Boston Globe articles on the 1986 - 1987 trial
$6.5M CHURCH DONOR WANTS MONEY BACK
Author: By Dick Lehr, Globe Staff
Date: 04/15/1986 Page: 17
PITTSFIELD -- Since moving to nearby Lenox in 1981, Elizabeth D. Dovydenas, a 33-year-old millionairess, became increasingly active in The Bible Speaks, a fundamentalist church with headquarters on 86 lush acres of a former private boarding school in Lenox.
During the past 2 1/2 years, Dovydenas, who church officials say was a devoted Christian, gave more than $6.5 million to the church -- the largest donations the religious group has ever received.
The church, headed by Rev. Carl H. Stevens Jr., used the money, to help pay for , among other things, a freighter that makes missionary sea voyages; a Palm Beach, Fla., condominium; antibugging devices for telephones; the conversion of a hockey rink in Lenox into a church; and the church's $600,000 mortgage balance on its Lenox complex.
Now, the woman, whose fortune is estimated at $13 million, and her family want the money back. Yesterday, the dispute that has been simmering privately broke open during an unusual court hearing highlighted by angry outbursts between attorneys for the family and the 13-year-old church.
"You understand she is now claiming that these funds were not voluntarily transferred by her," Gordon Walker, the family's attorney, told Stevens during 90 minutes of questioning at a hearing into whether any of her assets were embezzled or fraudulently obtained.
Earlier, Walker said Dovydenas' funds were transferred "in an atmosphere of fear . . . an atmosphere of secrecy."
Dovydenas left The Bible Speaks in January and agreed to let her father, Wallace C. Dayton, assume temporary control of her assets, citing a "mental weakness." The legal move, creating a conservatorship, set the stage for yesterday's inquiry between the parties and without a judge present. The family has not yet sued the church.
The church, however, yesterday sued the family, seeking a court order declaring the church's conduct has been proper and the gifts valid, and asking the family to pay attorneys' fees for initiating action that has "abused the process of law" and is aimed only at trying to pressure the church into settling the conflict out of court.
Dovydenas's father is one of five brothers who built the Dayton Hudson Corp., based in Minnesota, which owns Lechmere and B. Dalton Bookseller stores.
Norman Roy Grutman of New York, acting as one of the church's attorneys, yesterday angrily objected to Walker's questions and often refused to let the well-known founder of Bible Speaks comment about the church's financial practices. Prior to the open hearing, the church's attorneys had tried but failed in court to block Walker from questioning Stevens.
Grutman yesterday accused Walker of making "hateful insinuations," and conducting a wide open "inquisition."
"I find it very hard to take, watching you struggle so hard to make something innocent appear sinister," Grutman said. He said Dovydenas made the gifts freely and without restriction. How the church spent the money was, therefore, irrelevant, Grutman said.
Walker asked Stevens and another church official to return the money to Dovydenas and her husband. Stevens said he would not. Grutman called the requests absurd.
"You must be kidding," Grutman told Walker. "What do you think this is, a show?"
The two attorneys also sparred over how to address Stevens. Grutman insisted Walker call Stevens "Pastor."
"You don't want to call him, Pastor, Mr. Walker? . . . Then I'll call you, hey you," Grutman said.
In his testimony, Stevens either denied or refused to answer Walker's questions about whether Stevens and other church officials had convinced Dovydenas to give her money to Bible Speaks by saying God wanted her to.
"She just believed in what we were doing at the ministry," Stevens said.
Bible Speaks was founded by Stevens in South Berwick, Maine, in 1973. He moved its headquarters to Lenox in 1976. The church has ministries worldwide and has a Bible college at its Lenox campus.
According to documents, Dovydenas made a series of large and small gifts to the church, including more than $1 million in December 1984 and more than $5 million in May 1985. She also gave Stevens a $10,000 check for his personal use, which Stevens said yesterday he deposited into his "travel fund."
Stevens also said he has sometimes used the Florida condo, which is now for sale, but called it an investment that will earn the church a good profit.
The church's attorneys accused the family of attacking the church without Dovydenas' cooperation. "We have yet to hear from Mrs. Dovydenas . . . saying what my Daddy wants is all right with me," Grutman said. "She is now in the hands of de-programmers . . . subject to a saturation process to alter her attitudes."
In a brief telephone conversation after the hearing, Dovydenas declined to discuss the matter in detail, but said, "I fully support what our attorneys are trying to do."
She did not attend yesterday's hearing, although her husband, Jonas, did. Walker, the family's attorney, said, "She's a very angry woman who feels she been emotionally and financially exploited."
Walker said a decision on whether to sue the church will be made after he has finished questioning church officials and he assesses the testimony. The hearing is expected to end today.
ACCUSATIONS FLY OVER $6.5M DONATION TO CHURCH
Author: By Dick Lehr, Globe Staff
Date: 04/16/1986 Page: 25
LENOX -- The escalating legal battle over Elizabeth Dayton Dovydenas' $6.5 million donation to The Bible Speaks religious group is the stuff of movies and soap operas.
In the 1 1/2 days of hearings that ended yesterday, there were suggestions that church members told Dovydenas that her husband, Jonas, and her relatives were demonic, that Dovydenas was told to donate the millions on instructions
from God. There was talk of secret meetings and of secretly recorded telephone conversations -- tapes that are now missing.
Dovydenas' family wants the money returned and now must decide whether to sue the church. Gordon Walker, the family's attorney, said Dovydenas' funds were given involuntarily "in an atmosphere of fear . . . in an atmosphere of secrecy."
Rev. Carl H. Stevens, 55, founder and president of the fundamentalist church, and other church officials have adamantly denied the suggestions. Monday the group sued the family, saying it wants a court order declaring the gifts valid and the church's conduct proper. It accuses the family of conducting an inquisition to force it to settle the dispute out of court.
Dovydenas, a 33-year-old mother of two, whose fortune even after the gifts is estimated at $12 million, is the daughter of Wallace C. Dayton. He is one of five brothers who built the Dayton Hudson Corp., the nation's fifth largest retailer with $8.5 billion reported in sales in 1985. The corporation owns, among other things, Lechmere Sales and B. Dalton Booksellers.
The family's attorneys, in questioning church officials, suggested that during the 2 1/2 years the Lenox woman made the gifts, the church exercised increasing control over her and isolated her from her family. They asked whether the funds were embezzled or obtained fraudulently.
In response, the church said the family recently brainwashed Dovydenas. The church's attorney, Norman Roy Grutman, called Walker's questioning ''scandalous" and "inflammatory."
The church painted a portrait of a woman struggling for emotional and
financial independence from an overbearing father. The 13-year-old church provided support for her during these difficult 2 1/2 years. The donation was its largest ever.
The battle surfaced during the unusual, two-day hearing conducted under the auspices of probate court but in the absence of a judge.
Earlier this year when she left Bible Speaks, Dovydenas agreed to let her father and a Boston bank serve as temporary conservators of her property, setting the stage for the open and often angry court encounters this week.
But the key player in this dramatic dispute between big money and a fundamentalist church -- Betsy Dovydenas -- was missing. She remained secluded at her Lenox estate. During a brief telephone conversation Monday she said only, "I fully support what our attorneys are trying to do."
Husband Jonas was present. Grutman called him a "ne'er do well" who is living off his wife's fortune.
Rev. Stevens was there, commenting publicly for the first time on a matter his attorney says is an embarrassment to the church.
Little first-hand information is known about Dovydenas. She and her husband moved from Chicago to the Berkshire community of Lenox in 1981, five years after Stevens relocated his church from Maine to the 86-acre former campus of a private boarding school in Lenox.
They spent $700,000 for a 158-acre estate, known as Pine Needles, on Under Mountain Road not far from Tanglewood. Jonas Dovydenas is a photographer who most recently took pictures of freedom fighters in Soviet-ocuppied Afghanistan.
The couple is described as socially active, particularly in the local arts community. Since 1984, Jonas has been chairman of the 25-member board of the Edith Wharton Restoration Inc., a nonprofit organization for that author's Lenox estate, The Mount.
Jonas has been described as the more outgoing of the two. Betsy, brown-eyed and dark-haired, is ". . .the quiet, mid-western type, very unprepossessing," said Mary-Jane Tichenor, society editor of The Berkshire Eagle.
What was disclosed at the hearings was how the church spent Dovydenas' money. Most of the church's major projects in the past two years relied on
funds she had donated. They included paying off the $600,000 balance on the church's mortgage, for which a mortgage-burning celebration was held a year ago; converting a hockey rink into a church; building an indoor swimming pool; buying a Florida condominium and anti-bugging devices for its headquarters.
Disclosures were also made of smaller gifts to Rev. Stevens personally -- a $1,000 check for his honeymoon and a $10,000 check Stevens said he deposited into his travel fund.
Church officials insisted Dovydenas made the gifts because she supports the work of Bible Speaks. Grutman repeatedly asserted the gifts were made freely and with no stipulations on how they be spent except for a final $500,000 gift made last fall that was to be used to buy television equipment.
Walker said the family will decide soon whether to sue the church to recover the money. He also said he would ask the court to dismiss the church's lawsuit. "This persuasive innuendo that Betsy's family is doing something against her will is absurd," Walker said yesterday.
Kathleen M. Hill, a bookkeeper at Bible Speaks and perhaps Dovydenas' closest friend within the church, yesterday denied Walker's repeated suggestions that she and others at Bible Speaks manipulated Dovydenas and sought to bilk the millionairess of her wealth.
Outside the courthouse after the hearing, Hill said she had not seen Dovydenas since mid-January, because the family took control of her and brought her to de-programmers. "I want that truth to come out," Hill said.
WOMAN WANTS $7M RETURNED BY CHURCH
Author: By Dick Lehr, Globe Staff
Date: 06/20/1986 Page: 13
A Lenox millionairess yesterday sued The Bible Speaks, seeking the return of nearly $7 million she said she had given the controversial religious group and claiming church officials lied to her, won her devotion and then defrauded her.
In the lawsuit, Elizabeth D. Dovydenas, 33, alleges that Rev. Carl H. Stevens, the church's founder, and others pressured her continually until she became emotionally dependent on them and manipulated her into giving money to the Lenox-based fundamentalist church.
The stock and cash transfers Dovydenas made were "the result of improper and undue influence" that had an "over-mastering effect" upon her, according to the suit. Stevens and others are accused of taking a special interest in Dovydenas a few years ago when they learned she was rich. Her fortune at the time reportedly exceeded $19 million.
An attorney for the church yesterday said the donations Dovydenas made were valid gifts. "This lady wasn't weak-minded or unduly influenced," Norman Roy Grutman said. ". . . She made all of these gifts . . . with a knowing and generous heart.
"They are all perfected gifts, valid gifts, and are not entitled to rescission or any other relief," Grutman said.
