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Does Naming a Child 'Adolf Hitler' Constitute Abuse?

What's in a name? Quite possibly, child abuse, at least if you've named all three of your children after Nazi figures. Various news sources, including Lehighvalleylive.com and Fox News, are reporting that the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) removed three New Jersey siblings with Nazi-inspired names  -- Adolf Hitler, Joyce-Lynn Aryan Nation and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell -- from their parents' home and placed them in state custody. The children's parents, Heath and Deborah Campbell, had previously attracted media attention last month when a local Shop-Rite refused to write the son's name, Adolf Hitler, on a birthday cake.  (H/T Volokh)

Experts quoted in the news stories emphasize that a poor name choice wouldn't give cause for removal, and suggest that DYFS must have had other reasons for its decision. At the same time, Sgt. John Harris of the Holland Township Police Department told Fox that he was not aware of any reports of abuse, and that in his view, Mr. Campbell had always been good with his children.

However, forensic psychologist N.G. Berrill told Fox News that naming a boy Hitler could be considered child abuse:

"Part of it is the infantile nature of the parents’ behavior," Berrill said. "You can name your dog something weird, but they think they’re making some kind of bold statement with the children, not appreciating that the children will have separate lives and will be looked at in a negative light until they’re able to change their name. It is abuse."

Moreover, removing children from a home for an inappropriate name is not unprecedented -- last year, a New Zealand court removed a 9-year-old girl from her parents in order to change her birth name: Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii.

Personally, I cannot imagine a worse choice of names than those selected by Campbell, nor can I imagine why any parents, even if they liked a Nazi-related name or the sick philosophy behind it, would ever want to saddle their children with a legacy of pure evil. Still, if poor name choice is deemed abusive, where do we draw the line on what types of names justifies removal from the home? What are your thoughts?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on January 15, 2009 at 03:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

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