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Two Protestant church congregations in suburban Chicago are battling in state court over what may the first instance in the U.S. of one congregation suing another for discrimination. Antioch Korean Covenant Church sued Prospect Heights Community Church, with a predominantly Caucasian membership, over the latter church’s proposed sale of property to another Caucasian church after ignoring a higher bid from Antioch, the complaint alleges. Prospect Heights Community Church is seeking to have the September lawsuit dismissed. Prospect Heights Community Church has been leasing space to the Antioch Korean Covenant Church congregation since 2004 and to another Caucasian congregation, Cornerstone Bible Church, since 2006, according to the lawsuit. When the Prospect Heights church council began considering a sale of the property amid financial stresses, it focused on the $500,000 bid from Cornerstone to the exclusion of Antioch’s $1 million bid, the complaint alleges. Antioch Korean Covenant v. Prospect Heights Community, No. 07 CH 26112. The Rev. Francis Avila, the pastor for Prospect Heights Community Church before he resigned over the controversial sale, brought the Antioch offer to the congregation’s attention at a pivotal meeting last year where the church council successfully pressed for a full church membership vote in favor of the sale to Cornerstone. At the meeting, disparaging remarks about Koreans were made by some people, the lawsuit says. Antioch is suing in Cook County under the Illinois Human Rights Act. “Why would anyone in their right might opt to accept an offer for half the price,” said Don Sampen, an attorney with Meckler Bulger & Tilson who is representing Antioch. Thomas Organ, the lawyer for Prospect Heights Community Church, couldn’t be reached for comment.

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