Author Nicholas Sparks, known for penning bestselling romance novels such as “The Notebook” and “A Walk to Remember,” has been accused of trying to ban an LGBTQ club at a Christian school he co-founded in New Bern, North Carolina.
Sparks has been embroiled in an ongoing legal battle with Epiphany School of Global Studies’ former headmaster, Saul Benjamin.
Benjamin filed a lawsuit against Sparks and the school’s Board of Trustees in 2014 for“discrimination, breach of contract, emotional distress, and defamation.”
Benjamin claims that Sparks “unapologetically marginalized, bullied, and harassed members of the School community whose religious views and/or identities did not conform to their religiously driven, bigoted preconceptions.”
In email correspondence between Benjamin and Sparks obtained by the Daily Beast, at least some of Benjamin’s claims appear to be backed up.
One complaint in Benjamin’s lawsuit was that Sparks sided with a group of students who were bullying LGBTQ students. Benjamins says Sparks called a club for LGBTQ students “the Gay Club.” Sparks also allegedly threatened to terminate two bisexual teachers who tried to stand up for the LGBTQ students.
In an email Sparks tells Benjamin he “chose to rock this boat early and hard … with what some perceive as an agenda that strives to make homosexuality open and accepted. … As for the ‘Club,’ there obviously can’t be one now.”
Benjamin also claims Sparks made racist remarks about minority students. In 2013, there were allegedly only two black students enrolled at the school. Benjamin tried to add more diversity to the student population but Sparks wasn’t interested.
“We’ve spent way, way too much time … talking about ‘tolerance, diversity, non-discrimination, and LGBT’ in these first twelve weeks,” Sparks wrote in an email to Benjamin.
Benjamin says Sparks told him “black students are too poor and can’t do the academic work” and in an email, Sparks tells Benjamin that the reason there is a lack of student diversity “has nothing to do with racism” but is about “money” and “culture.”
Sparks has denied these allegations and slammed the Daily Beast story as “false allegations and claims.”
“I am pleased that the Court has dismissed nearly every claim against me, my Foundation and Epiphany,” Sparks’ statement reads. “Very importantly, the Court has dismissed all claims of discrimination or harassment against me. While there will be a trial on a few remaining issues, I am confident that a jury will evaluate these claims fairly and decide those claims in our favor as well.”
— Nicholas Sparks (@NicholasSparks) June 13, 2019
The emails come at a pivotal time for Sparks’ whose book “The Notebook,” which was also a hit film, is prepping for a Broadway debut. Vanessa Hudgens has been tapped to star in the musical. Some people questioned the choice of supporting the musical after the anti-LGBTQ fallout.
— PFLAG National (@PFLAG) June 14, 2019
— Justin Gregory Lopez (@JGregoryLopez) June 14, 2019
So glad I never spent a dime on any Nicholas Sparks books or movies. I can’t imagine the Broadway community moving forward with the Notebook play knowing it’s author is a homophobe POS. https://t.co/jVYKRfE0eK
— Talent (@Talentiest) June 13, 2019