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Fray over ‘Christmas’ fuels SBC leader’s column, novella

ALPHARETTA, GA (BP)–Author, lawyer and Southern Baptist missions leader Randy Singer has entered the national debate over the appropriateness and legality of public religious expressions during the Christmas season with the publication of his newest novel and a column in USA Today.

Singer is a trial lawyer who serves as chief counsel of the SBC’s North American Mission Board and as president of the entity’s FamilyNet broadcasting ministry. He also is the author of four legal thrillers and two nonfiction books, teaches at Regent Law School, and is a member of the American Center for Law and Justice’s board of legal advisers.

In a Dec. 19 USA Today column, Singer writes that 2005 is a “mixed bag” for those who celebrate the religious meaning of Christmas.

“On one hand, there is reason for hope when we can still call those large decorated pines ‘Christmas trees’ and retailers rediscover the word ‘Christmas’ in their ads and greetings. On the other, public proclamations and displays continue to be purged of religious elements.”

Singer writes that “public officials often surrender the public square to a complete secularization of the winter holidays,” and then reviews basic reasons why they shouldn’t -– beginning with, done properly, such displays are legal.

Singer’s other contribution to the debate over the dumbing down of Christmas is a novella titled, “The Judge Who Stole Christmas.” It’s the story of a conservative evangelical who runs afoul of a federal judge who rules that a live nativity display, erected on the town square, is unconstitutional.

Although an advocate for legal public expressions of faith, Singer said the book presents a balanced view of the issues.

“Americans have the right to celebrate our religious heritage in public venues, and if we make a balanced presentation of the issues, fair-minded people will come to that conclusion,” he said. “Truth can defend itself, so our job is to get it out of the box and on the table.”

However, Singer said he didn’t write the book primarily to sway public policy or opinion, but to put the focus of Christmas back on the Christ child.

“Even the controversy over putting Christ back in Christmas and the public square issues can draw us away from Jesus and what Christmas is really about,” Singer said. “So I wrote this book to use the controversy to focus back on the Christ child, and even dedicated the book to Him as my humble gift to Him.”

The book may impact the debate in the years ahead as well. Michael Landon Jr. and Brian Bird, a writer for the “Touched By an Angel” television program, are interested in making a television movie out of the story for next season, and a minister of music is writing a Christmas cantata around the storyline.

The book is available at secular and Christian bookstores including Lifeway Christian Stores and online at Lifeway.com.

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