Most senior West Virginians remember Kanawha County's violent 1974 fundamentalist uprising against "godless textbooks." Schools were dynamited, people were shot, school buses were shot, protesters brutally assaulted a school board session, preachers and followers went to jail, the Ku Klux Klan and other far-right extremists rallied -- all because they hated new scientific textbooks supporting evolution, multiculturalism and the like.
During that tumultuous time, Charleston attracted a world spotlight -- rather like Dayton, Tenn., did during the notorious 1925 Scopes "monkey trial."
Public Radio producer Trey Kay won several national broadcasting awards for his 2009 documentary about Kanawha's nightmare. Now he has made a follow-up about similar fundamentalist opposition in Texas. It's to air at 9 p.m. today on West Virginia Public Radio.
As a preliminary, the show was played Monday night at the University of Charleston, and education leaders discussed it. They concluded that most of America has accepted modern science in school classrooms, but a strong Texas faction still resists.
Texas evangelicals oppose the theory of evolution, which says complex animals developed from simpler ancestors, because it contradicts the Bible's poetic imagery of God creating species. They also oppose the Big Bang theory because it says the universe began about 14 billion years ago, instead of a few thousand years ago as outlined in scripture.
They even oppose teaching about Thomas Jefferson, who criticized ministers and championed the separation of church and state.
All this is part of America's much-discussed "culture war." Tonight's Public Radio airing should shed light on the battle lines.