Sgt. Hallelujah Changes Mind Anne Arundel County

July 03, 1993|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

An Army sergeant at Fort Meade who won a court order Thursday to change his name to Jesus Christ Hallelujah said yesterday he now wants to change it back.

Sergeant Hallelujah, a staff sergeant assigned to the 741st Military Intelligence Battalion, said in a brief telephone interview that he has decided to petition the Anne Arundel Circuit Court to change his name back to the moniker he was born with: Tyrone Victor Wright.

Sergeant Hallelujah made that decision a few days ago after talking it over with his family, he said.

"We're all happy with Tyrone Victor Wright," he said.

Sergeant Hallelujah said yesterday he didn't want to discuss his religious convictions, his motive for the initial name change, or any reactions to it.

"I just did it," the sergeant said before terminating the telephone interview.

The order approving the name change was signed Thursday by Judge Warren B. Duckett Jr., which means the sergeant will legally remain Jesus Christ Hallelujah for at least the next 30 days.

Jules Simms, an Army spokesman at Fort Meade, said military personnel are entitled to change their names just the same as is any civilian. "Any rules that apply to name changes for civilians apply to anyone serving here," he said.

The Maryland Court of Appeals held in 1973 that a person may adopt any name he or she wishes, as long as it is consistently used and is not being adopted for fraudulent purposes.

It must be filed at the courthouse in the county of residency and a notice must be published in a local newspaper three times before it takes effect, according to the Maryland Rules of Procedure. The publication requirement may be waived by a judge.

There are about 20 requests for name changes filed every month in the Anne Arundel Circuit Court, with most requests being filed to change the names of children after a second or third marriage, according to a court records.

But the request from Sergeant Hallelujah, reported last month in local newspapers, prompted three letters of opposition to the Anne Arundel Circuit Court clerk from people who cited the name's religious implications.

"Sheer blasphemy," wrote Mildred L. Weber of Annapolis.

"In view of the horrible tragedy in Waco, led by a man claiming the name Jesus Christ, our courts legally approve of still another human being calling himself Jesus Christ Hallelujah," Ms. Weber complained in a handwritten letter.

"By allowing this name change, you trample on every religious belief that I hold," wrote William Forand of Pasadena.

Mr. Forand said yesterday that he found the name change offensive to the principles he learned at Bible View Baptist Church on Solley Road in Pasadena, the church he has attended since childhood.

But Judge Duckett said there is nothing in the law to prevent someone from changing his name to anything that is not profane or fraudulent.

"He has the right to be called anything he wants," Judge Duckett said.

"If he wants to change his name back to Tyrone Wright, I'll be happy to consider it."

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