School Board Battles

The Christian Right in Local Politics

Melissa M. Deckman

"This is one of those pioneering efforts in the political science field that deserves wide readership and notice. A job well done!"
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If there is a "culture war" taking place in the United States, one of the most interesting, if under-the-radar, battlegrounds is in local school board elections. Rarely does the pitch of this battle reach national attention, as it did in Kansas when the state school board—led by several outspoken conservative Christians—voted to delete evolution from the state's science curriculum and its standardized tests in August 1999. That action rattled not only the educational and scientific communities, but concerned citizens around the nation as well.

While the movement of the Christian Right into national and state politics has been well documented, this is the first book to examine their impact on local school board politics. While the Kansas decision was short-lived, during the past decade in school districts around the country, conservative Christian majorities have voted to place limits on sex education, to restrict library books, to remove references to gays and lesbians in the classroom, and to promote American culture as superior to other cultures.

School Board Battles studies the motivation, strategies, and electoral success of Christian Right school board candidates. Based on interviews, and using an extensive national survey of candidates as well as case studies of two school districts in which conservative Christians ran and served on local boards, Melissa M. Deckman gives us a surprisingly complex picture of these candidates. She reveals weaker ties to national Christian Right organizations—and more similarities between these conservative candidates and their more secular counterparts than might be expected.

Deckman examines important questions: Why do conservative Christians run for school boards? How much influence has the Christian Right actually had on school boards? How do conservative Christians govern? School Board Battles is an in-depth and in-the-trenches look at an important encounter in the "culture war"—one that may well determine the future of our nation's youth.

Table of Contents


1. The Christian Right and Education Politics: Past History and Current Concerns

2. A Profile of School Board Candidates

3. Why Conservative Christians Run for School Board

4. The Campaign Strategies of Christian Right Candidates

5. A Christian Right Takeover?

6. The Christian Right as School Board Members: How Conservative Christians Govern


Appendix A

Appendix B
Survey Instrument: The American University Survey of School Board Candidates

Appendix C
Case Study Interview and Questionnaire





"This is one of those pioneering efforts in the political science field that deserves wide readership and notice. A job well done!"—Voice of Reason

"Using both case study and survey research methodologies, Professor Deckman addresses this important but understudied topic with sensitivity and skill. In so doing, she makes an important contribution to our understanding of Christian Right candidates in school board politics."—Corwin Smidt, director of The Henry Institute, Department of Political Science, Calvin College

"This pathbreaking work explores one of the most significant manifestations of religio-political activism in the United States today: the school board candidacies of Christian Right identifiers. Deckman is substantively and methodologically authoritative in her study of these candidates and their motivations."—Laura R. Olson, associate professor of political science, Clemson University


Supplemental Materials


Winner of the 2007 Hubert Morken Award, given by the American Political Science Association's Religion and Politics section for the best book on Religion & Politics

About the Author

Melissa M. Deckman is assistant professor of political science at Washington College, Chestertown, Maryland.

240 pp., 5.5 x 8.5

Feb 2004

240 pp., 5.5 x 8.5

ISBN: 978-1-58901-001-7
Feb 2004

240 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-58901-409-1
Feb 2004

Religion and Politics series
John C. Green, Ted G. Jelen, and Mark J. Rozell, series editors

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