Romance novelist, Nicholas Sparks, exposed in leaked emails as antigay and racist

Romance novelist, Nicholas Sparks, exposed in leaked emails as antigay and racist

In 2006, Nicholas Sparks, the prolific romance writer best known for The Notebook and A Walk to Remember, helped co-found a prep school in New Bern, North Carolina, called the Epiphany School of Global Studies. The idea was to start a small, faith-based academy focused on world issues with an emphasis on language-learning, regular visits to other nations, and a shared understanding that “learning about the world” was an integral part of 21st-century life. In its mission statement, the school of roughly 500 students describes itself as “anchored in the Judeo-Christian commandment to Love God and Your Neighbor as Yourself.”

But since 2014, members of the Epiphany School’s Board of Trustees, including Sparks, have been locked in a legal battle with the academy’s former headmaster and CEO, Saul Benjamin, over what the latter describes as a pattern of harassment, racism, and homophobia. “Sparks and members of the Board unapologetically marginalized, bullied, and harassed members of the School community,” Benjamin’s attorneys wrote in the complaint, “whose religious views and/or identities did not conform to their religiously driven, bigoted preconceptions.“

Sparks rejected the claims in a 29-page declaration to the court. In a statement posted on Twitter, Sparks asserted that reporting on the headmaster’s claims was “not news” and “false,” and that some of the claims against him had been dismissed.

But emails obtained by The Daily Beast show the romance writer repeatedly taking issue with Benjamin’s attempts to make the school inclusive to all faiths, races, and sexualities.

Regarding the lack of racial diversity in the school, Sparks takes pride in having one–yes, one–Jewish student among the 500-person student body.

The author further notes that the dearth of Black students at Epiphany has less to do with racist policies and more to do with local African-Americans failing to have the money or academic qualifications to attend. In one email, Sparks comments that African-Americans, which comprise 40% of the local population, are “too poor and can’t do the academic work.”

Further rifts appeared between Benjamin, Sparks and other faculty over the school’s treatment of LGBTQ students and issues.

In 2013, a group of students began meeting informally to discuss their sexual orientations, and became the immediate subject of bullying. Sparks ordered Benjamin to ban the group, and threatened at least two teachers with termination for defending the students.

When Sparks was told banning the LGBTQ group was discriminatory, Sparks wrote back: “Not allowing them to have a club is NOT discrimination.”

The author also suggested banning all forms of student protest after two lesbian students planned to come out during chapel services. When Benjamin refused to do so, Sparks accused him of secretly authorizing an “official School LGBT club.”

Benjamin ultimately resigned after a heated meeting with Sparks, in which the former headmaster claimed the author behaved in a physically intimidating manner. Now, he has filed a lawsuit claiming harassment and discrimination.

Sparks, for his part, claims the Board fired Benjamin after he authorized a clandestine gay student club.

In a 2010 interview with Movieline.com, Nicholas Sparks was asked if he would ever write a gay love story and he replied: “It’s a different genre. I don’t know that I could do that…Asking that kind of question is like asking, ‘Could you do a love story with more of a thriller element like The Bourne Identity?’”

Sparks echoed this sentiment again in an interview with Hollywood.com in February 2013. When again asked if he would ever consider writing a gay love story, he replied that it’s “not exactly in my genre,” adding “with the novels, I try to give the people what they expect,” which, for Sparks, means cliché love stories featuring white, middle class heterosexuals living in the South.

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3 Comments

  1. Francis
    June 15, 07:00 Reply

    Another career hopefully down the drain

  2. Mitch
    June 15, 09:20 Reply

    Another mad man exposed!
    Hallelujah!

    • Pink Panther
      June 15, 09:43 Reply

      It’s just sad because I really enjoyed the few books of his I’ve read. I just don’t like it when I enjoy the product of a homophobe.

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