He said the church would vigorously defend itself and never agree to an out-of-court settlement. "How can you settle a case like this? It strikes at the heart of the integrity of a religious organization. You can't compromise with that."
Dovydenas is the daughter of Wallace C. Dayton, one of five brothers who built the Dayton Hudson Corp., the nation's fifth-largest retailer with $8.5 billion in reported sales last year. The company owns Lechmere Sales and B. Dalton Booksellers.
Stevens founded The Bible Speaks in South Berwick, Maine, in 1973 and in 1976 moved the church to the campus of a former private boarding school for boys on 86 acres in Lenox. The church has branches in Boston, Springfield and in other countries.
Dovydenas and her husband, Jonas, became active in the church soon after their move to Lenox in 1981.
Her lawsuit describes the following two-year scenario:
Stevens and another defendant, Kathleen Hill, a church member who befriended Dovydenas, exerted increasing influence over Dovydenas and her finances.
The first year, 1984, was spent winning Dovydenas's confidence, alienating her from her husband and creating an emotional dependence on Stevens. The money then steadily began pouring into church coffers from the end of 1984 through 1985.
Dovydenas spent several hours a day, six days a week, attending church services or training sessions. Hill advised her to separate herself from her husband and family, and donate her vast wealth to the church.
The suit states Dovydenas was told her husband was "evil and could not be trusted," and "Stevens told plaintiff that women occupy a subservient position to men but that he would substitute himself for Jonas and would provide plaintiff with direction and control." In 1985, Hill induced Dovydenas to make a "vow of loyalty" to Stevens and the church.
The transfers included $10,000 in cash given to Stevens. The largest were gifts of $1 million in December 1984, $5.3 million in May 1985 and $500,000 in
December 1985. The funds came from the sale of stock Dovydenas owned in the family company.
Stevens and Hill convinced her the money was for "charitable and religious purposes," the suit states, but some was used to buy a condominium in Florida for Stevens' private use, to pay for Stevens' personal expenses and to make ''payments to former members of the church who threatened litigation to recover contributions made under circumstances of fraud or undue influence."
The filing of the lawsuit in Pittsfield yesterday occurred two months after often angry and sometimes chaotic hearings were held in that city. During those hearings, Dovydenas' attorneys questioned Stevens and others about the Dovydenas money.
The proceedings were held under the auspices of the Probate Court. Dovydenas did not attend those sessions and so far has declined comment on the dispute with the church. When she left The Bible Speaks early this year, Dovydenas permitted her father and a Boston bank to serve temporarily as
conservators to account for her money, a legal arrangement that ended April 25.
In April, the church sued the family, seeking a court order declaring the gifts valid. That suit was dismissed last week and lawyers for the church said they will appeal the dismissal.
LAWYERS' LACK OF ETIQUETTE CONCERNS LEGAL SCHOLARS
Author: By Dick Lehr, Globe Staff
Date: 07/27/1986 Page: 26
How abrasive can lawyers be?
Three months ago, several attorneys gathered inside a Pittsfield courthouse. They crowded around a table, looking distinguished in dark suits and crisply pressed shirts. Their wide-mouthed briefcases were snapped open, revealing stacks of legal files and papers.
"What is the basis of that objection?" asked a rankled Gordon T. Walker at one stage during the morning session, after opposing counsel had interrupted and protested yet another question Walker had posed to the other lawyer's client.
Norman Roy Grutman, the opposing attorney, responded: "It's outside the scope; it's a preposterous suggestion and it only shows that you've been sticking your nose in garbage pails."
Increasingly, say practicing lawyers and legal scholars, lawyers today are exchanging personal jabs or, to use the Latin that lawyers favor, ad hominem remarks -- comments made against an opponent rather than against the arguments.
It's a sharp departure from the traditional image of the solemn, tight- lipped and well-mannered devotee of what could be called the Emily Post school of legal etiquette.
The new nastiness, some say, mostly occurs in civil cases involving big money, such as the one brewing in Pittsfield in which a millionaire claims her former church, The Bible Speaks, defrauded her of nearly $7 million. Others say the personal invectives also are used in hotly contested criminal cases.
But the experts agree the harsh words are traded not just between the pettifoggers of the profession but among high-brow practitioners as well. That such attacks are spoken more frequently by swashbuckling litigators and otherwise dramatic courtroom orators is lamented as conduct unbecoming to the bar.
"We have enough problems trying to uphold and develop a public image without the necessity of very personal and bitter battles among ourselves," said Charles Ogletree, a visiting professor of criminal law at the Harvard Law School.
"In civil and criminal litigation," he said, "the parties are viewed as adversaries, and rightly so, but there still has to be a level of professionalism and courtesy and respect, so the legal profession does not sink any lower in the public's view."
In the Pittsfield case, Walker, a Boston-based lawyer, represents the millionaire, Betsy Dovydenas. Grutman of New York represents the church, The Bible Speaks, and its leader, Rev.Carl H. Stevens. During two days of antagonistic hearings, the two frequently squared off: "That is rude as well as other things. That's scandalous and outrageous," Grutman said to his opponent after Walker tried to ask his client, Stevens, about mind control.
Walker called Grutman an "obstructionist" and once broke off from questioning a church official to ask Grutman, "Do you find this very funny?" Grutman, in turn, characterized Walker and his questions as "unprofessional" and "impertinent," and, at another point during the face-off between big money and a church, asked Walker, "What demons are possessing you?"
Various theories are offered to explain the trend, which, while not running rampant, is considered troublesome enough that bar association committees examining legal professionalism are including the issue of "incivility."
"Perhaps it's an attitude that's developed by virtue of the fact that many lawyers today regard all pieces of litigation as an all-out war," said Justin Stanley, a Chicago attorney and past president of the American Bar Association.
Stanley heads an ABA "Commission on Professionalism," which is issuing a report in time for the association's annual convention in New York City next month. The commission also addressed other more substantive abuses afflicting the profession today, such as the destruction of evidence and filing of frivolous complaints and pretrial motions in an effort to bleed an opponent financially.
Some observers cite the country's swelling legal population and stiff competition as factors. In 1970, there were an estimated 355,000 lawyers; today, the estimate is 690,000.
Ogletree says the personal outbursts are partly due to the absence of
binding rules on the conduct between lawyers. "We are not policing ourselves strenuously enough to cause this to dissipate, and until we do we will see more of the vituperative and ad hominem comments."
Michael Greco, president of the Massachusetts Bar Association, is concerned about an increase in acrimony because it undercuts the role of lawyers as problem-solvers.
"Engaging in name-calling is street resolution. You don't need to go to court for that," Greco said.
In Massachusetts, a bar association committee studying professionalism is working to draft guidelines that Greco hopes lawyers will follow in their dealings with one another. "Something inspirational and aspirational, saying these are the values the profession has held so dearly for so many years.
"You can't really discipline a lawyer for acting like a jerk," Greco said. "Once we have it in writing, maybe we can later say to one another -- something more like peer pressure -- hey, you're a turkey, cut it out, you're hurting your clients."
Greco says he believes the trend has mostly surfaced in civil litigation.
"We now have laws that didn't exist 15 years ago, whether it's the Civil Rights Act or the massive, massive federal court litigation involving toxic waste. In other words, the kind of litigation in which the stakes are higher than ever before in our history, with lawyers in the center . . . becoming more personally involved, instead of maintaining that detachment and objectivity necessary to best represent their client."
Some observers say the litigating style that includes harsh personal remarks in its arsenal first surfaced about a decade ago in New York, although other lawyers interviewed questioned that view.
But transcipts of pretrial wrangling in 1984 in at least one well-known case -- the libel suit that Ariel Sharon, Israel's defense minister, brought against Time Magazine -- demonstrate New York lawyering is not immune from personal jab-making.
Adam Gilbert, an attorney for Sharon, stops questioning a Time reporter to ask Thomas D. Barr, Time's attorney: "I want to finish this deposition now. . . . Are you prepared to keep Mr. Halevy (the reporter) past 4 p.m. today?"
Barr: "I want you to call the judge, and talk to the judge, Sonny."
Gilbert: "What did you call me?"
Barr: "That's what you are acting like."
Gilbert: "You are the most boorish adult . . ."
Barr: "Call him."
Gilbert: " . . . that I think I have met in a long time."
Barr: "Are you going to call him or am I?"
Gilbert: "I am going to call him."
Barr: "Do it."
In the Pittsfield case, relations between the opposing attorneys last week hit a new snag. Walker, representing the millionaire, filed a motion to block the New York-based Grutman, representing the church, from plying his trade in Massachusetts. Walker urged the court not to grant Grutman permission to practice here, saying Grutman has lied to the court and disparaged the state's judicial system.
In response, Grutman says his opponent is seeking "by exaggeration and falsification to create the misimpression that I ought not to be welcomed in Massachusetts." His own style, he says, is not "bare-knuckled" but tough. ''I'm a man of many parts -- a scholar, a wit, a man of great stamina and resourcefulness."
To Grutman, Walker's maneuver is the latest in what he often characterized during those two tempestuous days of probate court hearings last April as Walker's own questionable legal tactics.
"I think you should stop grandstanding, harassing tactics and grandstanding," Grutman advised Walker after accusing his opponent of staging a media event for reporters.
Walker: "God forbid that I should engage . . ."
Grutman: "There's a place for flamboyancy in the world. I should know; I've been flamboyant at times but I really think that some of that stuff is just off the wall."
RELIGIOUS GROUP FILES BANKRUPT
Author: By John Hechinger, Contributing Reporter
Date: 07/31/1986 Page: 39
The Bible Speaks has filed a bankruptcy motion in US Bankruptcy Court in Worcester, saying a lawsuit by a Lenox millionaire threatens the existence of the controversial fundamentalist organization.
The so-called Chapter 11 petition automatically stays all legal actions against The Bible Speaks.
The bankruptcy motion sparked a bitter response from the millionaire's lawyer, Gordon Walker, who called the motion a "tactical maneuver" designed to thwart justice for his client, Elizabeth D. Dovydenas, 33.
In June, Dovydenas sued The Bible Speaks in an attempt to retrieve nearly $7 million she had given the organization. She claimed the group's founder, Rev. Carl H. Stevens, and other church officials had lied to her and exerted ''undue influence" to solicit her money.
"It is a maneuver by The Bible Speaks to deprive the state court of jurisdiction in the matter and to deprive Mrs. Dovydenas of her right to a jury trial," Walker said. "Bankruptcy courts are not to be used as a tactical maneuver in civil litigation."
Norman Roy Grutman of New York, one of the attorneys for The Bible Speaks, denied Walker's charges.
"The financial condition of the organization is imperiled by the claim," Grutman said. "It is an appropriate legal step we are taking to protect our client's interests."
