IT sounds like a plot dreamed up by the creators of Southpark, but it's all true: schoolchildren in Louisiana are to be taught that the Loch Ness monster is real in a bid by religious educators to disprove Darwin's theory of evolution.
Thousands of children in the southern state will receive publicly-funded vouchers for the next school year to attend private schools where Scotland's most famous mythological beast will be taught as a real living creature.
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These private schools follow a fundamentalist curriculum including the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) programme to teach controversial religious beliefs aimed at disproving evolution and proving creationism.
One tenet has it that if it can be proved that dinosaurs walked the earth at the same time as man then Darwinism is fatally flawed.
Critics have damned the content of the course books, calling them "bizarre" and accusing them of promoting radical religious and political ideologies.
The textbooks in the series are alleged to teach young earth creationism; are hostile towards other religions and other sectors of Christianity, including Roman Catholicism; and present a biased version of history that is often factually incorrect.
One ACE textbook – 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. It's unclear if the movie Godzilla was the inspiration for this lesson.
Jonny Scaramanga, 27, who went through the ACE programme as a child, but now campaigns against Christian fundamentalism, said the Nessie claim was presented as "evidence that evolution couldn't have happened. The reason for that is 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. 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 state Governor Bobby Jindal.
Boston-based researcher and writer Bruce Wilson, who specialises in the American political religious right, compares the curriculum to Islamic fundamentalist teaching.
"They are being brought up to believe that they're at war with secular society. The only valid government would be a Christian fundamentalist government. Obviously some comparisons could be made to Islamic Fundamentalists in schools.
"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."
Wilson believes that such teaching is going on in at least 13 American states.
"There's a lot of public funding going to private schools, probably around 200,000 pupils are receiving this education," he And 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."
Daniel Govender, managing director of Christian Education Europe, which is part of ACE, said the organisation would not comment to the press on what is contained in the texts.
Of course, the Scottish tourist industry might well reap a dividend from the craziness of the American education system. Nessie expert Tony Drummond, who leads tours as part of Cruise Loch Ness, has a few words of advice to the US schools in question: come to the loch and try to find the monster.
"They need to come and investigate the loch for themselves," says the 47-year-old. "We've got some hi-tech equipment. They could come out on the boat and do a whole chunk of the loch.
"We do get regular sonar contacts which are pretty much unexplainable. More research has to be done, but it's not way along the realms of possibility."
But he's not convinced that the legend of the Loch Ness Monster is being taught the right way. "That's Christian propaganda," he says. "And ridiculous."
Textbooks of some state-funded Christian schools praise the Ku Klux Klan.
The violent, racist organisation, which still exists in the US, advocates white supremacy, white nationalism and anti-immigration.
One excerpt from Bob Jones University Press American history textbook has been reported as saying: "the [Ku Klux] Klan in some areas of the country tried to be a means of reform, fighting the decline in morality and using the symbol of the cross ... In some communities it achieved a certain respectability as it worked with politicians."
Other views taught include claims that being gay is a learned behaviour.
It isn't just America where the bizarre Christian Nessie myth is being taught as a reality. The UK has similar religious schools but they do not receive cash from the state. Nevertheless, the Evangelical Christian curriculum they follow has been approved by UK Government agency, the National Recognition Information Centre (Naric) which guides universities and employers on the validity of different qualifications.
Naric judged the International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE) as officially comparable to qualifications offered by the Cambridge International exam board.
It is estimated around 2000 pupils study at more than 50 private Christian schools in Britain for the certificates as well as several home-educated students.
The courses are based around the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) programme, which originated in Texas in the 1970s.
Pupils study a range of subjects, including science and English, but spend half their studies learning from Bible-influenced US textbooks.
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