On paper, Lieutenant Commander Brian K. Waite, a United States Navy chaplain, appears to be one of the nation's foremost scholars on a wide-range of topics such as traumatology, theology, and Biblical history.
According to the July 2005 issue of "Tower Notes," the newsletter of the Graduate Theological Foundation, where Waite is the Father Francis Duffy Professor of Military Chaplaincy, the Navy chaplain's official biography states that he holds two doctorates, a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Georgia's Covington Theological Seminary, and a doctorate in Religious Studies from American Christian College and Seminary in Oklahoma.
But a closer look at Waite's credentials shows that the chaplain, who serves tens of thousands of military personnel, may not be as scholarly as he holds himself out to be.
Indeed, Covington Theological Seminary is just one of the religious institutions on Waite's lengthy resume that has been identified as a "diploma mill," and has been found to award degrees to students through "correspondence" studies. Covington had received its accreditation status by The International Accrediting Commission for Schools, Colleges and Theological Seminaries (IAC) of Missouri, which was caught up in a federal investigation more than a decade ago for accrediting more than 150 higher learning institutions that failed to meet the most basic standards under the US Department of Education, the Generally Accepted Accrediting Principles, and the Council on Higher Education (CHEA).
In 1989, Missouri's attorney general launched an investigation to determine the ease of which IAC awarded accreditation to schools, particularly Bible colleges, as long as the educational institutions had the cash. The attorney general set up a fictitious college, the East Missouri Business College, and rented a one-room office in St. Louis and issued a typewritten catalog with such school executives as "Peelsburi Doughboy" and "Wonarmmd Mann."
"Their marine biology text was The Little Green Book of Fishes. The school's motto, translated from Latin, was "Education is for the birds," according to Bears' Guide to Earning Degrees by Distance Learning, written by John and Mariah Bear. "Nonetheless, Dr. George Reuter, Director of the IAC, visited the school, accepted their money, and duly accredited them. Soon after, the IAC was enjoined from operating and slapped with a substantial fine, and the good Dr. Reuter decided to retire."
In a article on "Degree Mills," John Bear, who worked as a consultant with the FBI on the issue from 1979 to 1992, addressed the specific problems that arise in dealing with religious schools.
"Because constitutional safeguards in the United States guarantee separation of church and state, most states have been reluctant to pass any laws restricting the activities of churches -- including their right to grant degrees to all who make an appropriately large donation," John Baer wrote. "In many states, religious schools are not regulated but are restricted to granting religious degrees. But in some, like Louisiana and Hawaii, if you established your own one-person church yesterday, you could start your university today and award a Ph.D. in nuclear physics tomorrow. "Many states say that religious schools can only grant religious degrees. A diploma mill in Louisiana took that argument to new limits, when they announced that because God created everything, no matter what you studied, it was the study of the work of God, and therefore a religious degree. Twice, the Louisiana courts upheld this argument."
Waite's other alma mater, American Christian College and Seminary, formerly American Bible College and Seminary, which itself was formerly the University of Biblical Studies & Seminary, permanently shut down in 2005 after losing their accreditation with the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS).
TRACS is a recognized accrediting association that also approved accreditation for Liberty University, Bob Jones University, and Patrick Henry College. American Christian College and Seminary, however, apparently didn't meet TRACS's rigorous standards. At the association's April 2003 meeting officials refused to reaffirm the school's accreditation because it failed to comply with numerous educational standards.
On the website for St. John's church, a civilian Anglican church near the military station where Waite is stationed, he is listed as a Former Priest Associate and Chaplain-in-Residence. Waite's bio on the church's website contains additional information about his background that could not be verified with state officials. The bio states "Chaplain Waite is also recognized as one of the foremost traumatologists in the nation, holding certification as a Field Traumatologist with the International Traumatology Institute at the University of South Florida. He holds “Diplomat” [sic] status with the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, and has served as point person for Harvard University’s Crisis Response portion of the Kennedy School of Government’s National Securities Program."
"Field Traumatologist" appears to be the lowest level of certification issued by the University of South Florida's International Traumatology Institute. The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress provides applicants with certification in traumatology by simply filling out an application for a fee of $375, according to its website.
Military chaplains have come under fire from civil rights groups over the past several years for allegedly force feeding soldiers on the battlefield a form of fundamentalist Christianity origination from highly controversial, apocalyptic "End Times" evangelists and their mega-churches. Evangelical Christians have become such a dominating presence in the military’s chaplain corps that the Air Force held a four-day Spiritual Fitness Conference at Hilton Hotel in Colorado Springs in 2005 for chaplains and their families. The Air Force picked up the $300,000 tab it cost to stage the event.
The presence of evangelical Christian chaplains in the military is certainly nothing new, but it comes at what some believe are widespread constitutional violations with the full knowledge and support of Pentagon brass.
Chaplains and their evangelist counterparts who lead mega churches across the country have been invited to US military installations throughout the world and have been openly proselytizing to military personnel, in violation of the basic tenets of the United States Constitution. Under federal law, chaplains are only authorized to offer “spiritual guidance” to soldiers. They are strictly prohibited from using government resources to proselytize or convert soldiers.
Last year, Col. William Broome, the Pentagon chaplain, and his deputy, Maj. Alan Pomaville, invited David Kistler, President of Hickory, North Carolina-based H.O.P.E. Ministries International, to speak to DOD employees at a Pentagon prayer breakfast June 6 and in the Pentagon auditorium June 7, according to a copy of a recent newsletter published by H.O.P.E Ministries. Kistler, according to written statements made to his congregation, spent a considerable amount of his time at the Pentagon proselytizing to DOD employees in violation of federal law.
Kistler is a somewhat controversial figure whose sermons contain apocalyptic messages and bizarre prophecies. He believes certain Democratic lawmakers will burn in hell while "good Christians," such as President Bush, will be swept up into the heavens.