Author Nicholas Sparks' name is generally associated with themes of romance and love, but hate is what he is being accused of by a former employee. According to the Associated Press, the ex-headmaster of a private school that Sparks and his wife started in 2006 in New Bern, North Carolina, is suing the author for cultivating bigotry and intolerance in the workplace.
The federal lawsuit filed on Thursday by Saul Hillel Benjamin states that while he worked at the Nicholas Sparks Foundation and the Epiphany School of Global Studies -- a private, Christian prep school -- he encountered a hostile work environment that exposed him to racism, homophobia and religious intolerance. Benjamin alleges that Sparks and other officials at the school forced him out when he tried to recruit black students and teachers and that Sparks and others supported the bullying of a group of LGBT students. In addition, Benjamin alleges that his Jewish background and Quaker faith were questioned by the best-selling author. Benjamin seeks lost income and punitive damages against Sparks, three members of the Epiphany school board and the Nicholas Sparks Foundation.
The lawsuit states, "As Mr. Benjamin sadly found out, the school harbors a veritable cauldron of bigotry toward individuals who are not traditionally Christian, and especially those who are non-white" and that Sparks "insisted that Mr. Benjamin stop talking about Islam, Judaism, or any other non-Christian religion."
The lawsuit also says that Sparks encouraged students who "sought to enact a 'homo-caust' against a group of gay students" and that school trustees pressured Benjamin to stop supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students who had been bullied to form a club where they could talk about their sexual identities, with one trustee accusing Benjamin of "promoting a homosexual culture and agenda."
Sparks' attorney denied the accusations, the Associated Press reports, and his entertainment lawyer Scott Schwimer, through a statement released by Sparks' publicist, wrote, "As a gay, Jewish man who has represented Nick for almost 20 years, I find these allegations completely ludicrous and offensive."
Nicholas Sparks is best known for his 1996 romantic novel “The Notebook,” which went on to become a successful film in 2004 starring Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling.