The Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit starts today, and among its speakers is the infamous Religious Right pseudo-historian David Barton.

I’ve been writing about Barton since 1993 and am very familiar with his stunts. The man simply makes things up. But his latest assertion is breath-taking even for someone who’s long had a mere acquaintance with the truth.

Barton holds a bachelor’s degree in religious education from Oral Roberts University. His lack of an academic background in history – since he claims to be a historian, after all – has long been his Achilles’ heel.

Last year, Barton admitted that he doesn’t hold any advanced degrees. Recently, however, he has been claiming that he holds a Ph.D. and has taken to calling himself “Dr. Barton.”

Does 'Christian nation' advocate David Barton have a Ph.D. -- or just a fancy piece of paper?

What’s going on here? Barton critic Warren Throckmorton has been investigating. Throckmorton believes Barton is either referring to an honorary degree he received from a conservative evangelical college or to a degree from a controversial school called Life Christian University.

Life Christian University, Throckmorton notes, is actually a church. It’s associated with the “prosperity gospel” and claims to offer doctorates in theology and ministry (not history). Several high-profile TV preachers, among them Benny Hinn, hold degrees from the institution. It’s not accredited through any legitimate body, and some critics have called it a diploma mill.

Barton posted a video recently bragging about his “earned” doctorate. Behind him, you could see framed copies of his degrees. Two of them were honorary degrees, and the third looks to be from Life Christian. The video has since been marked “private,” but you can still see it on Throckmorton’s blog.  

So let’s consider the options. They are:

* Barton is so dense he thinks an honorary degree is the same as an earned degree.

* Barton got a Ph.D. from a shady, unaccredited college that no one takes seriously.

* Barton really does have an earned Ph.D. from a legitimate institution but for some reason refuses to name the school.

* Barton made all this up.

Barton could clear up this whole thing by simply providing the name of the university where he earned his alleged Ph.D. Throckmorton and others have asked him to do that, but he has ignored them.

Perhaps someone at the Values Voter Summit will ask Barton about this, but I won’t hold my breath.

P.S. Plenty of real Christian historians are getting annoyed with Barton’s games. Jared S. Burkholder, associate professor of history at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., (and holder of a real Ph.D. from the University of Iowa) recently blasted Barton for his claim that his version of history must be right because he uses original sources. As Burkholder points out, any historian worth his/her salt uses original sources all of the time – and many of them still don’t agree with Barton.