"I do not believe a jury would have been appropriate in this case," Grutman said. He would not elaborate.
The bankruptcy motion, filed Tuesday, is the latest volley in a bitter legal battle that began in June when Dovydenas filed suit.
Dovydenas' suit states the church befriended her only to pressure her to give hundreds of donations, some of which she alleges Stevens appropriated for private use.
Stevens denied any improper use of the money and said Dovydenas was in her right mind when she gave the money and has no legal right to demand its return.
Walker said that "we will certainly act quickly" in consideration of the bankruptcy claim but that he had reached no decision about whether to oppose it in court.
HEIRESS URGES JUDGE TO DISMISS PETITION
Author: Date: 08/21/1986 Page: 69
NEW ENGLAND NEWS BRIEFS
WORCESTER -- The attorney for a department store heiress seeking return of $7 million she gave to the Bible Speaks Church of Lenox urged a US Bankruptcy Court judge yesterday to dismiss a petition by the church for protection under bankruptcy laws. "It's an abuse of the jurisdiction of this court," said Gordon T. Walker, maintaining the aim of the Chapter 11 reoganization petition was to stall his client's suit in state court for the return of her money. Elizabeth Dovydenas, 33, whose father was one of the founders of the Minneapolis-based Dayton Hudson retail chain, claims in her suit filed in Berkshire Superior Court that the Lenox-based fundamentalist sect to which she belonged obtained the money through undue influence and fraud. Judge James F. Queenan Jr. adjourned the case until Sept 10 for a hearing into the state of the church's finances.
CHURCH'S BANKRUPTCY PETITION CHALLENGED PLAINTIFF IN $7M LAW SUIT AGAINST 'BIBLE SPEAKS' SAYS ACTION IS A PLOY
Author: By Dick Lehr, Globe Staff
Date: 09/11/1986 Page: 26
WORCESTER -- For the first time in a $7 million fight between a Lenox woman and the officials of a fundamentalist church she left last January, the two sides met in the same courtroom yesterday. They eyed one another warily, but kept their distance.
Elizabeth D. Dovydenas, 33, sat with her husband, Jonas, in the back row of the federal bankruptcy courtroom. Most of the time, her head was bowed as she did needlepoint.
In June, she sued The Bible Speaks, seeking the return of nearly $7 million she had given the controversial group. She claimed that its founder, Rev. Carl H. Stevens, and other church officials had lied to her, won her devotion and then defrauded her.
The battle involving big money and a fundamentalist church, has often featured harsh words between attorneys and charges that God's name has been used to defraud an impressionable woman of nearly one-third of her fortune.
Stevens, 55, wearing a dark suit, sat in the front row, surrounded by his followers. In July, the church, citing the Dovydenas lawsuit and financial problems, filed a bankruptcy motion in US Bankruptcy Court, a so-called Chapter 11 petition that automatically stays lawsuits against the church.
Now, Dovydenas has challenged the church's bankruptcy filing, claiming it is an abuse of the bankruptcy laws and a legal ploy to avoid facing the $7 million lawsuit. Testimony will continue today and Dovydenas is expected to take the stand.
Yesterday, most of the testimony involved the church's assertions about its
financial woes, and the few dramatic moments came when the church's attorney asked Stevens about the Dovydenas money.
All heads in the courtroom turned as attorney Norman Roy Grutman pointed with a flourish at Dovydenas and recited the claims she made against the church -- that Stevens and others "tricked" and "exercised deception" against her and ordered her to keep secret that she had given the church money. Stevens denied every claim.
"Have you ever instructed her in any way to be mendacious or untruthful?" Grutman asked, referring to Dovydenas' claim that Stevens instructs followers to lie if it protects the church. Stevens said, "Absolutely not."
During the morning, Grutman, referring to Dovydenas' needlepoint, said, "I see Madame Defarge is here," a reference to the woman in Charles Dicken's "A Tale of Two Cities" who sat knitting in court while others were sent to the guillotine.
Also at issue is an April 1985 letter Dovydenas wrote saying one gift she made, for $5 million, was made freely and without pressure. Dovydenas disputes the church's position that the letter proves the validity of the gifts, claiming it was the result of undue influence.
Stevens has declined to comment publicy about the legal warfare, but Grutman said yesterday during a recess, "What's involved is the survival of The Bible Speaks."
The appearance of Dovydenas was her first so far at the many legal sessions in a dispute that already has made swings through various courts -- first in probate court and then in superior court in Pittsfield and now in the US Bankruptcy Court.
"My complaint states it clearly -- I'm very angry about what was done to me at The Bible Speaks," she said during a brief interview, referring to the legal charges of fraud and undue influence. "I've been hurt and other people have been hurt."
She said she was pursuing the legal claim not only to retrieve her money, but also "so other people won't be hurt -- emotionally, financially, in every way. Spiritually."
Dovydenas is the daughter of Wallace C. Dayton, one of five brothers who built the Dayton Hudson Corp., the nation's fifth-largest retailer with $8.5 billion in reported sales last year. She moved to Lenox in 1981 with her husband and two children and became increasingly active in the church. Its headquarters are on 86 lush acres of a former private boarding school.
Yesterday's hearing also revealed seldom seen financial and other information about the church's legal defense. Court papers, filed as part of a package of information outlining the church's financial obligations, showed that the church paid Grutman a retainer of $500,000, of which more than half has been spent so far. Grutman later called it a "legal war chest." The same papers showed that the church would need $254,000 for legal costs to defend itself at trial against the Dovydenas lawsuit.
In testimony, an accountant hired by the church said the bankruptcy motion was prudent. The church, the accountant said, had begun operating at a $1 million annual deficit. "We're talking about a $1 million shortfall in revenue that's not fixed by a cutback in pencils and paperclips," said William A. Lundquist of Coopers and Lybrand, an accounting firm. "It requires a major restructuring of the organization."
BRAINWASHING TARGET IN CHURCH FIGHT
Author: By Dick Lehr, Globe Staff
Date: 09/14/1986 Page: 43
WORCESTER -- Elizabeth D. Dovydenas, the Lenox woman trying to retrieve nearly $7 million from The Bible Speaks, testified last week that after leaving the church last January her family hired a de-programmer who counseled her for several days.
"He is an exit-counselor," Dovydenas said in response to a question at a two-day hearing in US Bankrupty Court.
"Is that a euphemism for a person who brainwashes people to leave organizations?" asked Norman Ray Grutman, an attorney for the fundamentalist organization. Dovydenas has sued the church and accused church officials of pressuring and defrauding her.
Dovydenas said The Bible Speaks had taken control of her mind, and the counselor helped her to understand "how groups work and gain control over people."
The testy exchange captured a key issue in the bitter legal fight between Dovydenas and her family and the controversial religious group: Each side says the other brainwashed her.
In her lawsuit, Dovydenas stated that officials of The Bible Speaks, including the church's founder and leader, Rev. Carl H. Stevens, exerted undue influence and used fraud to manipulate her into making donations of about $7 million, nearly a third of her fortune.
Church officials said they had been providing Dovydenas with spiritual support when her husband, Jonas, and her father, Wallace C. Dayton, took her last January and, with a counselor's help, coerced her into filing the lawsuit. Dayton is a Minnesota multimillionaire who, with his brothers, built a company that currently owns Lechmere and B. Dalton Booksellers.
During a brief interview, Dovydenas refuted the church's charge that she is under her family's control. "It's silly," she said. "I'm very much my own person."
Dovydenas' testimony in bankruptcy court, marked the latest step in the feud. Dovydenas is challenging the church's petition for bankruptcy, calling it a legal ploy to avoid her lawsuit. The church, even with Dovydenas' money, has stated it has serious financial woes.
But there was little testimony Thursday about the church's finances. Most of the questions put to Dovydenas involved the money she had given the church and her mental condition. It offered a glimpse of what a future trial might be like.
"Yes, more and more of the camel's nose is getting under the tent," Grutman said during a recess, when asked if the bankruptcy hearing offered a peek at the $7 million fight. "This is selected short previews of coming events."
In response to questions from her attorney, Gordon T. Walker of Boston, Dovydenas said Stevens had a reputation as a liar. Once, she said, she asked Stevens for guidance after she had found herself lying to her husband and her father about her church activities. "He told me that, whenever possible, I should tell the truth . . . but that I must lie to outsiders whenever it serves the purposes of The Bible Speaks."
During cross-examination, Grutman disclosed that a 1984 gift of $1 million Dovydenas had made was later deducted from her 1984 income taxes as a gift contribution. He questioned Dovydenas about numerous letters, written to the church or to her stockbroker, that authorized a gift of stocks to the church.
Grutman repeatedly pointed out that the transactions described in the letters were called "gifts" and said the "paper trail" proved she knowingly made the donations.
"Those are the words there," Dovydenas said. "I don't believe I had a mind to make a gift." Later she said, "My mind was filled with Kathy Hill's and Carl Stevens' thoughts." Hill, a codefendant, is a bookkeeper at the church and former confidante of Dovydenas.
Dovydenas, during Grutman's questioning, said the counselor played a tape of the Jonestown suicides and talked to her about Moonies and Hari Krishnas. The sessions, she said, were held over several days and involved her family.
The case was taken under advisement by Judge James F. Queenan, who said he would issue a written opinion at a future date. The parties must file final written arguments by Wednesday.
CHURCH GAINS PROTECTION IN BANKRUPTCY RULING
Author: By Dick Lehr, Globe Staff
Date: 10/12/1986 Page: 83
The Bible Speaks, a Lenox religious group facing a legal fight with a former member who wants nearly $7 million she gave the church returned, has won its bid for financial protection under Chapter 11 of the federal Bankruptcy Code.
In a 48-page decision filed Friday, Judge James F. Queenan Jr. ruled that the church's Chapter 11 claim was valid, saying Elizabeth Dayton Dovydenas' effort to recoup $7 million clearly "poses a threat to the continued existence" of the church. Under Chapter 11, a company continues to operate with court protection from lawsuits while it tries to work out a plan to repay its debts.
"The amount of the claim is staggering," wrote Queenan, a US Bankruptcy Court judge in Worcester. "The Debtor is in serious financial stress."
The judge declined to comment on the merits of the Dovydenas claim. But noting that her attorneys have acted in good faith, Queenan said: "It is unlikely that this is a frivolous claim."
Queenan's ruling means Dovydenas' fight with The Bible Speaks over the $7 million will now unfold in a bankruptcy court trial as part of the church's efforts to reorganize its finances.
The ruling stays a lawsuit Dovydenas had filed in Pittsfield Superior Court in June charging that church leaders had used undue influence and defrauded her into making the donations.
After the church first filed a Chapter 11 petition in July, Dovydenas protested to Queenan that the church was trying to abuse and exploit the bankruptcy laws to stonewall her lawsuit.
