On Thursday, June 13, 2019, The Daily Beast published an in-depth exposé titled “Author Nicholas Sparks Tried to Ban LGBT Club and Student Protests at His Christian School, Emails Reveal” regarding a lawsuit filed by Wigdor LLP on behalf of former headmaster Saul Hillel Benjamin against best-selling novelist Nicholas Sparks and the private school he founded, The Epiphany School of Global Studies. A six-day trial in the case is scheduled to begin August 14, 2019 in the Eastern District of North Carolina.
The Daily Beast article included emails written by Nicholas Sparks, which were introduced to the Court as evidence in connection with the parties’ summary judgment submissions, in which he appears to resist Mr. Benjamin’s efforts to increase diversity at the school:
“In one stern message, Sparks chastised the former headmaster for ‘what some perceive as an agenda that strives to make homosexuality open and accepted.’ In another, he put forward a motion to ban student protest at the school, an impulse that came directly in response to two lesbian girls planning to announce their orientation during chapel. In a third, while listing complaints against Benjamin, he cites ‘misplaced priorities at the school level (GLBT, diversity, the beauty of other religions, as opposed to academic/curricular/global issues, Christian traditions, etc.).’”
Mr. Benjamin was eventually forced out of his position as Headmaster, with Mr. Sparks and The Epiphany School refusing to honor the severance terms of his employment contract, according to the Complaint. The lawsuit, which also contains claims of disability discrimination and defamation, further alleges that Mr. Sparks made false statements to various members of the school community that Mr. Benjamin suffered from a mental disorder such as Alzheimer’s disease, and then used that misdiagnosis to somehow justify unlawfully terminating Mr. Benjamin’s employment.
In response to The Daily Beast article, Mr. Sparks issued a statement defending his actions.
EXCLUSIVE: Emails show author Nicholas Sparks tried to ban the LGBT Club at his Christian school https://t.co/bIZpxYNm7e
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) June 13, 2019
Statement from Wigdor LLP Partner Lawrence M. Pearson:
“The emails written by Nicholas Sparks speak for themselves. Despite Mr. Sparks’s attempts to downplay his discriminatory actions, he does not get to decide what is or isn’t “news.” We look forward to vindicating Mr. Benjamin’s rights at trial in August.”