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.

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


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 (this video has been removedMeyer’s picture remains) 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.

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.

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?

Life Christian University Confirms David Barton’s “Earned Doctorate”

Over a month ago, religious right luminary and self-styled historian David Barton bragged for one day in a video that he had an “earned doctorate.” Although he hid the diploma on the video, the doctorate appeared to come from Life Christian University, a school in FL which gives degrees in consideration for ministry experience. The day after he posted the video on Facebook and YouTube, Barton removed it from social media.  He has not commented since about the video or “earned doctorate.”

Now it seems sure that the degree Barton called earned was given to him by LCU. According to a statement to Christian Today from Life Christian University president Douglas Wingate, Barton’s written history works were considered as an aspect of awarding a doctorate. Wingate was quoted in an article today by Mark Woods at Christian Today.

Christian Today asked whether Barton had a PhD from LCU. Wingate appears to imply he does, saying: “All of the candidates work is thoroughly examined before credit is awarded and it is clearly identified on their transcript. That is certainly the case with Dr David Barton, whose work in comparison to the revisionist historians, make[s] them look completely foolish.”

Reviewing the full statement from Wingate, it seems that Barton’s work in history was used as a basis for his “earned degree.” Wingate said:

It seems that questions have arisen concerning various well-known ministers of the Gospel who we refer to as Distinguished Degree holders. These ministers are not graduates of LCU but are those for whom we recognize the comparable academic work in their published teaching materials, many of which we use as texts in our university, and we have matriculated degrees for their work. As with any regularly enrolled student, when we do an assessment on the former education that a student desires to transfer into LCU, we consider any former Bible School credit, liberal arts school credit, Bible School teaching credit and Published Works credit. It is a common practice for even secular liberal arts institutions to offer Life Experience credit.

When a minister has enough credit beyond their customary transfer credit, LCU is able to matriculate degrees for each of the various levels of credit. The first degree is the Bachelors degree, then the Masters degree, then the Doctor of Ministry degree and finally the Ph.D. The necessary credit hours of study that match these degrees is 120 credits of undergraduate study for the Bachelors degree, 36 credit hours of graduate study for the Masters degree, 15 hours of post-graduate study plus a 30 credit dissertation for the D.Min. and 15 hours of post-graduate study plus a 30 credit dissertation for the Ph.D. Again, these degrees may consist of transfer credit, and previously published works. This work, of course, must be for that which falls into the disciplines traditionally offered by the university, but an exception can be made for some work that is outside of, but related to those disciplines. One such discipline would be in Christian American History, which falls into the category of Modern Church History. All of the candidates work is thoroughly examined before credit is awarded and it is clearly identified on their transcript. That is certainly the case with Dr. David Barton, whose work in comparison to the revisionist historians, make them look completely foolish.

The crux of the problem is in Wingate’s description of “matriculated degree.”

These ministers are not graduates of LCU but are those for whom we recognize the comparable academic work in their published teaching materials, many of which we use as texts in our university, and we have matriculated degrees for their work.

A matriculated student is one who is enrolled in a degree program. Wingate says these “distinguished degree holders” didn’t graduate. Elsewhere Wingate has said they didn’t attend. If they didn’t attend or graduate, there is no meaningful way to describe their degree as “matriculated.” In short, he just added up any previous academic work somewhere else and added enough credit to get to a PhD without any attendance at LCU. By federal definition, this is what diploma mills do.

In light of the LCU statement, let’s review Barton’s claim:


No wonder Barton wanted to hide the LCU degree behind one of his honorary degrees. If words mean anything, the degree can’t be considered earned.

Of course another problem with the degree is that it may be in Christian American History. One wonders who at LCU is qualified to judge whether or not Barton’s history is accurate. The answer is no one, because LCU president Wingate allowed the student to be the teacher. Here is what Wingate said about Barton in relationship to his critics.

One such discipline would be in Christian American History, which falls into the category of Modern Church History. All of the candidates work is thoroughly examined before credit is awarded and it is clearly identified on their transcript. That is certainly the case with Dr. David Barton, whose work in comparison to the revisionist historians, make (sic) them look completely foolish.

A little later in the statement, Wingate admits that LCU doesn’t offer liberal arts courses.

We do not offer any liberal arts in our programs, nor are we in competition with any liberal arts institutions, and therefore do not receive any government monies for our educational programs. In a way you could say we also believe in the separation of church and state. We simply believe that the state should not be involved in the church’s ministry education. In reality, since the first institutions of higher learning in America originated in the church, it seems that the liberal arts institutions should have to come to the church for accreditation. It would certainly change things if they had to meet our standards of spirituality and morality.

How could Barton get a degree in history from an institution which doesn’t offer history courses? As an exempt from licensing school in FL, LCU can’t offer degrees in anything other than ministry.

Perhaps, Barton took the video down because the use of a fake or misleading degree is illegal in Texas and other states. In any case, he has some explaining to do.