Religious Diploma Frauds: Fraudulent, Substandard & Unlawful Levels

The prevalence of fraudulent, substandard, and unlawful diplomas and degrees is an ever-escalating problem in the United States.

The United States Congress has discovered that the safety of the American general public is significantly endangered by the sale of fraudulent degrees, and that the preeminence of the United States in science and engineering, as effectively as the prestige and reputation of American universities, is threatened by the trafficking of fraudulent degrees, diplomas, and certifications. (109th Congress, 2006)

Religious and theological degrees and other degrees from religiously affiliated institutions are some of the most typically issued fraudulent, substandard and unlawful credentials. The motive for the prevalence of fraudulent religious and theological degrees is the actuality that anyone can incorporate a “church” by registering as a non-earnings business inside a state. This “church” can then assert that its bylaws grant it the authority to difficulties certifications and degrees. However lots of innocent individuals in search of a religious education drop sufferer to these “churches” issuing “degrees” that usually are not well worth the paper the phony diploma is printed on.

These organizations issuing fraudulent and substandard religious degrees often assert that their action is shielded by the Very first Modification of the U.S. Constitution and ensures of religious independence. Just set this is not the case. Religiously affiliated institutions are not exempt from state oversight beneath the Very first Modification, nor do they gain the privilege of issuing fraudulent, substandard, and unlawful degrees beneath protection of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

As an case in point of this, the Texas Lawyer Standard has issued an opinion (JC-0200) that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not exempt religiously-affiliated institutions from the specifications beneath the Texas Education Code (Chapter sixty one, Subchapter G). The statute does not regulate any religious follow. Institutions that have a religious affiliation are free to physical exercise their religious beliefs. The legislation is prepared to regulate very narrowly individuals functions that are tutorial only, these kinds of as representations that the instruction is college amount or that the pupil can receive a degree, and not to impinge on any religious follow or belief. In addition, institutions that do not want to meet up with the tutorial benchmarks of a higher instructional institution are free to train and get ready pupils for ministry positions as prolonged as they do not assert that the amount of their education is collegiate, either by giving degrees or calling the institution a college, college, or seminary. (Texas Larger Education Coordinating Board, 2007)

Unaccredited, religiously affiliated institutions are free to train their religious doctrine as they see match, but they may not legally signify by themselves as colleges, universities, or seminaries nor may they difficulties degrees or titles associated with degrees.

Religious VS. Educational Levels

A typically listened to assert from institutions issuing fraudulent, substandard or unlawful religious degrees is that there is a variation among a religious and an tutorial degree, and that the regulations that govern tutorial degrees simply really don’t apply to the issuance of a religious or theological degree.

We have presently observed that in the opinion of the Texas Lawyer Standard religiously-affiliated institutions are NOT exempt from assembly the specifications of the Texas Education Code, but what about legit religious educational institutions and theological seminaries, how do they check out their individual degrees?

Of the 251 religiously centered colleges, universities and theological seminaries at present identified by the ‘Association of Theological Universities in the United States and Canada’ and by the Council for Larger Education Accreditation (CHEA) all maintain an tutorial curriculum and construction and (centered on a study of their world wide web-websites and publications) take into consideration their degrees to be an “tutorial degrees.”

The on-line encyclopedia ‘Wikipedia’ is a continually reviewed current and reference supply which can be edited by anyone. Wikipedia content provide insight into the basic general public perception of a subject. When we look at the Wikipedia entries for Medical doctor of Theology and Medical doctor of Divinity we see that they are both of those defined as “tutorial degrees:

• “Medical doctor of Theology (in Latin Theologiae Medical doctor, abbreviated Th.D.) is a terminal tutorial degree in theology.” – ( doctor_of_Theology)
• “Medical doctor of Divinity (D.D., Divinitatis Medical doctor in Latin) is an state-of-the-art tutorial degree in divinity.” – ( doctor_of_Divinity)

Obviously every single legit theological seminary and college or college giving a theological application considers an tutorial curriculum and construction necessary to their degrees, and the general public perception of religiously centered degrees is that they are in actuality tutorial degrees.

