A Year Ago Today David Barton Claimed to Have an Earned PhD

A year ago today, religious right activist and member of Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration David Barton posted the following video on his Facebook and YouTube accounts.

In the video, Barton chastises progressives for questioning his claim to have an earned doctorate. He said he has an earned doctorate but that he has chosen not to talk about it. However, the next day Barton chose to take the video off of both websites and chose not to talk about the reasons why.
Barton’s haughty claim to have an earned doctorate gave way to silence after it was revealed that the degree came from Life Christian University, a

Life Christian University diploma reflection
Life Christian University diploma reflection

diploma mill. According to the president of Life Christian University, Douglas Wingate, Barton didn’t attend the school but was given credit for his historical writings. Even though one cannot meaningfully call a degree earned when you don’t take any classes, that is exactly what LCU does with famous preachers and religious leaders.

The state of Missouri advised fellow LCU degree recipient Joyce Meyer that her claim of an earned PhD from the school was against state law. Meyer’s lawyer responded that Meyer had already decided that describing the LCU PhD as earned was false. Meyer now describes her LCU degree as honorary. Although that description is legal in Missouri, LCU’s is not accredited by a Department of Education recognized accrediting body and the status as a university is unusual since the school is registered with the IRS as a church.
Barton called his degree earned but sarcastically dismissed the honest reporting of what he called progressives. Barton has never explained or apologized for his demeaning and misleading statements. Yet, he still claims to be “America’s premier historian.” Would “America’s premier historian” try to pass off what can only be called an honorary degree as an earned one?

As of now, America’s premier historian has chosen not to talk about it.

Fake Doctorate Watch: Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin on the Jim Bakker Show

On Wednesday, Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin was on the Jim Bakker Show. For reasons I cannot understand, Boykin claimed to have a PhD. Apparently, he was talking about the one he purchased from Phoenix University of Theology, a diploma mill (Not affiliated with University of Phoenix). Watch:

Speaking about the critics of President Trump, Jim Bakker said they engage in sex, and drugs, “but forget rock and roll.” He then called Boykin “doctor.”

Jim Bakker: Forgive me, doctor
Lori Bakker: But that’s another thing, yeah. But its…now you’re a doctor, you’re a general…
Boykin: Actually, I am.
Lori Bakker: You are a doctor?
Boykin: I do have a PhD
Lori Bakker: Oh my goodness! I love it! This is great, we just found out more about you.

Family Research Council where Boykin is Executive Vice President didn’t respond to a request for information about Boykin’s claim. His academic bio at Hampton-Sydney College doesn’t list a PhD so I assume he is referring to his “PhD” from Phoenix University of Theology.  Read more about the diploma mill here and here.
I think Lt. Gen. is a pretty cool title, but apparently Boykin thinks fraudulent academic credentials give him an advantage. I realize there are bigger fish to fry but claiming fake degrees strikes me as a symptom of the credibility problem that ails modern evangelicalism.

Joyce Meyer Ministries: Life Christian University's Description of Earned Doctorate Does Not "Accurately Reflect the Information Correctly"

LCUS.Edu
LCUS.Edu

On October 7, I reported that evangelist Joyce Meyer claimed to have an earned PhD in theology from Life Christian University. She claimed to be a graduate on a promotional video still housed on the LCU website and said the degree was earned on her website. On October 11, I filed a complaint with the Missouri Attorney General’s office in keeping with MO law which forbids the use of false and misleading degrees in connection with one’s business or profession.
Sometime after the initial post and the AG complaint was filed, Joyce Meyer Ministries changed the designation of the LCU degree from “earned” to “honorary.” I know the change happened after the complaint was filed because the degree was described as “earned” on October 15, 2016 (from the Wayback Machine on Oct. 15). I discovered the change in November.
Until recently, I did not know why Joyce Meyer Ministries changed the designation from “earned” to the more accurate “honorary.” A few days ago, I received an email from the MO AG office indicating that action had been taken on my complaint. Attached to email was a March 29, 2017 letter from an attorney for Joyce Meyer Ministries to the MO AG’s office indicating that the designation had been changed on the website because the description was inaccurate. About LCU’s description of an earned degree, the spokesman for Joyce Meyer Ministry wrote:

While we are aware that this is the verbiage that Life Christian University uses on their own website and literature, we simply felt it did not accurately reflect the information correctly. Because of this we took the initiative to change the wording on our website and literature from “earned” to “honorary” before this complaint was filed.

While it is a small point, the initial post was public and the complaint was filed before the change was made. Nevertheless, I commend Joyce Meyer Ministries for this change and for acknowledging the truth about the situation. This is much more than David Barton or other so-called “earned degree” holders have done. I now call on her to remove her endorsement of LCU which she has acknowledged incorrectly reflects information about the degrees given to LCU’s “distinguished degree holders.”
Missouri’s law is one of the toughest in the nation on false and misleading degrees. Other LCU “distinguished degree holders” from MO include Billye Brim and Larry Ollison.

Why Is David Barton Better Than Amy Robertson?

Last night, Amy Robertson resigned as incoming principal of Pittsburg (KS) High School amid revelations that her graduate degrees came from a unaccredited diploma mill. After she was hired, the high school newspaper staff researched Robertson’s claims that she had a master’s degree and a doctorate from Corllins University, an unaccredited entity which gives degrees in exchange for life experience and a fee. Now she isn’t going to be principal at PHS.
Enter David Barton
Almost seven months ago, David Barton posted a video in which he claimed to have an earned doctorate. He ridiculed “progressives” for saying he didn’t have the degree. Although he didn’t say where he earned it, I quickly discovered it came from Life Christian University, a diploma mill in Florida. Barton didn’t even have to attend the school. The president of the “school” confirmed that Barton was given a doctorate without taking any classes. The day after I identified the degree as coming from Life Christian University, Barton took the video off of his You Tube and Facebook pages.
Since then, Barton has not commented or replied to Facebook questions about the doctorate claim. Apparently, Barton’s supporters don’t care.
Moral High Ground
There is something profoundly disturbing about a public school system getting it right and the evangelical celebrity complex getting it so wrong. Here we have a public school district, you know a school evangelicals-against-common-core love to hate, acting with integrity. However, those who support Barton, such as Glenn Beck, don’t hold him accountable for his academic fraud.
Shouldn’t Barton come forward, admit he tried to pass off a diploma mill doctorate as earned, and apologize? As it stands, David Barton is chairman of the Board at Mercury One and will get to be the head of Glenn Beck’s history museum while Amy Robertson is now looking for another job.
In the case of Amy Robertson, public high school students possessed the moral and intellectual integrity to seek the truth while Christian media have done little (here’s a notable exception) to dig into the subject of Christian celebrities and academic fraud.
I bet Amy Robertson wishes she was a Christian celebrity.

Pittsburg (KS) High School Student Paper Exposes False Credentials; Principal Resigns

Through a twitter user, I recently learned about the Pittsburg (KS) High School newspaper staff who uncovered diploma mill degrees in the resume of a newly hired principal, Amy Robertson. Ms. Robertson was hired by the Pittsburg School District to fill a principal position beginning next school year. She claimed to have a master’s and doctorate from Corllins University. However, the high school newspaper staff investigated that claim and reported to the school community that Corllins is not accredited by a reputable accrediting body. Furthermore, the school appears to be a diploma mill.
The investigative talent displayed by these young journalists is impressive. Their tenacity is even more impressive. The school board discounted their research, said the article was inaccurate, and fully supported Ms. Robertson. Even the local newspaper editor claimed the article was inaccurate (a charge he later recanted.)
However, last night, the Pittsburg school board accepted the resignation of Ms. Robertson and Superintendent Destry Brown pledged to go to the school and thank the students for their hard work. Apparently, somebody checked a little closer and found that the student journalists were correct about Corllins University.
Watch the school board accept Ms. Robertson’s resignation. At the end of the video, a parent stands and asks the school board to acknowledge the hard and accurate work of the student journalists. I hope Mr. Brown made good on his promise to go visit the student’s and thank them personally.

Sources:
District Hires New Principal – The Pittsburg High School newspaper which details the concerns about Ms. Robertson’s degrees.
Brown Refutes Claims in School Paper – The local paper took issue with the students’ research and reported that the school board supported the new principal. Even as late as last night, the editor of the local paper said the article was wrong. Then, to his credit, he offered a mea culpa.
Board Accepts Resignation of Dr. Amy Robertson Amid Questions about Her Credentials – The superintendent walks back his previous confident assurances that the credentials were acceptable.
Free honorary degreeIt seems pretty obvious to me from the Corllins University website that it is a diploma mill. You can even get a free honorary degree with the purchase of another degree.  It is not accredited by any body recognized by CHEA or the Department of Education. The accrediting bodies mentioned on one of Corllins’ website appear to be made up. Neither have a working website.
 
To the journalists at Pittsburg High School, I say congratulations and good work.
The Washington Post has a really nice write up of this story just out today.
Now when will someone hold David Barton accountable for his claim of an earned doctorate?
 

Phoenix University of Theology and the Federal Definition of a Diploma Mill

In December of 2016, I discovered that one of Donald Trump’s evangelical champions Lance Wallnau claimed a doctorate from Phoenix University of Theology. While uncertain at the time, I wondered if the school met the federal definition of a diploma mill. To find out for sure, I wrote the president of the school, Karen Drake, with some questions about their methods. Late last week, Drake replied. Here are her answers:

WT: I am very curious about your educational model. Are all of your credits given through life experience equivalence?
Drake: Many times when a student candidate with 20 or more years in full time ministry applies, we are able to assess the total amount of credit requirements through their lifelong learning experiences.
WT: Do you have faculty and classes that students must take and pass?
Drake: Our Graduates become our Professors, their books, material and teaching are used when students require additional credit hours to fulfill their desired degree program.
WT: If you offer classes, could you kindly point me to a list of programs that students must take in order to receive a degree.
Drake: Each degree program with Phoenix University of Theology International is tailored specifically for the education goals of the student and takes into consideration prior learning and experience; therefore, there are no set class requirements.
WT: Also, when students submit their life experiences, how do you check to make sure they have actually done what they say they’ve done.
Drake: The majority of our students come through referral from Alumnus who have known and worked with them in ministry for many years. Also, Every student candidate is required to submit a number of professional references and contact sources for prior learning and work experiences.

Even though Drake said the references are submitted, she didn’t say anyone at PUT actually follows up on all of them.
Drake also sent along a document which provides more details. You can get a custom tailored doctorate for only $5845. But make sure you want to do it, because you get no refund on the entire degree if you change your mind after 30 days.
PUT Cost for degrees
Now let’s examine the federal definition of a diploma mill:

‘‘(20) DIPLOMA MILL.—The term ‘diploma mill’ means an entity that—
‘‘(A)(i) offers, for a fee, degrees, diplomas, or certificates, that may be used to represent to the general public that the individual possessing such a degree, diploma, or certificate has completed a program of postsecondary education or training; and ‘‘(ii) requires such individual to complete little or no education or coursework to obtain such degree, diploma, or certificate; and
‘‘(B) lacks accreditation by an accrediting agency or association that is recognized as an accrediting agency or association of institutions of higher education (as such term is defined in section 102) by— ‘‘(i) the Secretary pursuant to subpart 2 of part H of title IV; or ‘‘(ii) a Federal agency, State government, or other organization or association that recognizes accrediting agencies or associations.

The criteria in (A) above are met. PUT charges a fee for a degree which is used to represent to the public that the degree is earned via the completion of a program. However, as spelled out in (A)(ii), the student completes little or no coursework and there are no set class requirements.
The criteria in (B) are also met. PUT is not accredited by any organization recognized by the Secretary of Education or any state or federal agency.
It is clear to me that the Phoenix University of Theology meets the federal definition of a diploma mill. Some of the biggest names in contemporary Christendom (e.g., Lance Wallnau, Jerry Boykin, David Barton, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, Kenneth Copeland, Darrell Scott) brag about doctoral degrees they didn’t earn.
 
More on Phoenix University of Theology:
Where in the World is Phoenix University of Theology?

Where in the World is Phoenix University of Theology?

Last month, I pointed out that dominionist minister Lance Wallnau claimed a doctorate from Phoenix University of Theology. The school grants credits for “life experience” and appears to award entire degrees without any classes or tests. This characteristic alone makes it appear to be a diploma mill (see the federal definition of a diploma mill).
Holding classes would require classrooms and it may be that PUT doesn’t have those either. Recently, reader Dee Holmes went by the address listed on the PUT website to see their facility. It turns out that PUT wasn’t listed among the many businesses which also claim 3420 E. Shea Blvd., Suite 200, Phoenix, AZ as an address. See the photo below (click the image to enlarge it):
3420ESheaBlvdPhoenixAZ
An examination of the list of businesses on the directory reveals no address for Phoenix University of Theology. The school did not reply to my question about the location of the school. On PUT’s incorporation papers, 2401 W. Paradise Ln., Phoenix, AZ is listed as the address. This address is a private residence.
Like diploma mill Life Christian University, PUT has a distinguished graduate list. Among them are:

William Boykin – Family Research Council
T.D. Jakes – The Potter’s House
Ben Kinchlow – 700 Club
Lance Wallnau – Seven Mountains Underground
H. Norman Wright – Family counselor, formerly on the faculty at Biola University

The last name surprised me since Wright has taught as reputable schools (e.g., Biola). He apparently is not on Biola’s faculty at present.
I asked Wright twice via his website about how he earned his D.Min. He did not respond.
Although with a slightly different method, PUT appears to be another Christian diploma mill which provides famous Christian people with a means to persuade the trusting masses that they are experts.