Nicholas Sparks, author of over 20 romance novels including The Notebook, has been involved in a 5-year long legal battle over an LGBT group within a school he co-founded.
In 2006 the author co-founded a small faith-based school, the Epiphany School of Global Studies, based in New Bern, North Carolina. Sparks is currently battling with an old headmaster of the school, Saul Benjamin, over Benjamin’s apparent acceptance of LGBTQ pupils and the study of religions other than Christianity. Sparks emailed with a list of complaints against the headmaster, including: “misplaced priorities at the school level (GLBT, diversity, the beauty of other religions, as opposed to academic/curricular/global issues, Christian traditions, etc).”
Sparks criticised Benjamin for showing “what some perceive as an agenda that strives to make homosexuality open and accepted” and advised him not to “rock the boat on this issue.”
The LGBTQ group within the faith-based school came about after extensive bullying from homophobic pupils, prompting LGBTQ pupils to come together and discuss the issues they faced. The homophobe students threatened their fellow classmates with a “homocaust”- a disgusting and offensive play on words referencing the Holocaust- however the school board, along with Sparks, silenced the pupils and banned any protests.
Sparks and the other school board members pushed for the banning of any LGBTQ support, even to go as far as threatening two bisexual teachers with termination if they continued to answer any questions on gender or sexuality with pupils.
Benjamin’s attorneys wrote: “Sparks and members of the Board unapologetically marginalised, bullied, and harassed members of the School community whose religious views and/or identities did not conform to their religiously driven, bigoted preconceptions.”
According to Benjamin, he was called into a lengthy meeting with the Board of Trustees where he says he was not allowed to leave, call a lawyer or use the bathroom.
It is said that Nicholas Sparks reportedly acted in a “loud, ranting and physically intimidating manner,” called Benjamin a “liar” and demanded that he resign- which he did, after only 98 days in the post.
Sparks still asserts that Benjamin is a liar and denies all allegations in the lawsuit, filed against Sparks and the Board of Trustees in October 2014. He is seeking punitive damages for “discrimination, breach of contract, emotional distress and defamation.”
A six-day trial will be held in August.