Although someone usually gets blamed whenever a marriage fails, suing your local church congregation for your divorce is definitely an unusual circumstance.
Whenever a divorce occurs, someone is likely to be blamed for causing it. That fact is simply human nature, and it is hard to imagine that no one would receive at least a small bit of blame and that everyone would be equally happy and completely guilt-free when a close personal relationship is finally and legally terminated. It is almost totally predictable that the people getting divorced will “circle the wagons” with their family and friends when a marriage fails, and the people on one side or the other will always have something negative to say about the other spouse. It is no surprise at all when well-meaning family and friends dump most the blame for the divorce on the other party. However, there are exceptions to this unwritten rule, and it is certainly possible that someone else could be blamed for causing a divorce. However, when that “someone else” happens to be the divorcing couple’s local church, it can be a big surprise for all involved.
Such is exactly the case in North Carolina today, where a man is suing his local church for convincing his wife to divorce him after 30 years of marriage. In this surprising case, the husband also says the church went so far as to physically help his wife move out of their home and he is now suing due to his resulting financial instability. Warren Pegram of Alamance County, has also made some other surprising claims in his suit based on negligence and personal injury against the Quaker Church congregation at the Cane Creek Meeting of the Society of Friends, in Snow Camp, North Carolina. As part of his cause for action, Pegram says the church knowingly allowed its pastor to spend unnecessary time alone with his wife, Shyrlynn Pate Pegram. Pegram has said that the church’s pastor, Mark Tope, developed a “too close” personal relationship with his wife that included the pastor attending family vacations at the wife’s request, and that Tope also spent a lot of unnecessary time with his wife when Pegram was not present.
When interviewed by his local television news station Pegram said “I won’t say they’re 100 percent responsible but they certainly made it happen. I don’t think she could’ve moved out if the church didn’t help her. They provided all the people to move the stuff and I think the church had a great deal to do with the divorce.” In his unusual lawsuit, Pegram is seeking $180,000 in actual damages and $10 million in punitive damages because his wife handled most of the household bills and her absence has caused him devastating financial instability. His suit also states the “defendant’s pastor made multiple visits to Plaintiff and his wife’s residence to play Wii games with them not at the invitation of the Plaintiff.”
As would be expected, the Cane Creek Meeting of the Society of Friends has denied Pegram’s allegations and has requested that the lawsuit be thrown out of court. The church also says the lawsuit violates the legal restrictions that accompany all alienation of affection lawsuits, which in the state of North Carolina can only be brought against an individual, and not a group like a church congregation. If the unusual lawsuit is not dismissed, a jury will try to decide who is actually to blame for Pegram’s divorce in a trial scheduled to begin in the last week of February.