The United States Office of Education commendably has publicized a list of so-called “degree mills,” institutions which grant academic distinctions without the recipient’s fulfillment of reputable requirements. If the exposure of these practices enhances the worth of sound education, and puts an end to the parading of bogus degrees by a small segment of the American clergy as well as by other persons, it will greatly serve both God and man.

Degree mills either receive fees from “students” on the basis of fraudulent misrepresentation, the government contends, or they enable recipients of such degrees to defraud the public.

Because such racket operations often confer divinity degrees of one kind or another, government leaders are proposing a conference with religious leaders and the Federal trade and justice departments to cope more effectively with violations of the law. The inquiry extends not only to degree mills now operating, but to “alumni” of defunct institutions whose continuing activities constitute a problem. Some schools are entangled in foreign complications also, having moved their operations from the United States to other lands.

That a false scale of values makes degree mills attractive to some ministers is a stark reminder that the depth of sin does not exempt the clergy, for whom pride remains a real temptation. Why do preachers, even if a tiny minority, seek out “bargain counter” degrees? Doubtless important strides in ministerial education have placed some pressure upon candidates lacking opportunity for earned degrees, but in these days of “status seeking” the worship of degrees has gone entirely too far. Degrees do not really tell the measure of a man, except perhaps when they are bogus. Even the criteria ...

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