Nicholas Sparks, author of romance favourites like The Notebook and A Walk To Remember, is responding after a report from The Daily Beast cites emails that allegedly show the writer banned LGBTQ clubs and protests from his North Carolina high school.
Back in 2006, Sparks helped co-found a prep school called the Epiphany School of Global Studies. The school of about 500 students describes itself as “anchored in the Judeo-Christian commandment to Love God and Your Neighbour as Yourself.”
In emails obtained by The Daily Beast, Sparks appears to be against the academy’s former headmaster and CEO Saul Benjamin’s attempts to make “homosexuality open and accepted” at the school.
One message sees Sparks reprimanding Benjamin for “what some perceive as an agenda that strives to make homosexuality open and accepted.”
Another note from The Last Song author has Sparks planning to ban student protests after two lesbian students planned to announce their orientation during “chapel.” Sparks later listed some of the “misplaced priorities” at the school like “LGBT, diversity, the beauty of other religions, as opposed to academic/curricular/global issues, Christian traditions, etc.”
And in 2014, Benjamin filed a lawsuit against Sparks, claiming he was forced out after his efforts “diversify” the school. “Sparks and members of the Board 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,” the complaint read.
After the lawsuit had been filed, Benjamin claims Sparks began spreading rumours about him. In one email Sparks wrote: “While I am not a doctor–and as scary as this may sound to you–I do believe that [Benjamin] is suffering from a mental illness of some sort. What that is–Alzheimer’s, a variance of bi-polar, something else–I have no idea.”
Sparks also insisted that the lack of diversity at Epiphany had nothing to do with the school, “Remember, we’ve had gay students before, many of them,” Sparks wrote. “[The former headmaster] handled it quietly and wonderfully… I expect you to do the same.”
In a statement provided to ET Canada on Thursday, a rep for Sparks claims all reports from The Daily Beast are “false.”
“Since 2014, I have vigorously been defending the lawsuit brought against me and the Epiphany School of Global Studies by its former headmaster, Saul Benjamin,” the statement read. “The article appearing in today’s The Daily Beast is not news, and repeats false accusations and claims made against Epiphany and me, and largely ignores the overwhelming evidence we have submitted to the Court.
“I am pleased that the Court has dismissed nearly every claim against me, my Foundation and Epiphany. 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 favour as well,” the statement continued. “As we prepare for trial, I want to make one thing clear: Epiphany is and remains a place where students and faculty of any race, belief, religion, background or orientation should feel welcome. My commitment to these values, as well as Epiphany’s commitment to these values, have been and remain constant.”
It concluded, “At this time, we will not have any further comment. Thank you.”
In a new 500-word statement released on his socials on Monday, Sparks is now expressing his “regret.”
“As someone who has spent the better part of my life as a writer who understands the power of words, I regret and apologize that mine have potentially hurt young people and members of the LGBTQ community,” he wrote in the lengthy statement. “Including my friends and colleagues in that community.”
“It’s never been my intent to be unresponsive to the needs of the LGBTQ or any minority community,” Sparks continued. “In fact the opposite is true, and I trust my actions moving forward will confirm that.”