But Queenan ruled the church bankruptcy filing was not made in bad faith. The church assets, he said, are estimated at $5.9 million, of which $4.8 million is real estate, and its potential liabilities are $7.6 million, including the $7 million the church and Dovydenas are fighting about.
The church, Queenan said, faces two problems: "A cash flow problem which prevents it from meeting its current obligations and a claim which poses a threat to its continued existence."
"The present insolvency has not been self-inflicted in order to seek the protection of this Court, as charged by Mrs. Dovydenas," Queenan wrote. ''With the Dovydenas claim hanging over its head, the Debtor is unable to make long range plans or obtain the financing that it now needs."
Norman Roy Grutman of New York, the church attorney, said he was pleased with the ruling. He called the Dovydenas claim "the most insupportable burden the church has to face."
Gordon T. Walker of Boston, Dovydenas' attorney, said he would have preferred a state court trial, but "I'm perfectly happy to try it in bankruptcy court."
"I would think The Bible Speaks may be having second thoughts about the decision to file for bankruptcy protection," Walker said. Queenan's decision, he said, "raises the specter" that Dovydenas may be able to compel liquidation of the church.
In his decision, Queenan noted that in upcoming bankruptcy proceedings Dovydenas might wield enormous power. "Mrs. Dovydenas will control the creditor body if she is at all successful in establishing her claim," he said. Such control, he said, gives her the opportunity to "bring about a sale of the Lenox property to an educational or religious institution."
Dovydenas, 33, moved to Lenox in 1981 and gave the church the money during 1984 and 1985. She is the daughter of Wallace C. Dayton, one of five brothers who built the Dayton-Hudson Corp. of Minneapolis, the nation's fifth largest retailer. Before giving the church money, her own fortune exceeded $19 million.
The church, headed by Rev. Carl H. Stevens Jr., used the Dovydenas money to pay for things such as a Palm Beach, Fla., condominium; antibugging devices for telephones; conversion of a hockey rink into a church; and the church's $600,000 mortgage balance on its 86-acre complex in Lenox.
'I WAS CONNED,' SAYS HEIRESS BATTLING FUNDAMENTALIST SECT
Author: By Dick Lehr, Globe Staff
Date: 10/26/1986 Page: 33
LENOX -- During the summer four years ago, Elizabeth Dayton Dovydenas and her husband, Jonas, began attending services at The Bible Speaks. The couple, new to town and looking for a church, was impressed initially with the fundamentalist church that had nestled into the Berkshires in 1976 at the sprawling campus of a former boarding school for boys.
"It seemed like a church . . . doing things that helped people rather than just saying nice things on Sunday," Elizabeth Dovydenas, 33, said in a recent interview.
They made an offering after a few visits, but no ordinary one. Looking back, Dovydenas believes the $500 check only whetted the church's appetite. Within days, two pastors knocked at her door and began what Dovydenas now views as a relentless effort to strip her of a fortune that had totaled $19 million.
Dovydenas left the church in January and, ever since, has been embroiled in a bitter fight with the church and its founder, Pastor Carl H. Stevens Jr., about the nearly $7 million in donations she made, mostly in late 1984 and last year.
The case pits an unpretentious heiress from the Midwest, a mother of two, against a preacher who once drove a bakery truck, wears a strawberry-blond toupee and has built his Christian missionary group into a $4 million annual operation.
Two weeks ago, the church won financial protection under Chapter 11 of the federal Bankruptcy Code. The ruling means that Dovydenas' bid to retrieve the money -- the largest potential debt the church faces -- will now be decided in bankruptcy court.
Stevens' lawyers have said that the First Amendment freedom to practice a religion is at stake, while Dovydenas' lawyers assert that the issue is the abuse of that freedom. It is one thing, they say, for a preacher from the pulpit to exhort his flock to donate money, but quite another to engage in a systematic campaign to overwhelm a church member's life, driving a wedge between her and her family and finally manipulating her into turning over vast sums of money to church coffers.
The dispute will also air this week before a national audience. Reports about the case are scheduled by NBC's "1986" for Tuesday and CBS' "60 Minutes" within the next few weeks. Each has something the other doesn't. NBC interviewed Stevens; CBS' Diane Sawyer interviewed Dovydenas.
Until now, the heiress has remained something of a mystery. She was not at initial court hearings in Pittsfield, although she had approved in writing a legal maneuver giving her father temporary control of her financial affairs based in part on what court documents called "mental weakness."
The church claimed that Dovydenas had become a puppet in the clutches of her husband and father.
In September, she testified at court hearings in Worcester and dispelled the notion that the escalating legal fight with the church was being waged against her wishes.
Last week, in a rare interview, she talked at length about how she joined the church and why she is pursuing Stevens. The church's attorney declined to permit an interview with Stevens. Stevens has called Dovydenas a liar, maintained that the gifts were valid and, along with other church officials, argued they were only helping a troubled woman achieve her own identity.
In legal jargon, the Dovydenas' position involves charges that Stevens exerted undue influence and defrauded her. In her own words during a two-hour interview, she talked about "thought control," the church's alleged con game and how she turned out to be the church's "masterpiece." Others may now consider her foolish, she concedes, but that is not how she feels.
"The Bible Speaks wants us to be embarrassed and feel foolish . . . so I'll keep quiet," Dovydenas said. "But they are very good at what they do. . . . They con many people, and I was conned not because I was dumb, but
because I'm a good person. It mostly comes from how good they are at what they do.
"I'm certainly not the first one to have been hurt, but in a sense I'm their masterpiece. They got away with the most with me and I don't like feeling abused," she said at a session that also included her lawyer, Eric Dannenmaier, and her husband.
Dovydenas first became involved in The Bible Speaks in 1981, shortly after she and Jonas moved from Chicago to a 158-acre estate, known as Pine Needles about 2 miles from Tanglewood.
Her grandfather was a Presbyterian minister, but growing up, she was never particularly religious. Nonetheless, she wanted to find a church in Lenox. She
went to The Bible Speaks "partly out of curiosity," but added that she knew nothing of the trail of controversy that had followed Stevens from his start in Maine.
"Stevens is an impressive speaker," Dovydenas said. "He can make anything sound scriptural -- it's wild." She liked the church's emphasis on Bible study, but added that she realizes now that Stevens made up doctrine to fit his needs and used pressure tactics and intimidation to inculcate blind devotion to him.
"He can communicate Christ -- that's his wickedness. He doesn't do it to
serve God, but as a wonderful tool to manipulate people. . . . Christianity is easily abused."
"Not as easily as Christians," interrupted Jonas Dovydenas. It was among the few comments he made during the interview session.
Soon, she was making loans to the church. They were followed by cash donations and then transfers of stock she owned in the Dayton Hudson Corp., the retail empire her father, Wallace C. Dayton, and her uncles founded. (Locally, Dayton Hudson operates the Lechmere stores.)She spent most of her time at the church, she said, or in the company of church members. She was smothered with "love bombs" by church members who, at times, moved into her house. Told that her husband was under the influence of Satan, she was encouraged to prepare for his death. In late 1984, there was a $1 million donation. Last year, there was a $5 million donation.
"Stevens needs to separate his followers from the outside world," she said. "He taught me to toss aside any of my own thoughts and reasoning powers -- your own natural thoughts are from the devil -- to think their thoughts, which they say are God's thoughts. . . . I remember how hard they taught that."
They changed the way she talked and dressed, she said, having her adopt what she and her husband now call the "bimbo look." Her hair was dyed black ("it came out navy blue"), she had facials, wore bright lipstick and snug outfits. "They said this was the way God wanted his women to look -- feminine," said Dovydenas, who dresses today in understated wool sweaters and skirts and whose hair is prematurely gray-streaked.
By 1985, she said, the domestic family life she cherishes and her marriage to her husband, a freelance photographer who spent six weeks last year in Afghanistan photographing rebels, was in jeopardy, overwhelmed by total involvement with church members.
"I was thinking the thoughts they'd taught me to think," she said. "I gave them the money because they put so much pressure on me for so long. . . . It was their plan and it worked."
Last January, Jonas took his wife on a trip to Minnesota to visit her family, rejecting the church's bid to send along a baby sitter. In fact, he had arranged to have a professional "exit counselor" awaiting them. His wife left the church.
"It was a gutsy thing for them to do," she said. "It took Jonas and my family a long time . . . to realize that something was being done to me, that it was more than Betsy was changing."
Regarding her charges, Dovydenas said she has the financial resources and emotional strength to fight the church and never considered writing off the money as the equivalent of a bad investment. "It's important to take a stand about these kinds of groups who con people," she said. She expects the battle to grow nastier but believes the worst -- being involved in the church -- is over. "The real stress was being manipulated," she said.
"I think a lot of people were hurt more than I . . . countless numbers of marriages broken up, and they did a good job of making a shambles of our marriage, but we survived and we have our kids . . . so I think we made out pretty well, considering."
TESTIMONY SET IN HEIRESS' $7M SUIT AGAINST CHURCH
Author: By Ray Richard, Globe Staff
Date: 03/29/1987 Page: 30
In the unlikely setting of a bankruptcy court, testimony is scheduled to begin tomorrow on Elizabeth Dayton Dovydenas' claim she should get back the nearly $7 million she donated to a fundamentalist church of which she was a member.
The 33-year-old heiress from Lenox is expected to be among the more than 40 witnesses to be called before Judge James F. Queenan Jr. in US Bankruptcy Court in Worcester in a nonjury trial that could last from four to six weeks.
She contends that Rev. Carl H. Stevens, founder of the controversial The Bible Speaks, and other church officials lied to her, won her friendship and devotion, and then tricked her into donating the money.
The Lenox-based church, which claims 16,000 members in 17 states and 31 foreign countries, maintains Dovydenas donated the money willingly in appreciation for the spiritual support the church was giving her and to help The Bible Speaks assist alcoholics and others in need.
First Amendment rights, brainwashing and the extent to which one person can influence another are expected to be debated at length as Dovydenas seeks to become a creditor of the church and get back her money.
The case wound up in the bankruptcy court after Dovydenas sued the church for damages and the return of the donated money in superior court in Pittsfield.
Before that case was tried, The Bible Speaks replied that loss of the case would ruin the church financially and appealed to the US bankruptcy court for protection under a so-called Chapter 11 provision, which protects an organization from other lawsuits while it is being reorganized to stave off bankruptcy. That protection was granted. As a creditor, the heiress could have access to some of the church's assets, however.
Moving the legal action into the federal court deprived Dovydenas of the trial by jury she had sought and might have obtained had the case remained in superior court.
New York attorney Norman Roy Grutman, representing The Bible Speaks, says the First Amendment will be a key issue in the case because the amendment protects the church against such court challenges.
"This touches upon the First Amendment: To what extent can an Indian-giving donor invade the privacy of the church and its members?" he asked.
