Author Nicholas Sparks slams accusations he tried to ban LGBT club at school he co-founded
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Bestselling author Nicholas Sparks, known for romance novels including “The Notebook” and “A Walk To Remember,” on Thursday denied resurfaced accusations that he tried to ban a LGBT club at the religious school he co-founded.

Sparks, who founded the Epiphany School of Global Studies in New Bern, N.C., with his then-wife Catherine, denied the allegations that are detailed in emails obtained by the Daily Beast.

“Epiphany is and remains a place where students and faculty of any race, belief, religion, background or orientation should feel welcome,” Sparks wrote on Twitter. “My commitment to these values, as well as Epiphany’s commitment to these values, have been and remain constant.”

Sparks’s public remarks come after the Daily Beast published emails allegedly sent to the school’s former CEO and headmaster, Saul Hillel Benjamin. 

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Benjamin, a Quaker who was raised in the Jewish faith, filed a lawsuit against Sparks and the school’s Board of Trustees in 2014 claiming the novelist made derogatory remarks about Jews, people of color and members of the LGBT community.

“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," Benjamin’s attorneys wrote in the complaint. 

The administrator claimed that LGBT students at the school had formed an informal support group in 2013 to discuss sexual orientation. Other students, however, began bullying them and threatened to initiate a “homo-caust.” Two of the students accused of bullying were allegedly sons of school administrators.

Benjamin said in the complaint that he had discouraged two students from staging a protest during chapel by removing their clothes and announcing their sexual orientation in body paint. 

Instead, he gave a speech against bullying at the school’s weekly “Chapel Talk” and praised the school’s commitment to “loving their neighbors,” the outlet reported. The talk was reportedly not well-received and sparked backlash from administration.

Sparks reportedly sent an email criticizing the headmaster in November 2013 for “what some perceive as an agenda that strives to make homosexuality open and accepted.”

Sparks reportedly banned the LGBT group, writing “not allowing them to have a club is NOT discrimination.”

He also sent Benjamin recommendations to improve his standing. The list included suggestions like “mak[ing] sure all Christian traditions feel especially Christian, especially as we move into the Christmas season,” to refraining from implying the school has problems with tolerance. 

The lawsuit also details Sparks allegedly making comments about the school’s black students, saying they are “too poor and can’t do the academic work."

The school had roughly 500 students at the time but only two of them were black, the Daily Beast noted.

“Regarding diversity, I’ve now told you half a dozen times that our lack of diversity has NOTHING to do with the school or anyone at the school,” Sparks wrote in an email. “It’s not because of what we as a school has or hasn’t done. It has nothing to do with racism or vestiges of Jim Crow. It comes down to 1) Money and 2) Culture.”

Shortly after the email exchanges, Benjamin claimed that he was called into a meeting with the Board of Trustees where the author acted in a “loud, ranting and physically intimidating manner.” Benjamin said he resigned after the altercation, which he described as "false imprisonment," saying he was not allowed to speak to a lawyer or use the bathroom. 

Benjamin’s case was filed in 2014 and is scheduled for a six-day trial in August, according to the Daily Beast. He is seeking punitive damages for discrimination, breach of contract, emotional distress and defamation.

The defamation claim comes from emails Sparks sent claiming Benjamin suffered from a mental disorder.

Sparks cited forgetfulness and an “obsession” with “non-relevant” issues while offering the diagnosis of his headmaster in emails. 

“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,” Sparks wrote in the message. “What that is — Alzheimer’s, a variance of bi-polar, something else — I have no idea.”

Benjamin told the Daily Beast that he has never received any such diagnosis.