Utah is the "most religiously polarized electorate of any state in the Union," according Rod Decker, author of "Utah Politics: The Elephant in the Room."
That wasn’t always the case, said Decker, who will give a presentation on his new book on Tuesday, Aug. 27, at 7 p.m. at Moab Museum, 118 E. Center.
"Until 1976, Utah was part of the American political mainstream," Decker said.
According to the author, two factors figured heavily in creating Utah's political climate. The first was the sexual revolution that began in the 1960s, challenging traditional values related to sexuality. The second, he says, was Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling making it legal for women to choose abortion nationwide.
"That’s when conservative religions became conservative politically," Decker said.
"Utah Politics" includes a chapter on public lands, a topic Decker said he will be speaking about for the first time.
"In Utah, two-thirds of the land is owned by the federal government," Decker said. "And, more than anywhere else, federal land is contentious in Utah."
Victoria Fugit, event organizer at the Moab Museum, said Decker’s book explores a "fascinating topic" in Utah's political shifts and how they have affected land-use issues.
He’s a historian with no agenda, she said.
"I try hard to be fair and neutral," Decker said.
Decker worked as a news reporter and columnist in Salt Lake City for over 37 years. He graduated from the University of Utah and attended graduate school at the University of Chicago. Decker spent a year at Harvard University after serving as a military intelligence officer during the Vietnam War.
"Utah Politics: The Elephant in the Room" is Decker’s second book. His first, "An Environment for Murder," is a mystery also based on his knowledge of "sagebrush politics."
The event is part of the ongoing "Tuesdays at the Museum" series at the Moab Museum. The free presentations occur every other Tuesday. The Aug. 27 book event is sponsored in conjunction with Back of Beyond Books.
Decker will answer questions after his presentation, followed by a book signing. Back of Beyond will have copies of "Utah Politics" for sale at the event.
The Moab Museum has been closed during regular hours since September 2018 for renovations that started last November. The museum is undergoing a complete redesign of its exhibits and is expected to reopen by late October, Fugit said.
At the next Tuesdays at the Museum event, Sept. 10, Rory Tyler will speak about the famous Solstice Snake petroglyph rock art near Moab.