Best-Selling Author Nicholas Sparks’s Private Christian School Comes Under Legal Fire for Banning an LGBT Club
Did you know mega-author Nicholas Sparks founded a Christian school? I didn’t.
Apparently, the joint promotes views on morality that are — brace for impact — biblical.
The North Carolina prep venture’s called the Epiphany School of Global Studies — a (as per The Daily Beast) “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’ [is] an integral part of 21st-century life.”
The school’s mission statement notes that it’s “anchored in the Judeo-Christian commandment to Love God and Your Neighbor as Yourself.”
Another anchor, however, has caused waves of oppressed sexuality in the mind of one disgruntled ex-employee.
Since 2014, epiphany’s been engaged in a fight (and not the romantic kind like in The Notebook) with former headmaster and CEO, Saul Benjamin. He claims the school enacted bigotry in various forms.
Here’s Saul’s attorney:
“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.”
Saul’s alleged the school is racist, as illustrated by its small number of black students. He also asserts a board member once told him she avoids a particular black-staffed Wal-Mart. When he hired the first full-time black employee, he says, he was met with “unwelcome comments and increased scrutiny.”
And then there’s the issue of the LGBT club, as laid out by TDB:
Rumor spread that Benjamin had formed what Sparks called a “gay club,” and the Board of Trustees insisted the club be banned. Two bisexual teachers approached administrators about the group, and were allegedly threatened with termination if they continued to discuss the issue, according to Benjamin’s complaint. It further alleges that at a board meeting on Oct. 30, 2013, a Board of Trustees member claimed Benjamin was “promoting a homosexual culture and agenda.” Sparks allegedly warned Benjamin against pushing the subject, suggesting it would be “wasting time on a side issue,” according to the complaint.
That sounds like a bit of strife, but would it be illegal, given that the school is private and can therefore dictate its own values?
According to the Beast, there was a lot of resentment brewing:
By November, resentments were running high. That month, Benjamin states in his complaint that two LGBT students approached Benjamin and informed him of their plan to stage a protest during chapel. They planned to remove their clothes and announce their orientation in body paint. Benjamin says he asked the girls not to protest, claiming it “was a time for healing, not heroics.” Instead, in the Friday morning Chapel Talk, a weekly tradition at the school, Benjamin spoke about bullying, and the school’s commitment to “loving their neighbors.”
According to emails involved in the legal dispute, on November 17th, 2013, Nicholas expressed to Saul disappointment over his pressing of the gay issue:
“I told you this would happen…if you didn’t follow our advice, which was simply ‘don’t rock the boat on this particular issue.’”
Additionally, he said it was important to “make sure all Christian traditions feel especially Christian, especially as we move into the Christmas season.”
The romance writer also defended the school against Saul’s contention of racism:
“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. 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.”
A half a dozen’s a lot.
The next day, regarding the LGBT contingent, Nicholas wrote that “not allowing them to have a club is NOT discrimination.”
“Remember, we’ve had gay students before, many of them. [The former headmaster] handled it quietly and wonderfully… I expect you to do the same.”
Now things get really goofy: Three days after the email, Nicholas, Saul, and the Board of Trustees met. Saul was asked to resign. He insists the A Walk to Remember author acted in a “loud, ranting and physically intimidating manner.” In the legal complaint, he also charges he was made victim of “false imprisonment,” as he wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom or speak to a lawyer.
He resigned, ending his 98-day term.
So what’s Nicholas think about all of this?
As described by The Daily Wire:
In a declaration, Nicholas Sparks denied all the allegations brought against the school, asserting that Benjamin lost his job as headmaster of the Christian school for being “aloof, even rude, elitist and dismissive of their beliefs or backgrounds.” He also claims that Benjamin intentionally tried to start an LGBT club on campus in violation of the school’s policy.
It’ll be interesting to see how all this plays out in court. If private organizations can’t defend their religious views against internal engineering, American liberty is lost. And American liberty — it seems to me — is the whole point of America.
What are your thoughts on all this? Please let us know in the Comments section.
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