September 2012 Church & State | People & Events

A religious school in Louisiana that uses a textbook asserting that dinosaurs might still be living is receiving taxpayer money under the state’s new voucher plan.

Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake uses a book for science classes that suggests dinosaurs might still be roaming the planet and that Scotland’s legendary Loch Ness Monster might be one of them.

The textbook in question, Biology 1099, is published by Accelerated Christian Education (ACE), based in Madison, Tenn. ACE, a firm that is popular among Christian fundamentalist educators and home-schoolers, apparently included the material about living dinosaurs to undermine the theory of evolution.

“Are dinosaurs alive today?” asks the book. “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.”

The book also claims that a Jap­anese fishing boat pulled up the remains of a plesiosaur in 1977 near New Zealand. In fact, the carcass is now believed to have been the rotting remains of a basking shark. 

About 40 children attend Eternity Christian Academy. But the school has plans to expand now that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s voucher scheme is the law in Louisiana and may have as many as 135 students this fall.

It may not be the only one. Several religious schools in the state have plans to add more students in the wake of the taxpayer-funded windfall.

Students attending certain religious schools in Louisiana may be learning some other controversial ideas. A study of ACE textbooks by  critic Bruce Wilson found that the books teach that evolution has been disproven by the Second Law of Thermodynamics, that science has proven that homosexuality is a chosen behavior and that South Africa’s apartheid regime allowed “each group to maintain and pass on their culture and heritage to their children.”

Textbooks produced by A Beka Books and Bob Jones University Press are also popular in fundamentalist academies. These books teach, among other things, that the Great Depression was exaggerated by socialists, unions hate free enterprise and that the Ku Klux Klan was an agent of reform in some parts of the country.

But even as they plow funds into Christian schools like these, some legislators in the Pelican State say they don’t want tax funding to go the schools of other religions.

Rep. Valarie Hodges (R- East Baton Rouge) now says she wishes she hadn’t voted for Jindal’s voucher plan because it might end up funding Islamic schools.

“I actually support funding for teaching the fundamentals of America’s Founding Fathers’ religion, which is Christianity, in public schools or private schools,” Hodges told the Livingston Parish News. “I liked the idea of giving parents the option of sending their children to a public school or a Christian school.”

The newspaper reported that she “mistakenly assumed that ‘religious’ meant ‘Christian.’” Hodges said she was dismayed to learn that a Muslim school might join the program.

“Unfortunately, it will not be limited to the Founders’ religion,” Hodges told the News. “We need to ensure that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana.”