Author Nicholas Sparks apologized on Monday for a string of homophobic emails published last week by the Daily Beast in which he discussed blocking the formation of a group for LGBTQ students and stamping out student protest at the faith-based school he co-founded in North Carolina, the Epiphany School of Global Studies. Read the Daily Beast’s full exposé here.
The emails emerged from a lawsuit against Sparks by a former headmaster who claimed that the author falsely told people that he had Alzheimer’s disease.
The NYT reported on the content of the emails: ‘The emails published last week appear to illustrate those tensions. Mr. Sparks, who has written 11 best-selling romance novels that have been adapted into Hollywood films, chastised Mr. Benjamin in one email for “what some perceive as an agenda that strives to make homosexuality open and accepted.” Mr. Sparks also accused him of spending too much time talking about “tolerance, diversity, nondiscrimination and LGBT” instead of academics. He said the word “nondiscrimination” was something to “eliminate from your vocabulary at the present time.”’
“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,” Sparks wrote in his apology.
“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,” he explained. “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.”
Added Sparks: “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.”
Sparks continued: “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,” Sparks added. “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,” he concluded. “In fact, the opposite is true, and I trust my actions moving forward will confirm that.”