One particular should really be exceptionally wary of any entity that difficulties degrees with no tutorial curriculum or construction, boasting that its religious nature someway exempts it from any tutorial normal or specifications. Such an entity is virtually absolutely issuing fraudulent and unlawful degrees, or at very best is issuing a substandard degree that confers no qualification or legit credential whatsoever, and may in actuality be unlawful to use in lots of states.

WARNING Symptoms

One particular should really be significantly aware of degree frauds that provide you credit history for your daily life expertise and existing spiritual perform, giving you an fast doctorate degree in divinity, theology, or ministry all for a several hundred bucks and potentially necessitating a limited paper of no far more than a few thousand words.

Yet another warning signal that an institution is issuing fraudulent, substandard, or unlawful degrees is if they make it a level to demonstrate why their degrees are “bonafide legit doctorate degrees.” Though a certainly legit college or college will generally recognize its accreditation it is highly unlikely that it will have to stress why its degrees are “bonafide and legit”. Only an institution issuing fraudulent degrees desires to attempt to persuade you of their legitimacy.

It is vital to confirm the physical address of any school right before you enroll. A legit college, college, or seminary will have a physical enterprise address, even if it is set up to deliver only on-line study. Any institution using a mail drop address is virtually absolutely issuing fraudulent and unlawful degrees. You should really be capable to stop by the institution that will grant your degree. If the offices of the college, college, or seminary are a back home or basement in somebody’s property, the degree is virtually certain to be substandard, and is most possible staying illegally issued.

As we continued to look into the difficulty of addresses, we learned that it is a violation of Federal legislation to use the Postal Provider in conjunction with a enterprise and ask for to be resolved by, any fictitious, phony, or assumed title.

“Whoever, for the goal of conducting, advertising, or carrying on by implies of the Postal Provider, any plan or device… or any other unlawful enterprise, works by using or assumes, or requests to be resolved by, any fictitious, phony, or assumed title, name, or address or name other than his individual appropriate name, or normally takes or gets from any article office environment or approved depository of mail issue, any letter, postal card, offer, or other mail issue resolved to any these kinds of fictitious, phony, or assumed title, name, or address, or name other than his individual appropriate name, shall be fined beneath this title or imprisoned not far more than five decades, or both of those.” (18 U.S.C. 1342)

Beware of any institution that presents a ‘one-time only tuition price to you:’ ‘each doctorate degree is only $$$, get a second degree at half-selling price, $$$’, or any equivalent occur-on in which you simply obtain your degree for a flat price.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (2005) “Most diploma mills demand a flat price, call for very little study course perform, if any, and award a degree centered exclusively on perform or daily life expertise.”

The Texas Larger Education Coordinating Board (2007) cautioned that a person of the warning signals that an institution may be giving fraudulent or substandard degree is charging “tuition and expenses by the degree and not by the study course. Irrespective of whether charging $299 or $29,000, this is a signal of fraud. Legit colleges demand tuition by the credit history hour (semester, quarter, or trimester) or by the study course. Not all fraudulent or substandard institutions demand by the degree some demand by the credit history hour in buy to seem legit. On the other hand, legit institutions do not demand by the degree.”

The Oklahoma Condition Regents for Larger Education advises: when thinking about a degree company, an response of “of course” to a person or far more of the following queries may be an indicator of a diploma mill.

• Can degrees be purchased?
• Is there a assert of accreditation when there is no evidence of this standing?
• Is there a assert of accreditation from a questionable accrediting business?
• Does the operation lack state or federal licensure or authority to run?
• Is very little if any attendance required of pupils, either online or in course?
• Are several assignments required for pupils to earn credits?
• Is a very limited interval of time required to earn a degree?
• Are degrees offered centered exclusively on activities or résumé overview?
• Are there several specifications for graduation?
• Does the operation fail to deliver any information about a campus or enterprise site or physical address and depend only on a article office environment box?
• Does the operation fail to deliver a record of its school and their skills?
• Does the operation have a name equivalent to other effectively-recognised colleges and universities?
• Does the operation make promises in its publications for which there is no evidence?

