Nowadays, unusual baby names are... well, not that unusual at all. But have you ever heard of a name and thought, "That just shouldn’t be allowed?" Or is it a parent’s right to give their child whatever moniker they choose, regardless of what anyone else might think of it?
In what’s been described as a landmark case, a British judge has ruled that a mother is not allowed to give her babies the names she chose for them, because it might cause them harm. The mom was taken to court by social workers when they learned she planned to call her baby twins "Cyanide" and "Preacher."
Appeal Court Judge Lady Justice King said the mother, whose twins had been "conceived as a result of rape" and were now in foster care along with the woman's three older children, couldn’t call her daughter "Cyanide" —the poison that killed German statesman and Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler — because it might cause the child emotional harm. While Lady Justice King acknowledged that "Preacher" was not as bad, she ruled that it was in both babies’ best interests if their names were chosen by their half-siblings.
The mom insisted that Cyanide was a "lovely, pretty name" that has positive connotations because it was the poison that ended the lives of Hitler and his devoted follower Joseph Goebbels. Fighting against the injunction that was issued last year to prevent her from formally registering the twins' names, she argued that it was her basic human right to name her children whatever she likes.
The first thing that strikes us about this case is that it’s really sad. This mom has a history of mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and relationships with abusive men. Her twins, who are now 8 months old, are in foster care and referred to as Harrie and Annie. Is Cyanide the worst thing we can think of to name a baby? Probably not. Preacher certainly isn't.
We'll remember this story not because it's rare for a judge to intervene to prevent a parent naming a child, but because it's far too common for women who've gone through their lives without getting the help they need for illness and abuse to end up in a courtroom desperately trying to cling onto their parental rights.
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