Even though author Nicholas Sparks (of "The Notebook" fame) co-founded a Christian school that appeared to uphold biblical principles on sexual morality, he has now released a statement giving his full, unequivocal support for all things LGBT-related after facing significant backlash.
Last week, The Daily Beast published a lengthy article accusing the famed romance novelist of banning an LGBT club at Epiphany School of Global Studies, a Christian school he helped co-found in 2006. According to the school's former headmaster and CEO Saul Benjamin, Sparks worked in concert with the school's Board of Trustees to quash open expression of the LGBT identity on campus. As the conflict escalated between Benjamin and Sparks, the former headmaster alleged he was unjustly fired and filed a lawsuit as a result. That suit will be going to trial this August.
To further support his case, Benjamin released several emails in which Sparks expressly accused him of violating the school's core tenets by trying to create an atmosphere on campus wherein homosexuality is "open and accepted," arguing that this alienated members of the staff.
In a lengthy statement released by Sparks on Monday, the author claims to have been misrepresented by the emails that Benjamin provided to The Daily Beast. In fact, Sparks claims he has always supported the LGBT community and that he welcomed the inclusion of some sort of LGBT club on campus — but only disapproved of how Benjamin went about it. More importantly, Sparks declares himself to be an ally of the LGBT community in the culture wars and supports such important causes like same-sex marriage, gay couples adopting children, and more.
"I believe in the school’s founding principle of loving God and thy neighbor as thyself, and that includes members of the LGBTQ community," Sparks says in the letter. "I believe in and unreservedly support the principle that all individuals should be free to love, marry and have children with the person they choose, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. This is and has always been a core value of mine. I am an unequivocal supporter of gay marriage, gay adoption, and equal employment rights and would never want to discourage any young person or adult from embracing who they are."
Sparks does not go into further detail about the current lawsuit due to legal reasons and only says that Benjamin misrepresented him. Here is his full statement:
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, including my friends and colleagues in that community.
Thirteen years ago, I founded the Epiphany School of Global Studies anchored in the commandment to love God and your neighbor as you love yourself. I am currently engaged in a several years-long lawsuit with a former headmaster of the school. As a result of that suit, several e-mails from me have been released to the public that on the surface, portray me as someone intolerant of having an LGBTQ club at the school. Unfortunately, the ongoing lawsuit constrains what I can reveal about the specific circumstances six years ago that gave rise to these emails, but I very much want to articulate my beliefs and share where my heart is on this matter.
I believe in the school’s founding principle of loving God and thy neighbor as thyself, and that includes members of the LGBTQ community. I believe in and unreservedly support the principle that all individuals should be free to love, marry and have children with the person they choose, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. This is and has always been a core value of mine. I am an unequivocal supporter of gay marriage, gay adoption, and equal employment rights and would never want to discourage any young person or adult from embracing who they are.
When in one of my emails I used language such as “there will never be an LGBT club” at Epiphany, l was responding heatedly to how the headmaster had gone about initiating this club – like most schools, Epiphany has procedures and policies for establishing any student club. My concern was that if a club were to be founded, it be done in a thoughtful, transparent manner with the knowledge of faculty, students and parents – not in secret, and not in a way that felt exceptional. I only wish I had used those exact words. Similarly, when I referred to a prior headmaster addressing the presence of gay students “quietly and wonderfully,” I meant that he supported them in a straightforward, unambiguous way – NOT that he in any way encouraged students to be silent about their gender identity or sexual orientation.
In 2013 I was embroiled in a rapidly escalating conflict and besieged by vociferous complaints about a wide range of incidents involving the headmaster’s behavior. Ironically, as a writer I should have understood the power and enduring nature of my words, but like many people sent emails off in haste under stressful and tumultuous conditions. My greatest regret, however, is not my lack of deliberation, but first and foremost that I failed to be more unequivocal about my support for the students in question.
It’s never been my intent to be unresponsive to the needs of the LGBTQ or any minority community. In fact the opposite is true, and I trust my actions moving forward will confirm that.
Sincerely, Nicholas Sparks