Boston attorney Gordon Walker, who represents Dovydenas, said "The First Amendment is not an issue."
"The suit," he said in an interview, "in no way is an attack on the Bible Speaks as a church. It is not an attack on the religious beliefs of The Bible Speaks. This suit focuses on what was said and done to Mrs. Dovydenas by a limited number of individuals, and the circumstances surrounding her making gifts to The Bible Speaks. It does not involve the validity of any belief."
Walker contends the woman was the victim of "undue influence" by the church leaders. Grutman says she was "brainwashed" into suing the church by ''exit counselors" hired by her family after she left the church.
Stevens, 55, a former bakery truck driver, was scheduled to be one of the first witnesses to be called by Dovydenas' attorneys after they start presenting their case this week, Walker said Wednesday at a pre-trial hearing.
He was forced to change those plans moments later when Grutman informed the court that Stevens has "other church commitments and is going to be out of the state the first week of the trial."
Stevens "is an ongoing leader of a church organization that needs him," added Grutman.
Walker was angry at what he said was unexpected news, and the judge was noticeably upset.
"Pastor Stevens should not be surprised if he's expected to be here," said Queenan. "I am displeased and chagrined that Pastor Stevens would not plan to be here from the beginning."
The judge told Grutman to "communicate to him my distinct displeasure that he might not be here. It would behoove his interest to be here."
"He will be a witness," replied Grutman. "Simply, I cannot produce him in the first week."
WITNESSES SAY HEIRESS BECAME OBSESSED AFTER JOINING CHURCH
Author: By Ray Richard, Globe Staff
Date: 03/31/1987 Page: 17
WORCESTER -- Two years after she joined the The Bible Speaks Church, the once happy, loving and friendly Elizabeth Dayton Dovydenas had turned into a suspicious, cynical, lying woman obsessed with the teachings of the fundamentalist church's founder, witnesses said yesterday in federal court here.
The 34-year-old heiress, who is trying to get back the nearly $7 million she donated to the church, acted "like a zombie," was "spaced out," and believed her family and many former friends to be evil, according to the first day's testimony in US Bankruptcy Court.
The proceedings were moved to a bankruptcy court when the church filed for bankruptcy. Originally Dovydenas, who lives in Lenox, had sued in Berkshire County Superior Court.
Dovydenas should be given back the money, attorney Gordon Walker of Boston argued, because she donated the money while under the "undue influence" of The Bible Speaks founder, Rev. Carl Stevens. The minister, Walker said in his opening statement, had been waiting for years for a rich woman to come along
because he wanted large donations to fulfill "his dream of becoming a TV evangelist."
But the Lenox-based church's attorney, Roy Norman Grutman, said in his opening statement to Judge James Queenan Jr. in the jury-waived trial that Dovydenas had given the money voluntarily because she appreciated the peace the church had given her and the good work it was doing for others.
Grutman said members of Dovydenas' family forced her to leave the church a year ago by threatening to have her found mentally incompetent and take her two children away if she refused.
Dovydenas "became extremely emotionally dependent on Pastor Stevens," said Walker, and believed him when he told her "that he had been delegated the authority of God." She eventually broke away from the church, Walker said, when she realized that Stevens had continually lied to her.
Dovydenas is the daughter of one of five brothers who founded the Dayton Hudson Corp., one of the nation's largest retailers. During the six hours of testimony, much of it alleging that she fell under Stevens' spell, she sat alternately with her counsel or on a rear bench with her husband, Jonas, and her mother, Mary Lee Dayton of Milwaukee.
Before she joined the chuch in 1982, Dovydenas "was a kind, honest person, a little shy and tentative who loved her family, loved nature and art, and was deeply in love with her husband," said Dana Baylor, 34, of Stamford, Conn., who has known Dovydenas since 1977 when the two women lived in Chicago.
Baylor said Dovydenas was "happier than I'd say she had ever been" when she moved to Lenox in the early 1980s with her husband. She entertained a lot and the couple had many friends, said Baylor, and added that she had been a very close friend until two years ago when Dovydenas changed dramatically and their friendship ended.
Soon Dovydenas became so preoccupied with the church that she talked about little else and the friendship crumbled, Baylor said.
By 1985, three years after she had joined The Bible Speaks, Dovydenas ''acted like a zombie, sort of flaked out," and consistently talked about Stevens, The Bible Speaks, and the bible itself, said Baylor.
Sally Clement, Dovydenas' older sister and a psychiatric social worker, also said her sister's personality changed after she joined The Bible Speaks. Clement, who has a doctorate in psychology from Yale, said her sister had been been "smart, well organized, somewhat shy" and a "little insecure," in her childhood, but "viewed authority with some awe and with a great deal of respect."
Clement said Dovydenas, whom she and other witnesses called Betsy throughout the testimony, was "an extremely good mother" to her two children, was "somewhat deferential" and "impressed with the many talents of her husband, a free-lance writer and photographer. Grutman has described him as seldom employed and dependent on his wife's fortune for income.
By June 1985, Clement testified, Dovydenas "seemed to be spacy, anxious, confused, in a fog, not paying attention to what was going on around her."
Upon learning of her sister's donations to the church -- one of which was $1 million -- Clement testified, she became concerned about what the donations were indicating was happening to her sister's mind.
"She seemed to have changed so dramatically," said the New York woman. ''I felt as though I had lost my sister." Then for the first time, she testified, she discussed with her parents and other members of the Dayton family her sister's changing personality and the strong relationship that existed between the Lenox woman and Stevens.
Clement admitted under Grutman's vigorous cross-examination that the family had asked Dovydenas to a meeting on the pretext it was to be a birthday party for their father. In fact, said the witness, the weekend get-together in Minnesota became a conference in which the family tried to convince Dovydenas that she had changed for the worse since joining the church, and that she should try to regain her independence.
Clement repeatedly resisted Grutman's attempts to get her to admit that the meeting was actually "a deprogramming," similar to methods used to force cult members to leave.
At no time, Clement maintained, had she or her family told Dovydenas to leave the church or used force to persuade her sister to leave. Clement also said that the family never worried about the money that was going to the church.
PSYCHOLOGIST TESTIFIES HEIRESS FELT PARENTS DID NOT PROVIDE ACCEPTANCE AND ATTENTION
Author: By Ray Richard, Globe Staff
Date: 04/01/1987 Page: 22
WORCESTER -- Elizabeth Dayton Dovydenas turned to The Bible Speaks church for the personal recognition and fulfillment she felt she never got from her family, a psychologist testified yesterday in the woman's lawsuit to recover nearly $7 million she gave to the church.
Dovydenas' wealthy parents gave her a big bank account and many worldly pleasures during her youth but not the acceptance and attention she felt she should have received, Dr. Frank Gersh said in US Bankruptcy Court here.
The Iowa City psychologist testified he found Dovydenas excessively ''susceptible to the influence of others" when he examined her a year ago, a few months after she left the church.
In the trial, which started Monday, Dovydenas claims that her money should be returned because she donated it while under the "undue influence" of the church's founder, Rev. Carl Stevens.
The church claims she donated the money voluntarily in appreciation for the happiness she found as one of its members. When Dovydenas sued for the money in a state court last year, the church said that it would be ruined financially if it gave back the funds.
The Bible Speaks sought and obtained protection from such suits in a petition filed in US Bankruptcy Court. The trial will determine if the church should return the money. If Dovydenas were to win the case, she would join other creditors in submitting to the court a plan for recovering money from the church.
Dovydenas' father is a member of a Midwestern family that founded the Dayton Hudson Corp., which is the fifth largest retailer in the United States.
Reading from notes taken during his examination of Elizabeth Dovydenas, Gersh said yesterday that she described her father as "outwardly a gentle, kind, humble person," but said he never "gave her the attention she wanted."
"Inwardly, he seemed to care only if she was socially appreciated," the psychologist said the woman told him.
Dovydenas also called The Bible Speaks a "cult" and said that Stevens and other leaders of the church exerted unusually firm control over what she did in and out of the church, Gersh testified.
Church attorney Norman Roy Grutman challenged the term "cult" to describe The Bible Speaks. Saying that cult has a perjorative meaning not applicable to the church, Grutman has insisted since the trial began that the church is reputable.
Grutman also challenged the credibility of Dovydenas' statements to the psychologist demeaning the church and its founder. The lawyer said the woman was examined during a two-week process when she was detaching herself from the church.
That process, Grutman said, included a "deprogramming" or "exit counseling" session initiated and financed by her family. The lawyer called the counseling "brainwashing" and said it could have "warped or distorted" the woman's feelings about the church and its leaders.
HEIRESS TELLS OF SPANKINGS SAYS CHURCH SHE GAVE $6.6M TO ADVISED HARSH PUNISHMENT OF CHILDREN
Author: By Ray Richard, Globe Staff
Date: 04/02/1987 Page: 17
WORCESTER -- Elizabeth Dayton Dovydenas followed the advice of The Bible Speaks church so devotedly that, as the church suggested, she spanked her two young children until they were "bruised and blistered," she testified yesterday.
Despite the obvious injuries she was causing, the head of the church taught her that she "should not feel bad about that," the Lenox woman said here in US Bankruptcy Court, where she is trying to get back the $6.62 million she gave the church.
She said she spanked her son and daughter, then 4 and 2 years old, with a wooden spoon as instructed in a course on child behavior she took at The Bible Speaks school in Lenox.
Before she joined the church, she testified, "I would only give my children a little bop on the diaper. I would never pull down their pants and spank them on the bare behind. I would never have done anything like that."
She stopped her testimony, sobbed for a moment, then wiped tears from her eyes and cheeks. "Do you want some time?" Judge James M. Queenan asked. ''I'll be all right," she said, and she resumed her testimony on what she described as extreme domination of her mind and will by Carl Stevens, pastor of the controversial fundamentalist church.
Dovydenas, the daughter of one of five Midwestern brothers who founded Dayton Hudson Corp., one of the nation's largest retailing firms, contends in her suit that she made the donations because Stevens possessed "undue influence" over her. She belonged to the church for three years until she left it a year ago.
The Bible Speaks alleges that the 34-year-old mother of two, whose wealth has been set at $20 million by earlier witnesses, gave the money willingly
because she appreciated her membership in the church.
When Dovydenas sued for the money in a state court last year, the church sought and was given protection from such suits under federal bankruptcy laws. If Dovydenas wins her suit in federal court she will be added to the list of church creditors, all of whom have small amounts they are trying to collect, according to her lawyers. As a creditor, Dovydenas could force the church to produce the $6.62 million by selling its extensive land holdings in the Berkshires and Florida, or by other means.
