Jun 26, 2012 12:00 PM by CLAIRE MCKIN
THOUSANDS of American school pupils are to be taught that the Loch Ness monster is real - in an attempt by religious teachers to disprove Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.
Pupils attending privately-run Christian schools in the southern state of Louisiana will learn from textbooks next year, which claim Scotland's most famous mythological beast is a living creature.
Thousands of children are to receive publicly-funded vouchers enabling them to attend the schools - which follow a strict fundamentalist curriculum.
The Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) program teaches controversial religious beliefs, aimed at disproving evolution and proving creationism.
Youngsters will be told that if it can be proved that dinosaurs walked the earth at the same time as man, then Darwinism is fatally flawed.
Critics have slammed the content of the religious course books, labelling them "bizarre" and accusing them of promoting radical religious and political ideas.
One ACE textbook called Biology 1099, Accelerated Christian Education Inc reads: "Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence.
"Have you heard of the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland? ‘Nessie' for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur."
Another claim taught is that a Japanese whaling boat once caught a dinosaur.
One former pupil, Jonny Scaramanga, 27, who went through the ACE program as a child, but now campaigns against Christian fundamentalism, said the Nessie claim was presented as "evidence" that evolution could not have happened.
He added: "The reason for that is they're saying if Noah's flood only happened 4,000 years ago, which they believe literally happened, then possibly a sea monster survived."
"If it was millions of years ago then that would be ridiculous. That's their logic. It's a common thing among creationists to believe in sea monsters."
Private religious schools, including the Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake, Louisiana, which follows the ACE curriculum, have already been cleared to receive the state voucher money transferred from public school funding, thanks to a bill pushed through by Governor Bobby Jindal.
Boston-based researcher and writer Bruce Wilson, who specialises in the American political religious right, said: "One of these texts from Bob Jones University Press claims that dinosaurs were fire-breathing dragons. It has little to do with science as we currently understand. It's more like medieval scholasticism."
Mr Wilson believes that such fundamentalist Christian teaching is going on in at least 13 American states.
He added: "There's a lot of public funding going to private schools, probably around 200,000 pupils are receiving this education.
"The majority of parents now home schooling their kids are Christian fundamentalists too. I don't believe they should be publicly funded, I don't believe the schools who use these texts should be publicly funded."