A state in America is paying for children to attend fundamentalist schools where the existence of the Loch Ness monster is taught as fact in an effort to disprove the theory of evolution.
School children in the southern state of Louisiana are to receive vouchers, provided by the government, enabling them to attend private schools which teach the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum (ACE).
One ACE textbook asks: "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."
Jonny Scaramanga, a 27-year-old musician who was educated via the ACE programme, told the Scottish paper said it is common for creationists to believe in sea monsters.
"They're saying if Noah's flood only happened 4000 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."
Around 6,000 schools teach the controversial curriculum in more than 140 countries, including the UK, although they are not funded by the state. In 2009, a UK government agency ruled ACE's exams - International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE) - were equivalent to A-levels. Material on the course includes:
- The Loch Ness monster disproves evolution
- Apartheid was beneficial to South Africa as segregated schools meant different heritages could be passed on to children
- Unquestionable proof exists for creationism
Darwinism and the theory of evolution has traditionally been seen as a threat to Christianity as many claim it proves God does not exist.
Roger Stanyard, spokesman for the British Centre for Science Education, told the Huffington Post the organisation has had widespread concerns over the issue for many years.
"The main worry we have had is the creationist movement getting into education by the back door - which is what has happened in the States.
"We think these sort of tactics are likely to be deployed in the UK as we do not have the protection of a separation between the Church and state. A third of schools teaching children are run by religious organisations - that's the danger we have in the UK. They are free to endorse right-wing politics."
Lawsuits have been launched in America, seeking to throw out the education policies, introduced by Governor Bobby Jindal.