humanists!) on his show. You just have to watch the clip at the end, if you haven’t already seen it: