Teflon David Barton

In the real world, if you fake your credentials or tell stories about your accomplishments, there can be consequences. In today’s evangelical subculture, Christian celebrities often avoid the fullness of these consequences. I could talk about Ravi Zacharias who passed off honorary doctorates as earned doctorates for many years and said he was a professor at Oxford when he wasn’t. He had to fess up and took a little heat over the matter, although arguably it hasn’t slowed him down much.

Today, I will examine a claim from David Barton. He seems even more immune from consequences than Zacharias. First, I want to note some cases similar to Barton’s which resulted in real consequences for people and then ask why Barton is above it all.

The Fake Statistician

Amy Apodaca was a statistician for the Army until it was learned that she faked both masters and doctorate degrees. Apodaca told the Army she had degrees from major universities including Yale. However, she only had a BA in sociology from U of TX in Austin. In 2014, Apodaca was forced to resign her job.

The Fake Professor

In 2014, David Broxterman was a popular professor at Polk State College in Lakeland, FL until officials discovered his doctorate was fraudulent. He claimed to have a doctorate from University of South Florida but did not. He was arrested and charged with stealing his salary since it was garnered until false pretenses.

Luggage C.E.O. Had to Pack His Bags

In 2018, Ramesh Tainwala was forced to resign as CEO at Samsonite because he referred to himself as “Dr.” when in fact he did not have an earned doctorate. Tainwala actually attended classes at the Union Institute in Cincinnati but did not complete the degree. He rarely used the Dr. designation and the company bio did not refer to a doctorate. Even so, the company took the allegations seriously and said in a statement that the resignation was in the best interest of the company and shareholders.

The Principal Busted by the School Paper

In 2017, Amy Robertson was going to be principal at Pittsburg (KS) High School. That is, she was until the school newspaper staff discovered her graduate degrees came from a diploma mill. Once this became known and accepted by the administration and school board, Ms. Robertson resigned.

I could discuss many more: The college president booted from an accreditation board for getting his PhD from a diploma mill, or a CEO who falsely claimed an MBA degree.

You know where I am going with this.

On September 7 2016, self-styled historian and Project Blitz promoter David Barton placed a video on his Facebook and YouTube accounts proclaiming that he had an earned doctorate. He said he had chosen not to talk about it before, but he claimed he was now showing it to his audience. After I disclosed that the degree came from Life Christian University (which gives degrees to people without ever attending their diploma mill), Barton, the next day, removed the video from both accounts. Here is the video claim:

Barton began by chastising progressives for doubting his claim that he had a doctorate. He said he has two honorary doctorates and then for reasons that became clear later, he pointed to what he called his “earned doctorate,” but he didn’t say where he got it. He hid it behind another diploma. At the time, that seemed strange since there is no reason to hide an earned degree unless one has something to hide.

As it turned out, the diploma was given to him by Douglas Wingate, president of Life Christian University. Barton didn’t take any courses or go to any classes. Wingate’s diploma factory just gave it to him. In Missouri, a doctorate from Life Christian University issued like this can’t be called “earned” according to state authorities. Joyce Meyer had to remove the phrase “earned doctorate” from her website in connection to the piece of paper given to her by Wingate’s “school.”

Barton ended his bragging video with this sentence:

So for all of you critics, sorry to pop your balloon but I do have an earned doctorate.

However, the piece of paper that he kept partially hidden isn’t an earned doctorate. He appeared to know that because he hid it and took the video down as soon as it became known. Now what?

To my knowledge, Barton has never addressed this matter publicly. Only one Christian media outlet – UK’s Christian Today (not Christianity Today) wrote about it. Many people in Christian leadership know about this and about the compromised material in Barton’s speeches and books. And yet, Barton continues to show up in large evangelical churches like Gateway Church, on conservative talk shows like Ben Shapiro’s, and in major evangelical political initiatives like Project Blitz.

Barton also claimed to play Division One basketball while in college (his college said he was not on the team) and to translate for the Russian Olympic gymnastics team (they had their own translators). However, no significant Christian media investigation took place after those claims came to light. Nor did any of the Christian organizations which claim high standards of integrity take any action or require any answers.

Even without the media coverage, I am aware that many leaders in organizations like Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, American Family Association, etc. know the issues. And let’s not forget the fact that Barton’s book on Thomas Jefferson was pulled by Christian publisher Thomas Nelson. They have been made aware by their ideological fellows, and yet they continue to use Wallbuilders materials and feature Barton’s work. I don’t know if evangelicals on a large scale will ever figure out how they have been misled.

Apodaca, Broxterman, Tainwala, Robertson and Barton. One of these names is not like the others. Maybe four of them should have chosen evangelical Christianity as their area of endeavor. They might still be in business.


Additional note: Maybe the reason Barton hasn’t said anything about this is because in Texas it is illegal to claim a fictitious or substandard degree.

Sec. 32.52. FRAUDULENT, SUBSTANDARD, OR FICTITIOUS DEGREE. (a) In this section, “fraudulent or substandard degree” has the meaning assigned by Section 61.302, Education Code.

(b) A person commits an offense if the person:

(1) uses or claims to hold a postsecondary degree that the person knows:

(A) is a fraudulent or substandard degree;

(B) is fictitious or has otherwise not been granted to the person; or

(C) has been revoked; and

(2) uses or claims to hold that degree:

(A) in a written or oral advertisement or other promotion of a business; or

(B) with the intent to:

(i) obtain employment;

(ii) obtain a license or certificate to practice a trade, profession, or occupation;

(iii) obtain a promotion, a compensation or other benefit, or an increase in compensation or other benefit, in employment or in the practice of a trade, profession, or occupation;

(iv) obtain admission to an educational program in this state; or

(v) gain a position in government with authority over another person, regardless of whether the actor receives compensation for the position.

(c) An offense under this section is a Class B misdemeanor.

(d) If conduct that constitutes an offense under this section also constitutes an offense under any other law, the actor may be prosecuted under this section or the other law.

32 thoughts on “Teflon David Barton”

  1. Barton has been grifting with the same schtick for some thirty years. In the right-wing sphere, real credentials matter less than being politically correct matters.

  2. This is why I don’t trust Xians: lying in service to the “Lord” is permissible.

    1. When you’re a Pirate, Pittsburgh has an h. It’s written in stone somewhere ?

      1. As a former native of Pittsburgh (born and raised there till I was four; then lived there again in my 20s), we’re proud of that H. It’s a ‘Burgh’ thing.

      2. As a former native of Pittsburgh (born and raised there till I was four; then lived there again in my 20s), we’re proud of that H. It’s a ‘Burgh’ thing.

  3. It’s surprising what you can be convinced to believe, if it’s told to you by someone who says that he’s an expert, and it’s exactly what you were hoping to hear.

    1. Now consider how much of Christian beliefs in our churches has the same origin.

      1. It would certainly help explain James Dobson’s “White Focus on the White Family” and U.S. Evangelical indifference to and support for incarcerating brown children in concentration camps.

      2. It would certainly help explain James Dobson’s “White Focus on the White Family” and U.S. Evangelical indifference to and support for incarcerating brown children in concentration camps.

  4. On September 7 2016, self-styled historian and Project Blitz promoter David Barton placed a video on his Facebook and YouTube accounts proclaiming that he had an earned doctorate. He said he had chosen not to talk about it before, but he claimed he was now showing it to his audience.

    I remember. before walking across the stage at Balboa Park to get my professional doctorate, that nobody in line with me was particularly bashful about any of it. We were doing a wave up and down the line of a few dozen graduates where we would mutually introduce each other as doctor before turning around and continuing the wave, while we waited to walk.

  5. As AHH pointed out in his comment below, “[w]ith Barton, it would be difficult to call out his lies without exposing his false claims about US history,” because of the substantial investment Evangelicals have in Christian nationalism.

