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Suit claims bias in church sale
By Sue Ter Maat | Daily Herald Staff

Two groups are vying to purchase the Prospect Heights Community Church. A lawsuit filed by one of the bidders charges the church is favoring the other bidder for racial reasons.

 

Gilber R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

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Published: 12/12/2007 12:17 AM

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A Korean-American congregation is suing a Prospect Heights church for not selling its property to the highest bidder, alleging racial discrimination.

An attorney for the Antioch Korean Covenant Church said the church had offered $1 million for the Prospect Heights Community Church property at 400 N. Elmhurst Road.

The Korean church's suit charges that the predominately white Cornerstone Bible Church offered half that much and that bid was tentatively accepted, said Don Sampen, a Chicago-based attorney for the Korean church.

Also, the suit alleges that at a meeting of the Prospect Heights church members, disparaging remarks about Koreans were made, which prompted the decision to sell to the other group, he said.

If that's proven in court, the Prospect Heights church would be in violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act, which forbids the denial of a property sale based upon race, Sampen said.

"The fact that such an offer was rejected in and of itself shows there is more here than just the desire to go with someone else," Sampen said.

The attorney for the Prospect Heights church, Tom Organ of Arlington Heights, declined to comment.

This year, the Prospect Heights church has attempted to merge or sell the property to another church, Sampen said. No final sale has been made, Sampen said.

If the Korean church wins, a judge could make the Prospect Heights church sell to it, he said.

The Prospect Heights church most recently has filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on technical grounds, so that's where the case stands now, he said.

The Korean church, with no freestanding building of its own, has leased space in the Prospect Heights church since 2004. The Cornerstone Bible Church also leases space there, he said.