Dovydenas, under direct examination by her attorney, Gordon Walker, seemed relaxed except when she talked about the spankings. She said she constantly was under the control of Stevens in matters concerning her personal life, her relationship with her friends, her family, her finances and with the Bible, even to the way she dressed.
She testified that whenever she heard Stevens speak, she believed "God was speaking." The pastor, she said, continually referred to himself as "God's man."
Soon after she joined the church in 1982, she testified, she began to believe that Stevens "was my God."
"He was like a god to me," she said. She said Stevens constantly told her that she was a very important person in the world because with her money, she could help God perform acts that he wanted to perform in the world. And she believed those claims, she told Queenan.
"I felt my money had great power," she testified. "I even came to feel that by giving money to The Bible Speaks church I could change the course of human history."
In April 1985, she said, she told Stevens that she wanted to contribute $5 million to the church. She said Stevens told her that by donating the money to the church, "I would be allowing God to complete work he wanted to complete on this earth before cataclysmic events take over, including a military takeover of the United States, and the end of the world would come soon after that."
HEIRESS BREAKS DOWN ON WITNESS STAND
Author: Date: 04/03/1987 Page: 15
NEW ENGLAND NEWS IN BRIEF
WORCESTER -- Elizabeth Dayton Dovydenas broke down on the witness stand yesterday while telling why she left the The Bible Speaks church two years ago. She made the decision, she testified in US Bankruptcy court here, during a confrontation in Minnesota with her parents and other family members. She was lured to the meeting, she testified, on the pretense it was to be a birthday party for her father. Among those invited, without her knowledge, were two professional "exit-counselors" skilled in the dynamics of cults and how members can break away from such groups, she said.
DEFENSE SAYS HEIRESS HAD FREEDOM TO COMPLAIN TO CHURCH LEADERS
Author: By Ray Richard, Globe Staff
Date: 04/04/1987 Page: 38
WORCESTER -- Elizabeth Dayton Dovydenas's credibility was given its severest test yet in her lawsuit against The Bible Speaks church yesterday during nearly five hours of often harsh cross-examination in US Bankruptcy court here.
Most of the questions fired at her by attorney Norman Roy Grutman tested her contention that Rev. Carl H. Stevens, head of the Lenox-based fundamentalist church, dominated her mind and will during the last 2 1/2 years she was a member of the church.
Using Dovydenas's answers, Grutman tried to persuade Judge James M. Queenan that Dovydenas continually had opportunities to complain to the church's leaders if she disliked her relationship with Stevens, but never did so.
Dovydenas, whose father was one of five brothers who founded Dayton Hudson Corp. in the Midwest, a large retailing firm, charges in the suit that she gave about $6.6 million to the church because of Stevens' "undue influence" on her.
The Bible Speaks argues that she donated the money because she enjoyed her membership in the church. It maintains she left the church in early 1985 at the request of her husband because he rebelled at her donating so much money to the church.
After Dovydenas sued the church for the $6.6 million, The Bible Speaks said it would be ruined financially if it lost the case, and turned to the federal brankruptcy laws for protection. Stevens is scheduled to testify Monday.
PASTOR ADMITS PLEDGE ON GIFTS FROM HEIRESS
Author: By Ray Richard, Globe Staff
Date: 04/07/1987 Page: 73
WORCESTER -- Although he had promised not to accept any large contributions
from Elizabeth Dayton Dovydenas unless her husband, Jonas, knew about them, the founder of The Bible Speaks Church testified yesterday he accepted $5 million from her without her husband being informed about the gift.
He accepted the $5 million in the spring of 1985, Rev. Carl H. Stevens said in US Bankruptcy Court, because he "assumed" that the Lenox heiress had discussed it with her husband.
The 57-year-old pastor of the fundamentalist church said he concluded Jonas Dovydenas knew about the gift because Elizabeth, called "Betsy" throughout the trial, had assured him that "her family, her marriage, her future security would not be jeopardized."
Stevens testified he did not try to establish if Jonas had heard about his wife's intention of donating the money because she requested confidentiality when she proposed the gift. He told Judge James M. Queenan that he and the directors of the church decided to accept the money because she had declared that "God told her" to give the money to the church.
Dovydenas claims in her suit that the donation was part of $6.6 million in contributions she made to The Bible Speaks while under the "undue influence" of Stevens. She belonged to the church from the summer of 1982 until early 1986.
Seeking a return of the money, Mrs. Dovydenas maintains that Stevens exerted a harmful influence on her financial matters and in her family life that transcended his role as her religious preacher and counselor.
Among her complaints, unfolded during three days on the witness stand, was the allegation that Stevens had tried to break up her marriage by calling Jonas "evil" and advising her not to tell her husband about her financial affairs. Stevens denies all the allegations.
Jonas Dovydenas, 48, a Lithuanian immigrant, complained to Stevens in the fall of 1985, according to testimony, that he was alarmed at the gifts his wife was making to The Bible Speaks without his knowledge.
Stevens said he told Mrs. Dovydenas "that we're not going to take any more gifts from you unless Jonas knows about it." In response to questions
from Dovydenas' attorney, Gordon Walker, the minister said he did so because of the marital problems the donations were causing the couple.
Stevens, who founded the church in South Berwick, Maine, in 1973 and moved it to Lenox in 1976, repeatedly denied allegations made earlier by Mrs. Dovydenas that he had told her that Jonas and her parents were "wicked," that everything Stevens said was "the word of God," and that she had a special calling from God "to give money to the church."
MINISTER TESTIFIES HE DIDN'T TRICK HEIRESS
Author: By Ray Richard, Globe Staff
Date: 04/08/1987 Page: 65
WORCESTER -- The founder of The Bible Speaks church in Lenox denied yesterday that he knew that Elizabeth Dovydenas planned to give nearly $6.6 million in donations to the church.
The heiress has testified earlier in federal bankruptcy proceedings involving the church that the minister, with the help of other members, tricked her into giving $1 million in November 1984 and the remainder by transferring stocks in her family's company the following May.
On his second day as a witness in US Bankruptcy Court, Rev. Carl H. Stevens continued to deny virtually everything accusatory or derogatory that the Lenox heiress had said on the witness stand about her relationship with him and The Bible Speaks church during the 2 1/2 years she was a member of the church.
Speaking softly but clearly before a capacity courtroom crowd, Stevens scoffed at the heiress' claim that he knew she would make the gift in the belief that the donation would cause God to cure migraine headaches that were plaguing Barbara Stevens, the minister's wife.
Dovydenas had testified she told the minister of this motive, but yesterday the minister maintained that he and the heiress never discussed the headaches.
Stevens also denied Dovydenas' claim that she gave The Bible Speaks $5 million in May of 1985 because the minister's wife had said the donation would free a member of The Bible Speaks who was imprisoned by border guards in Romania.
Stevens said he did not know at the time what his wife had told Dovydenas about the church member, who was released after 24 hours. He denied her testimony that she gave $2,000 for construction of a conference center in the spring of 1983 when he appealed for financial help for the project while dining at her home.
Dovydenas testified earlier that she had often met with the minister. She said she would attend Bible school at 8 a.m., then a one-hour "rap session" with him and other members of the congregation. She had said she would sometimes attend the broadcasting of the church's radio talk show, and then meet him in his office."
Dovydenas is trying to prove that Stevens exerted "undue influence" on her to persuade her to give $6.6 million to the fundamentalist, nondenominational church. If she wins the case, she could force the church to sell some of its holdings in the Berkshires and in Florida.
The Bible Speaks, which is utilizing protection of federal bankruptcy laws, claims Dovydenas gave the money willingly and that if it had to repay the $6.6 million it would be ruined.
To her testimony that Stevens constantly interfered with her marriage and tried to get control of her money, the minister said he stayed away from such matters.
"It's not my business to invade another's privacy," he told Judge James M. Queenan.
"Did you ever entice or lure this wealthy heiress into your church?" attorney Norman Roy Grutman, the church's lawyer, asked him.
"No," Stevens replied. "She misshaped everything."
WIFE OF MINISTER CHANGES ANSWER IN BIBLE SPEAKS TRIAL
Author: By Ray Richard, Globe Staff
Date: 04/09/1987 Page: 34
WORCESTER -- The wife of Rev. Carl Stevens, founder of The Bible Speaks church, changed her testimony when pressed under questioning yesterday in US Bankruptcy Court.
The contradiction occurred in the trial over the claim by heiress Elizabeth (Betsy) Dovydenas that the Lenox-based fundamentalist church duped her into giving $6.6 million to the church. She seeks to get the money back.
Under examination by attorney Gordon Walker, counsel for Dovydenas, Barbara Stevens continually denied informing the heiress that the witness' migraine headaches had continued after Dovydenas donated $1 million in 1984.
The heiress testified earlier that she gave the money in the belief the donation would please God, and he then would cure the woman. Although the headaches continued after the gift was made, according to Dovydenas, Stevens and her husband both assured the heiress that Barbara Stevens had been cured. Dovydenas later donated $5 million to the church.
"Did you tell Mrs. Dovydenas that after she gave the $1 million gift, the headaches continued?" Walker asked the witness several times. Each time she replied: "No. She knew I was having them. She could tell by my eyes."
When Walker confronted her with her admission in a pretrial deposition that she had told Dovydenas, she admitted it.
"Why didn't you tell Mr. Walker yes?" asked the judge.
"I don't know," the woman responded. "I should have said yes."
Walker is trying to prove that by donating large sums in the belief it would cure headaches and cause other events to happen to benefit the church or its members, Dovydenas was under the "undue influence" of the church.
On the stand earlier yesterday, Rev. Stevens denied Dovydenas' allegation that he had declared anyone who criticizes him or his church would be punished by God.
Attorney Eric Dannenmaier of the heiress' legal team then played a tape of Stevens speaking to his congregation, one of hundreds of tapes the minister made available to his followers.
In it, Stevens says to anyone who criticizes persons in authority, "I will guarantee you will become weak and sick and die in the future months."
Pressed by Walker, the minister said he was not talking about physical death but "spiritual death," which, he said, is one of "six kinds of death" mentioned in the Bible.
CHURCH MEMBER TESTIFIES IN TRIAL
Author: By Ray Richard, Globe Staff
Date: 04/10/1987 Page: 25
REPLATE EDITION ONLY
WORCESTER -- A member of The Bible Speaks church, accused by Elizabeth "Betsy" Dovydenas of having betrayed her, cried on the witness stand yesterday and said she had loved the wealthy Lenox woman at the time "and still do, no matter what happens."
"She loved me. We were friends," Kathleen Hill, a 35-year old bookkeeper, testified in US Bankruptcy court, where Dovydenas is suing the church for $6.6 million she donated to it while a member in 1984 and 1985.
The founder of the church, contending she willingly donated the money, says the church will be ruined if it has to pay back the $6.6 million.