    I agree but am confused by their goal[s]. If the goal is to win people over to Christian Nationalism by gaining a conservative Christian majority, outright lies and misleading information about US history and our type of government is unlikely to attract anyone that hasn’t already gravitated to conservative Christianity for other reasons. Can’t see them gaining a majority with their lies.

    I remember when Getting Jefferson Right first came out, and a commenter named Tom(?) fought with Dr. T in every post, not because of Dr. Ts facts but because he didn’t think an Evangelical should call out one of his fellows as a liar or educate people with truth. That kind of thinking boggles my brain and makes it hurt.

  6. For the David (I Lie For Jesus) Barton Evangelicals, lying and cheating all get many mulligans. And then, they wonder why the “nones” are ever increasing. I couldn’t understand his appeal when I first ran across him 20 odd years ago. It was quite obvious he was a charlatan. His name back then was often linked with William Federer, also a great Liar For Jesus. Why they especially love to lie about Jefferson, I don’t know. Perhaps because the people that idolize them are too lazy to look things up for themselves? Especially things that allegedly happened 200 years ago?

  7. It does seem like Barton should be a worthwhile target for an expose by Julie Roys, or World Magazine.

    I can think of one reason why there is some publicity in the Christian media about misdeeds of people like MacDonald and Driscoll and Hybels, but never about Barton. With the others, it can easily be painted as just the wrongdoing of one person, and perhaps also church structures that enable that one person; there is nothing that threatens the wider Evangelical worldview. With Barton, it would be difficult to call out his lies without exposing his false claims about US history. And much of the US Evangelical-industrial complex is too heavily invested in the heretical mythology of Christian nationalism to let that be exposed for the fraudulent concept that it is.

    1. I don’t know which way Julie Roys would turn on Barton. On one hand, she’s done sterling work exposing the corruption at Harvest Bible Chapel and elsewhere, but on the other, she is a very conservative Christian (far more so than Warren, in my estimation) which has clouded her mind somewhat when writing on causes very close to her heart — like abortion, for example.

      1. I don’t know anything about Julie Roys on subjects such as abortion. But it would be interesting if she set out to research the abortion rates among U.S. Evangelical churches claiming opposition to reproductive autonomy. The membership of such churches would naturally show teen pregnancy rates and adoption rates that are significantly higher than the national average if they refused to practice reproductive autonomy.

        So let’s see the data…

          1. Higher teen pregnancy rates in the Red States seems entirely predictable given their campaigns against sex education. Abortion rates within churches and megachurches would be interesting to know.

  8. One must wonder why lies, deception, and documented fraud are so popular among U.S. Evangelicals. Bearing false witness is their theological foundation.

    1. Perhaps the mental gymnastics required to sustain belief in their theology’s fundamental contradictions leads them to believe their sophistic approach to the truth is valid or in any way persuasive to the rest of us.

  9. So the moral of this tale is, if you’re going to lie about your academic credentials, make sure you become a pastor or a political pundit focused solely on telling your target audience what they want to hear.

  10. I have come to the sad conclusion that most Christians don’t know how to think anymore. They then turn around and complain that the younger generation isn’t interested in learning about God’s Word or the church. I can’t blame them when I look at the example that has been placed before them. (I’m part of that older generation-but still thinking!).

    1. If thinking were a priority for Christians then churches would not be broken into denominations by ideology; rather, they would operate like classical universities with free inquiry, and everyone would choose liberally for themselves from the cornucopia of ideas.

      Free thought is dangerous to cults.

      There’s no good rea$on for any town or small city to have more than one church.

  11. Barton is buddies with some very influential people, who continue to trumpet his expertise long past the time they could claim not to have known better.

    However, he is also in with the Trump worshipers, and they believe that folks like you and me (not that we share any other similarities!) are Pure-D Liars. (Which is hysterically funny, as they take Trump’s word for everything!)

    I wonder what these guys will do when Trump gets booted out? Just kidding, I know exactly what they’ll do: Continue to lie with abandon while pointing fingers at us!

    1. They will find a new Golden Idol to present to their flocks.

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