A man whose three children are named after prominent World War II Nazi leaders had the kids removed from his home Jan. 9, the New York Times reported Jan. 19.
Kate Bernyk, spokesperson for Youth and Family Services in New Jersey, said the state doesn’t remove children from their families because of their names but wouldn’t comment further on the case.
The father, Heath Campbell, made headlines in December when a local ShopRite refused to decorate his son’s birthday cake with his full name: Adolf Hitler Campbell.
His daughters are named Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie, after Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler, and JoyceLynn Aryan Nation.
Although details are surfacing of Campbell’s German combat knives collection, which may arouse our morbid curiosity about the family’s lifestyle, Youth and Family Services must continue upholding the case’s confidentiality in order to protect the children involved.
But the situation should be used to raise larger questions of what constitutes child abuse and whether or not the state has a responsibility to create naming laws.
Youth and Family Services was justified in intervening with the case.
Cambell’s name choices for his children stigmatize them so that he indirectly contributes to the emotional, and likely physical, abuse they’re bound to receive as they grow up.
Although the children may not grow up to resemble their namesakes—especially if they continue to be kept away from their hate-filled home environment—those they come into contact with will, perhaps unconsciously, mistrust them.
Their names may also be re-traumatizing for people the children meet who have personal connections to the Holocaust.
In a culture where naming oddities appear to be celebrated, at least judging by Hollywood’s standards, it’s tempting to have the state legislate naming rights or draft a list of names to ban.
But this creates a system where what’s simply distasteful or silly could be confused with a name that’s offensive and inappropriate.
Parents are responsible for giving their children appropriate names, but the state should create a protocol for intervening in exceptional cases, where a name deprives the bearer from full participation in society.
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