LENOX, MASS. -- The 65-acre former world headquarters of The Bible Speaks church, including an indoor swimming pool and 1,400-seat chapel, will be auctioned Nov. 3, bankruptcy officials said this week.
An appraiser has estimated the western Massachusetts campus, which also includes dormitories, classroom space and a television studio, to be worth about $6 million.
The land will be sold at auction Nov. 3 at The Bible Speaks campus, said a spokeswoman for court-appointed trustee David Ferrari, who is overseeing the fundamentalist church's property under Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.
Other assets, including radio equipment, a commercial printing press, computers and 53 buses, could bring another $1 million, officials said.
Leaders of The Bible Speaks abandoned the Lenox headquarters and set up a new church in Baltimore after a federal bankruptcy court judge ruled that heiress Elizabeth Dayton Dovydenas was duped into donating $6.6 million. The church was ordered to return her donations.
Dovydenas, 34, heiress to the Minneapolis-based Dayton-Hudson Corp. chain of department stores, won the lawsuit in May. She accused church founder and pastor Carl Stevens Jr. and others of using "undue influence" to persuade her to make large donations to the church.
Church attorneys have appealed that ruling and promise to take the case to the Supreme Court, if necessary, on grounds that it violates the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion.
U.S Bankruptcy Judge James Queenan, who made the initial ruling in favor of Dovydenas, last month agreed to liquidate the church's assets and property to repay Dovydenas.
The money gained through the liquidation will remain in an interest-gathering trust fund until the church's appeals have been settled, Queenan ruled.
Other church property in Scarborough and Auburn, Maine, Albany, N.Y., and a freighter now docked in Florida also will be sold as soon as possible, Ferrari has said. The church's Miami town house and a Palm Beach luxury condominium already have been sold in Florida, he said.