Though it is not attainable to record every single institution engaged in a degree fraud or issuing fraudulent, substandard, or unlawful degrees the state of Michigan maintains a record of educational institutions that have been discovered to be most egregious in their issuance of fraudulent degrees.

The record can be discovered on-line at:

Levels from any entity on this record will not be recognized by the Michigan Section of Civil Provider as gratifying any instructional specifications or career specs. Even if you really don’t dwell or perform in Michigan, any institution on the Michigan record is highly questionable, and would most possible be discovered fraudulent, substandard, or unlawful if investigated by any other state.

The state of Maine maintains a equivalent record on-line at:

The state of Oregon is a leader in the combat in opposition to fraudulent, substandard and illegally issued degrees. Oregon maintains a record of entities issuing invalid degrees on-line at:

In addition to checking the Michigan, Maine and Oregon lists of unaccredited institutions, a person should really also check out the Council for Larger Education Accreditation (CHEA) – Database of Institutions and Programs Accredited by Acknowledged United States Accrediting Companies, on-line at: and the U.S. Section of Education Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs (USDE) on-line at:

The CHEA and USDE databases record institutions that are identified as possessing achieved sure benchmarks in their education systems.

Though staying shown in the CHEA or USDE databases would not assure that a degree will be suited to any precise goal, an institution that difficulties degrees and is not shown in either a person these databases is at very best highly questionable.


Subsequent, speak to the higher education board in the state in which the “degree-granting institution” is located and get the board’s opinion of the institution in issue. Just about every state has some kind of governing entire body for higher education. When thinking about enrolling in any college, college, or seminary, in which there may be a issue about its legitimacy, it pays to speak to the governing entire body for higher education in the state in which the institution is located and inquire irrespective of whether that institution is identified by the state and irrespective of whether the degrees they difficulty are legit.

At the time this article was prepared the U.S. Section of Education preserved a record of Condition Larger Education Businesses on-line at:


Numerous states are beginning to understand the problem of fraudulent, substandard, and illegally issued degrees and are passing legal guidelines to battle this crime.

At present it is unlawful in North Dakota, New Jersey, Texas, Nevada, Washington and Maine to use unaccredited degrees. It is unlawful in Indiana to use an unaccredited doctorate. Other states are thinking about legal guidelines to secure their citizens from diploma mills and substandard degrees.

In Washington Condition, issuing a phony tutorial credential is a course C felony and knowingly using a phony tutorial credential is a gross misdemeanor. (RCW 9A.sixty.070)

Florida Statute 817.567 — Building Wrong Claims of Educational Diploma or Title.– offers that no particular person in the state may assert, either orally or in producing, to have an tutorial degree, as defined in s. 1005.02, or the title associated with explained degree, unless of course the particular person has, in actuality, been awarded explained degree from an institution that is: (a) Accredited by a regional or skilled accrediting agency identified by the United States Section of Education or the Commission on Recognition of Postsecondary Accreditation… [or run by a state or by the Federal government, or for educational institutions outdoors the U.S. has been validated by an accrediting agency accredited by the United States Section of Education as equal to the baccalaureate or article-baccalaureate degree conferred by a regionally accredited college or college in the United States…]


(2) No particular person awarded a doctorate degree from an institution not shown in subsection (one) shall assert in the state, either orally or in producing, the title “Dr.” right before the person’s name or any mark, appellation, or series of letters, quantities, or words, these kinds of as, but not restricted to, “Ph.D.,” “Ed.D.,” “D.N.,” or “D.Th.,” which signifies, purports, or is commonly taken to signify satisfactory completion of the specifications of a doctorate degree, immediately after the person’s name.