Hill burst into tears and for several minutes was unable to continue answering questions from Gordon Walker, one of Dovydenas's lawyers. After regaining her composure , Hill denied she had manipulated Dovydenas into making large gifts to the church or in any other way betrayed their friendship, as Dovydenas charges.
She fought back tears later under questioning by Norman Roy Grutman, the church's lawyer. Grutman asked if the church's founder, Rev. Carl Stevens, had played any role in Dovydenas's changing of her will so that nearly all of her wealth would be left to The Bible Speaks church.
Hill said Stevens "had nothing to do" with the transaction, which Hill admitted occurred in her presence in the office of the church's attorney.
In the nonjury trial before Judge James Queenan, Dovydenas is trying to prove that Stevens, aided by his wife, Barbara, and Hill, intervened so deeply into her personal and financial life that her marriage was nearly wrecked.
TEMPESTUOUS BIBLE SPEAKS TRIAL NEARS A CONCLUSION
Author: By Ray Richard, Globe Staff
Date: 04/12/1987 Page: 30
WORCESTER -- Life was sweet for Elizabeth (Betsy) Dovydenas six years ago when she and her husband, Jonas, moved from Chicago to a big estate known as Pine Needles in the Berkshires, 2 miles from Tanglewood.
At the age of 28, she was a millionaire. She was "wonderfully in love," she recalls, with the free-lance photographer she had married. She could hike along trails under 100-foot pines that hid her home in Lenox from the street. ''My dream had come true," she said recently during testimony in US Bankruptcy Court.
Two miles away, The Bible Speaks Church was attracting increasing attention. Rev. Carl H. Stevens Jr. was building the congregation of the fundamentalist church he had founded 10 years earlier in Maine, and word of his Bible-based teaching was spreading throughout the Berkshires and into other states.
Today, Dovydenas and The Bible Speaks are locked in a bitter court battle that Stevens says could wreck his church financially. In a courtroom crowded with members of The Bible Speaks and other spectators, Dovydenas has testified that the church she joined in 1982 nearly cost her all of her fortune and her marriage. Stevens has called the charges nonsense.
In a jury-waived trial that is expected to end this week, the former Minneapolis socialite is trying to get back $6.6 million she donated to The Bible Speaks during the three years she was a member.
She contends Stevens used "undue influence" and fraud to induce her to make donations to the church. She says he abused the faith she had in him as her minister by transferring that allegiance to her personal life in an attempt to get her money.
Stevens, 57, insists Dovydenas donated the money voluntarily and should not get it back. He says she left the church due to "the subterfuge and guile" of her husband and parents because they were envious that Dovydenas was giving her money to Stevens' church.
The trial has been shaped by tearful witnesses recalling friendships now wrecked, testy exchanges between two skilled and articulate lawyers, and two sharply contrasting tales of the relationship between the silver-tongued clergyman and his once faithful follower.
Dovydenas is the daughter of Wallace Dayton of Minneapolis, one of five brothers who founded the Dayton Hudson Corp., which owns B. Dalton Bookseller, Lechmere, and a cluster of supermarket chains. He has given each of his four daughters "millions," according to testimony. Dovydenas has an art degree
from the University of Minnesota.
On its 28-acre Lenox site, The Bible Speaks operates The Stevens School of the Bible, with about 550 students, and The Stevens Christian School, a day school for children with about 300 students. The church has about 1,200 local members, conducts a daily radio talk show broadcast throughout the country, and has working arrangements with autonomous religious organizations in 12 states and 18 foreign countries.
The testimony before Judge James F. Queenan Jr. has pitted Dovydenas against three members of The Bible Speaks that she says were her closest friends: Stevens, his wife, Barbara, and Kathleen M. Hill, a bookkeeper at the church.
Dovydenas says that Stevens, through his wife and Hill, tricked her into believing that "God gave me my money so I could give it to The Bible Speaks"; into donating large sums to the church; and into changing her will so that his church would get most of her fortune.
"He said he had the delegated authority of God, that when he speaks, it is Jesus speaking," testified Dovydenas, who often does needlepoint while listening to the court proceedings from a back bench. "I was afraid I would be punished by God, even to having my life shortened, if I didn't obey him."
So Jonas wouldn't dissuade her from giving large sums to the church, she testified, Stevens told her that her husband was "evil, could not be trusted, and had to be lied to."
She said the resulting stress almost led to a divorce.
Stevens testified he never used "undue influence" on her, nor interfered in her marriage or financial matters. He said she gave each of the donations voluntarily after she had stated that God told her to do so. "I believe if God told her, I had the obligation to honor what God told her to give," the minister testified.
Both lawyers have agreed with the findings of a psychologist who testified that Dovydenas, while a member of The Bible Speaks, was "more susceptible than the average person" to the influence of others, a condition he called ''most probably the product of her childhood upbringing."
The First Amendment right of a church to be insulated from the probings of the government is a major issue, insists Norman Roy Grutman, the church's attorney.
But Dovydenas' attorney, Gordon T. Walker, insists the First Amendment is not an issue. He says Stevens' alleged manipulation of Dovydenas occurred not in his role of minister, but as an intruder into the woman's financial and marital affairs.
The case was moved to bankruptcy court from Superior Court when the church sought protection under Chapter 11 bankruptcy laws.
DEPROGRAMMER IS TAKING A CLOSE LOOK AT TRIAL
Author: By Paul Hirshson, Globe Staff
Date: 04/12/1987 Page: 30
SAUGUS -- At 34, David Clark's youthful looks belie his range of experience
from a rather wide-eyed adherent of a cultish religious group called "The Walk," in the 1970s, to a man who now makes his living opposing cults.
Clark, who lives in the Philadelphia area, was in Massachusetts last week for a closer look at a trial in which Elizabeth Dovydenas, a millionaire from Lenox, was suing Carl Stevens, head of The Bible Speaks church, over a nearly $7 million gift.
Clark's interest was more than academic: In early 1986, at the urging of Dovydenas' father and husband, he met with her in Minneapolis for nearly a week, trying to persuade her to loosen or sever her ties to The Bible Speaks.
He came to this point nearly 12 years after he left The Walk in disillusionment. "After I left, friends started coming to me, asking me about the recruiting tactics of different religious groups around then, like the followers of Sun Myung Moon -- some call him reverend, but I believe it's an honorary title."
From this seemingly casual sharing of information, there came requests to actually take action. "Some families asked me if I could find their son or daughter who had joined a group popular at that time, The Forever Family," said Clark. And once he started doing that, a fulltime career of studying, lecturing and "exit-counseling," or deprogramming, began.
Since then, he says, he has counseled hundreds of former cult members and their families, for which he sometimes receives a fee of $250 per day.
Clark was staying in this town as the guest of Thomas Sullivan, a retired contractor who has three adult children and four grandchildren in The Bible Speaks. Sullivan has actively opposed The Bible Speaks and its leaders, picketing at its Lenox headquarters and at various other sites around the state.
He said he was once knocked to the ground and had his picket sign snatched away in Framingham by someone whom he believes was connected with The Bible Speaks.
Sullivan said his 33-year-old daughter, Anne, is married to a church staff member, John Lloyd. They are members of The Bible Speaks, along with their twin son and daughter. Also, Sullivan's 30-year-old son, John, his wife and two children are with the church in Ecuador, and his other son, Patrick, 27, is in the church.
Sullivan said that, although he sees his children occasionally, they are ''alien to me." But, he added, "I still love them and they still love me."
Clark did not visit Sullivan to plan a deprogramming, but to give him advice and support in his opposition to Stevens and his church.
The deprogramming of Dovydenas went on for a week, Clark said, but he would not talk specifically about their discussions because of the trial now under way in Worcester.
After the week, Dovydenas returned to Lenox. When asked if he thought then that the deprogramming "worked," Clark replied: "I knew Betsy Dovydenas had some things to sort out. Betsy recognized what the issues were."
Thomas Sullivan, who appeared to be grateful for Clark's moral support, spoke of his own family and his own issues. "I want to expose this guy Stevens, expose what he's doing. There's no way I can get my children back, short of kidnapping, and then they'd be too hostile."
BIBLE SPEAKS LAWYER CLASHES WITH JUDGE
WRITING OF HEIRESS' WILL IS QUESTIONED
Author: By Ray Richard, Globe Staff
Date: 04/16/1987 Page: 71
WORCESTER -- The judge and the lawyer for The Bible Speaks Church clashed yesterday as another attorney testified that while representing the church he rewrote a will for Elizabeth D. Dovydenas that would have left The Bible Speaks most of her fortune.
The exchanges between Judge James F. Queenan, Jr., and attorney Norman Roy Grutman occurred in US Bankruptcy Court as attorney Andrew Campoli of Pittsfield spoke about the new will he helped Dovydenas write in the fall of 1985.
The will, Campoli said, would have limited Dovydenas' husband, Jonas, to the minimum bequeath required to be left to a surviving spouse under the law, and would have left her two young children only her jewelry.
Dovydenas had testified that she wanted to change the will because Rev. Carl H. Stevens, founder of The Bible Speaks, had led her to believe her husband was evil. She signed that will, but later changed it to leave more to her husband and children.
She is suing the church for the $6.6 million she donated to The Bible Speaks while a member of the church, charging that Stevens used "undue influence" over her.
Queenan, in his most intensive questioning of witnesses yet in the three- week old trial, asked Campoli if he felt he was representing Dovydenas properly since another of Campoli's clients was to benefit by the will.
Campoli repeatedly denied any violation of the lawyers' professional code of ethics and insisted that Dovydenas knew he also did legal work for the church.
"This smacks of a professional inquisition," said Grutman, jumping to his feet as Queenan tried to determine how extensively Campoli had informed Dovydenas of any risk she might have taken by having the same lawer as The Bible Speaks.
Queenan overruled Grutman's objection and proceded with the same line of interrogation.
Earlier, Queenan had asked Campoli, "Did you realize that she might not be getting independent professional advice on the will?"
"That's not an appropriate question," said Grutman. Queenan refused his objection, and continued with his questioning.
Asked if he felt such legal work was a conflict of the lawyers' professional code of ethics, Campoli replied, "Absolutely not. If I had thought there had been, I never would have gone through with it."
Campoli said Stevens had introduced him to Dovydenas and they subsequently met 12 times to discuss the will and other matters.
But at no time, said Campoli, did he inform Stevens or anyone else from The Bible Speaks about the legal work he did for the woman. Campoli said that at all 12 meetings with Dovydenas, Kathleen Hill, an employee of the church, ''was present and contributed to the conversation and asked questions."
Dovydenas claims Hill and Stevens' wife, Barbara, helped the minister induce her to give the $6.6 million and interfered in her financial and marital affairs.
Final arguments are scheduled for today.
