Primary school students in Australia are being taught that humans and dinosaurs lived together and that there is fossil evidence to prove this, even as experts term the lessons a creation of Christian fundamentalists.
Critics are calling for the religious instruction programme to be scrapped after claims emerged that lay Christians are feeding children misinformation, The Courier-Mail reported on Sunday.
About 80 percent of children in state primary schools attend a half-hour religious instruction (RI) class every week conducted by lay persons. Many of the instructors are from Pentecostal churches.
Students have been told Noah collected dinosaur eggs to bring on the Ark, and Adam and Eve were not eaten by dinosaurs because they were under a protective spell.
Education Queensland is aware that creationism is being taught by some religious instructors, but said parents could opt out.
However, Australian Secular Lobby president Hugh Wilson said children were ostracised and discriminated against if they were pulled out of the class.
In many cases, the lay RI's were not supervised by teachers.
Kings Christian Church youth worker Dustin Bell said he taught "about creation" in Sunshine Coast schools.
Set Free Christian Church's Tim McKenzie said when students questioned him why dinosaur fossils carbon dated earlier than man, he replied that the great flood must have skewed the data.
Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan said teachers were sometimes compelled to supervise the instructors "because of all the fire and brimstone stuff".
Ryan said Education Queensland had deemed RI a must-have, though teachers would prefer to spend the time on curriculum.
Buddhist Council of Queensland president Jim Ferguson said he was so disturbed that creationism was being aired in state school classrooms that he would bring it up at the next meeting of the Religious Education Advisory Committee, part of Education Queensland.
He said RI was supposed to be a forum for multi-faith discussion.
Education Queensland assistant director-general Patrea Walton said creationism was part of some faiths, and therefore was part of some teaching.
According to a latest survey, three in 10 Australians believe dinosaurs and man did exist at the same time. The survey, by the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies (FASTS), shows a "worrying" lack of basic scientific principles.
"The results underscore the need for students to be exposed to science and mathematics through a well resourced education system, rather than learning about science through Jurassic Park," FASTS president Cathy Foley said.
Researcher Cathy Byrne found in a survey that scripture teachers tended to discourage questioning, emphasised submission to authority and excluded different beliefs. She said 70 percent of scripture teachers thought children should be taught the Bible as historical fact.
A parent of a Year 5 student on the Sunshine Coast said his daughter was ostracised to the library after arguing with her scripture teacher about DNA.
"The scripture teacher told the class that all people were descended from Adam and Eve," he said.
"My daughter rightly pointed out, as I had been teaching her about DNA and science, that 'Wouldn't they all be inbreed'? But the teacher replied that DNA wasn't invented then."
After the parent complained, the girl spent the rest of the year's classes in the library.