Cook County

Cook County (Tribune illustration / March 25, 2012)

A deacon at a Presbyterian church in Niles has filed a lawsuit against 22 fellow church members, accusing them of distributing a memorandum containing accusations that he says are false and contributed to the break-up of his marriage.

Deacon Chang Hyun Moon, a deacon and member of Lakeview Presbyterian Church in Niles for 28 years, claims the defendants signed a "defamatory memorandum" last year entitled "Reprimand of Deacon Moon," according to a copy of the lawsuit, which was filed Monday in Cook County Circuit Court.

The memo, sent to church leadership, claims that Moon "verbally threatened to report the details of church members' offerings to the IRS," according to the lawsuit.

"The Korean community is a culture of honor, and falsely alleging that a member of that community threatened to report some of its members' conduct to a federal tax agency not only caused (Moon) to lose face in that community, but caused his wife to file a petition for dissolution of marriage against him that specifically references the defendants' allegations," the lawsuit states.

Moon's wife filed a petition in Lake County Circuit Court seeking to end the couple's 41-year marriage in January of this year, court records show.

In it, she says Moon "had issues with the church," including multiple church members making complaints about his behavior to "a higher level of the church."

"Further, the pastor said Mr. Moon made false statements to a higher level of the church," the divorce petition states. "Some elders also accused Mr. Moon of seeking to borrow money from them. Mr. Moon denies this, but (his wife) lost trust and respect for her husband and vice versa, causing irreconcilable differences."

The lawsuit filed by the deacon seeks $100,000 in damages and litigation costs on each of three counts: defamation, false light invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress, court records show.

Moon still is a member of the church and still holds the title of deacon, said his attorney, James Shapiro.

The church's senior pastor did not reply to a request seeking comment.

jbullington@tribune.com

Twitter: @jbtribune