ARGUMENTS CLOSE TRIAL OF SUIT AGAINST BIBLE SPEAKS
Author: By Ray Richard, Globe Staff
Date: 04/17/1987 Page: 36
WORCESTER -- Declaring that the First Amendment protects the religious teachings of churches from the scrutiny of judges, the lawyer for The Bible Speaks said yesterday the $6.6 million suit against it should be dismissed.
The request by attorney Norman Roy Grutman was taken under advisement by Judge James F. Queenan Jr. on the final day of the three-week old trial in US Bankruptcy Court.
The judge gave no indication of when he will reveal his decision.
Elizabeth D. (Betsy) Dovydenas of Lenox, who wants back the $6.6 million she gave The Bible Speaks, donated the money because "God told her to," Grutman said.
"That is the insuperable obstacle" in the woman's case, Grutman told the judge, because "the First Amendment says on that ground you cannot interfere" with the relationships of a church and a member of its congregation.
But Gordon T. Walker, attorney for Dovydenas, denied that the First Amendment was an issue.
"The only real issue is credibility," Walker said in his closing argument.
He said that "two diametrically opposite versions" of why Dovydenas donated the money were told on the witness stand by Dovydenas and Rev. Carl Stevens, founder of the Lenox church.
Dovydenas testified that she contributed the money while she was a member of The Bible Speaks because of the clergyman's "undue influence," fraud and manipulation of her.
Stevens testified she donated the money voluntarily because she found happiness in The Bible Speaks and wanted to help it. "If Dovydenas is believed, she has made out a compelling case of undue influence," Walker told the judge. "She trusted him, she respected him, she loved him, and he knew it."
He said Stevens "exploited" this faith and loyalty to induce her to give large sums of money to his church.
Walker said that Stevens lied when, according to Dovydenas, the minister told her Dovydenas' husband was filled with demons, and that a $1 million donation cured Stevens' wife's headaches.
"The First Amendment does not protect lying, even by pastors," said Walker.
Dovydenas is the daughter of a wealthy Midwestern retailer. If she wins the case, she could force the church to sell some of its holdings in this state and Florida to raise the money to repay her.
CHURCH ORDERED TO RETURN $6.5M
Author: By Ray Richard, Globe Staff
Date: 05/20/1987 Page: 1
Accusing the founder of The Bible Speaks church of deceit, greed and the ''astounding" manipulation of a loyal follower, US Bankruptcy Judge James F. Queenan Jr. ordered the church yesterday to return all of the $6.5 million donated to it by Lenox millionaire Elizabeth (Betsy) Dovydenas.
Rejecting the church's claim that the First Amendment forbids such intervention by a judge, Queenan said the conduct of Rev. Carl H. Stevens Jr. toward the woman in the two years she belonged to the church "reeks of undue influence."
His decision set the stage for the possible forced liquidation of the 70- acre headquarters in Lenox of the fundamentalist church with 1,200 parishioners and an estimated 20,000 followers in the United States and 18 foreign countries. Dovydenas, 34, the daughter of a wealthy Midwestern retailer, was "ecstatic" at the decision, said the head of her legal team, Boston attorney Gordon T. Walker. Her wealth amounted to $19 million before she joined the church, the judge said.
She was unavailable for comment yesterday but is scheduled to discuss the decision at a news conference today in Walker's law office, the attorney said.
No comment was available from the church or from Stevens, 57, who founded the evangelical church in Maine and moved it to Lenox in 1976. Telephone calls to the church headquarters for a reaction to the decision were referred to Stevens' lawyer, Norman Roy Grutman of New York.
Grutman was out of town and would not be available until late last evening, an assistant in his office said. At the end of three weeks of testimony on April 9, Grutman said if he lost the decision he probably would appeal it all the way to the US Supreme Court, if necessary.
Grutman had argued that the First Amendment prevents judges from ruling on religious beliefs. Walker argued, however, that the case did not concern the validity of religious beliefs but only the alleged excessive influence exerted by a minister over a trusting parishioner.
Dovydenas, the mother of two young children, donated the money during 2 1/2 years she and her husband, Jonas, belonged to the church. She left the church in December 1985, when, she testified, she saw the minister lie with his hand on a bible.
Under the payment plan, which must be approved by Queenan, The Bible Speaks would have several years, or the time an appeal might require, to raise the $6,581,365.25 it must repay the woman.
The church "will come out of this if they are able to pay off Mrs. Dovydenas's claim," Walker said. "If they are not able to pay off the claim, then their assets will be used to satisfy the claim."
He said "wiping out the church is not our goal. The Bible Speaks was in existence for a long time before Betsy gave it $6.5 million. I know of no reason why it can't continue to exist afterward. Whether it stays in Lenox, I don't know."
Queenan issued his decision five weeks after a nonjury trial in US Bankruptcy Court in Worcester. The case, originally scheduled to be tried in a state court, was moved to the federal court at the request of the church, which wanted the protection of the federal bankruptcy laws in the event it lost the case.
Queenan said in his 60-page decision that the testimony revealed "an astonishing saga of clerical deceit, avarice, and subjugation" by Stevens, who "has abused the trust of the claimant as well as the trust of many good and devout members of the church."
The judge described the woman as intelligent and trusting, but said the minister achieved "total dominion and control over her." Queenan said that Stevens' wife, Barbara, 34, and Kathleen Hill, a 34-year-old office worker at the church, teamed with the minister to persuade Dovydenas that she "was a special person anointed by God to promote good through gifts of her money to the church."
Queenan said Betsy and Jonas Dovydenas "were forthright and credible" witnesses. He said that the other three "were evasive and lacking in credibility" and that their testimony "conflicted with much undisputed, documented evidence."
The judge found that Betsy "sought and accepted advice from Stevens on every aspect of her life: spiritual, marital, family, social, personal and financial." He said Steven's influence over the woman was achieved in part ''by deceit and insincerity" and that the minister's "attempts to ruin the claimant's marriage were intentional and malicious."
Stevens was insincere, said Queenan, "when he constantly told her that she had the power to release God's judgment by bringing miracles through her gifts to the church, that her primary purpose in life was to give her wealth to the church, and that Jonas and others were controlled by demons."
HEIRESS FEELS SYMPATHY FOR CHURCH MEMBERS
VICTOR SAYS BIBLE SPEAKS RULING MAY CAUSE DEFECTIONS; CHURCH
LAWYER VOWS TO APPEAL
Author: By Ray Richard, Globe Staff
Date: 05/21/1987 Page: 36
The woman who won a $6.5 million suit against The Bible Speaks said yesterday she has sympathy for members of the church but not for its founder, Rev. Carl H. Stevens Jr.
Elizabeth (Betsy) Dovydenas said during a Boston news conference that the judge's finding castigating the minister and requiring The Bible Speaks to return the money she gave it may prompt other members to leave the church, as she did.
"There are so many people who suffered so much more at The Bible Speaks than I did," said Dovydenas, the daughter of a wealthy Midwestern retailer. ''I could afford to sue, and there are so many people who are penniless when they reach that point."
Stevens, who US Bankruptcy Judge James F. Queenan Jr. said used "deceit, avarice and subjugation" to extract donations from her, "doesn't deserve to have the money," Dovydenas said in the office of her attorney, Gordon T. Walker. The news conference was held a day after Queenan's order.
In New York, meanwhile, the lawyer for The Bible Speaks said he would appeal the decision, first to the US District Court and further if necessary.
Calling the decision "stinging and harsh," attorney Norman Roy Grutman said, "I think this case is so important that the Supreme Court would want to hear it."
He said the Lenox-based church, which has about 20,000 members in the United States and foreign countries, could be financially ruined by the decision. "I don't see how they can pay the debt back and still have a church," Grutman said.
Grutman said his appeal will be based on his contention throughout the three-week trial that ended last month that the First Amendment ban on state intervention into the validity of religious beliefs prevents the judge from ordering the church to return the contributions.
Queenan accepted Walker's argument that the case did not question any religious beliefs of The Bible Speaks. Walker insisted that the suit was based on Steven's alleged abuse of the loyalty placed in him as a minister by Dovydenas while she was a member of the church.
An appeal could lead to an important court ruling on religious issues, said two Boston attorneys experienced in defending churches in cases charging undue influence.
"Precedent could be set in the First Circuit Court of Appeals and in the US Supreme Court," said attorney Harry W. Manion. "That precedent would be, simply put, whether an adherent to a religion who makes gifts has the ability to rescind those gifts on grounds of undue influence.
"What troubles me is there is influence in every religion, whose purpose is to influence behavior and beliefs of its followers. That's protected First Amendment behavior."
The appeal, he said, "is potentially dangerous because it requires a judge to define the fine line between protected behavior, such as preaching and teaching and prayer, and where you cross over that line."
Attorney Earle Cooley, who is national counsel for The Church of Scientology, said the expected appeal "is fraught with hazards" because it could lead to a decision defining more closely what is valid relgious activity and what is not.
But professor Lawrence Tribe of Harvard Law School says he doubts that any precedent will be set if Walker's contention that his case did not involve the validity of religious beliefs is upheld.
Walker has estimated the value of The Bible Speaks' 70-acre headquarters in Lenox at $10 million. The church may have to sell that property to pay the debt, he said.
Dovydenas' plan for payment of the money will be presented to Queenan in US Bankruptcy Court in Worcester on June 5.
Smiling throughout the half-hour news conference, Dovydenas glanced frequently at her husband, Jonas, two seats away in front of microphones, and at her children, Elena, 4, and John, 5, at the back of the room.
"It was important to do something for all the other people" who belong to The Bible Speaks," she said. "Marriages have fallen apart. Families have broken up. Maybe some of them will see their children again."
"I hope I have helped people to know that Carl Stevens is a man to stay away from, to know the dangers of The Bible Speaks and other groups like it," she said. "It was shocking and disgusting that a pastor would behave like he did."
In his decision, Queenan said the 57-year-old founder of the church used ''deceit, avarice and subjugation" to induce Dovydenas to make large contributions.
Described during the trial as unusually susceptible to the influence of others, Dovydenas said yesterday falling under the influence of evangelists like Stevens "can happen to any good, decent person."
MASSACHUSETTS HEIRESS GETS REFUND
Author: By James Stack, Globe Staff
Date: 05/24/1987 Page: 40
NEW ENGLAND WEEK IN REVIEW BY JAMES STACK
A US Bankruptcy judge ordered The Bible Speaks, a fundamentalist church in Lenox, to return every dime of the $6.5 million donated by Elizabeth Dovydenas, 34, a millionaire who said she sued the sect to dissuade others from joining and being "tricked" as she was.
The three-week non-jury trial in Worcester was climaxed by a tongue-lashing in which Judge James F. Queenan accused church founder Carl H. Stevens Jr. of deceit, greed and the manipulation of a loyal follower. Church lawyers said the verdict would be appealed.
(more to follow)