Lifestyle Working experience & Qualifications

According to Roger H. Schmedlen (2006), producing in the Michigan Legal professionals Weekly, “Some unsophisticated would-be experts may certainly believe that it is attainable for them to get hold of a legit degree without attending courses or accomplishing any study exercise–simply by using credit history from lifelong occupation expertise. . . . It isn’t really!”

The Texas Larger Education Coordinating Board warns that an additional of the warning signals of fraud is an institution that “presents to grant a degree or generous amounts of credit history for daily life expertise. Claims that a person can receive a complete degree for one’s daily life expertise are a confident signal of fraud. Calculating credit history awarded by decades of service in a specific career or perform is also a signal of fraud. Legit colleges that award credit history for daily life expertise call for comprehensive evidence that the expertise is the equal of coursework taught at a college. The average legit award by that implies will be approximately 12 to 18 semester credit history hours (about a person semester). Several pupils who are assessed receive no college credit history.”

Though a person should really have an understanding of that no legit accreditor enforces any specific theological understanding, doctrine, or theology it is just as vital to have an understanding of that states have a accountability to make sure that the general public is not set at chance by fraudulently issued degrees and credentials. Ask on your own irrespective of whether you would have faith in a professional medical health care provider who obtained an fast professional medical degree centered on daily life expertise. Would you have faith in a psychiatrist whose degree was centered on a 4 to 8 page paper? No? Effectively, if you will not have faith in your physical and mental overall health to a particular person with a fraudulent or substandard degree, why would you have faith in an individual with this kind of degree to guide you in your spiritual and religious effectively-staying?

John Bear (2007) presents an emphatic warning regarding fraudulent degrees: “We have to warn you, as emphatically as we can, that it is very dangerous to buy a phony degree or to assert to have a degree that you have not gained. It is like placing a time bomb in your resume. It could go off at any time, with dire outcomes. The individuals who provide phony degrees will almost certainly by no means experience at all, but the individuals who buy them often experience mightily. And — significantly if their “degree” is overall health-connected — their clientele may be critically harmed.”
We take into consideration a religious degree to be overall health-connected in any case in which the degree-holder is involved in giving counseling or spiritual steerage. One’s spiritual overall health is just as vital as one’s physical, mental and emotional overall health.


Fraudulent, substandard, and unlawful degrees endanger the safety of the American general public. Folks who use a fraudulent, substandard, or unlawful degree and deliver overall health-connected products and services, to involve counseling, giving daily life-expertise and religious steerage or remedy, set the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual overall health of their clientele at severe chance.

Using a fraudulent, substandard, or illegally issued degree is possible to have dire outcomes for the particular person who works by using it, both of those in work and licensing difficulties and in matters of have faith in and integrity. It is in actuality unlawful in numerous states to use an unaccredited, fraudulent, substandard or illegally issued degree.

A severe issue should really occur in regard to any individual’s integrity and competence, who promises a fraudulent, substandard, or illegally issued degree regardless of any other credentials or expertise that particular person may have.


109th Congress – Diploma Integrity Security Act of 2006 – H.R. 6006

Affiliation of Theological Universities in the United States and Canada

Bear, John, Quackwatch, Diploma Mills,on-line at: (Could 2007)

Council for Larger Education Accreditation (CHEA)

Federal Trade Commission, “Details for Business Manual on Preventing Phony Diploma”, February one, 2005 on-line at:

Oklahoma Condition Regents for Larger Education –

Religious Freedom Restoration Act (forty two U.S.C. § 2000bb (1993)

Schmedlen, Roger H. CPP, CFE, CII, MIPI – Michigan Legal professionals Weekly, “Medical doctor Who? Preventing Fraudulent Belief Gurus”, April 24, 2006 Version on-line at:

Texas Larger Education Coordinating Board, Routinely Requested Queries, Could 2007