California | News | Paul Haggis | Proposition 8 | Scientology

Crash Director Paul Haggis Quits Scientology Over Gay Bashing

Paul Haggis, director of Crash and Million Dollar Baby, has written a scathing letter to Tommy Davis, spokesman for Scientology head David Miscavige, announcing his departure from the Church of Scientology, citing the Church's attitude toward gays and lesbians and their position regarding Proposition 8 in California, among other things.

Haggis Here's an excerpt: 

As you know, for ten months now I have been writing to ask you to make a public statement denouncing the actions of the Church of Scientology of San Diego. Their public sponsorship of Proposition 8, a hate-filled legislation that succeeded in taking away the civil rights of gay and lesbian citizens of California – rights that were granted them by the Supreme Court of our state – shames us.

I called and wrote and implored you, as the official spokesman of the church, to condemn their actions. I told you I could not, in good conscience, be a member of an organization where gay-bashing was tolerated.

In that first conversation, back at the end of October of last year, you told me you were horrified, that you would get to the bottom of it and “heads would roll.” You promised action. Ten months passed. No action was forthcoming. The best you offered was a weak and carefully worded press release, which praised the church’s human rights record and took no responsibility. Even that, you decided not to publish.

The church’s refusal to denounce the actions of these bigots, hypocrites and homophobes is cowardly. I can think of no other word.  Silence is consent, Tommy. I refuse to consent.

I joined the Church of Scientology thirty-five years ago. During my twenties and early thirties I studied and received a great deal of counseling. While I have not been an active member for many years, I found much of what I learned to be very helpful, and I still apply it in my daily life. I have never pretended to be the best Scientologist, but I openly and vigorously defended the church whenever it was criticized, as I railed against the kind of intolerance that I believed was directed against it. I had my disagreements, but I dealt with them internally. I saw the organization – with all its warts, growing pains and problems – as an underdog. And I have always had a thing for underdogs.

But I reached a point several weeks ago where I no longer knew what to think.

Read the full, letter, AFTER THE JUMP...

Blogger Marty Rathbun, who first published the letter, writes: "I received a copy of a letter sent to Tommy Davis written by a rather influential person. The source who provided this was a third party recipient of the letter and was able to establish to my satisfaction that the letter is authentic."

PAUL HAGGIS LETTER TO CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY

Tommy,

As you know, for ten months now I have been writing to ask you to make a public statement denouncing the actions of the Church of Scientology of San Diego. Their public sponsorship of Proposition 8, a hate-filled legislation that succeeded in taking away the civil rights of gay and lesbian citizens of California – rights that were granted them by the Supreme Court of our state – shames us.

I called and wrote and implored you, as the official spokesman of the church, to condemn their actions. I told you I could not, in good conscience, be a member of an organization where gay-bashing was tolerated.

In that first conversation, back at the end of October of last year, you told me you were horrified, that you would get to the bottom of it and “heads would roll.” You promised action. Ten months passed. No action was forthcoming. The best you offered was a weak and carefully worded press release, which praised the church’s human rights record and took no responsibility. Even that, you decided not to publish.

The church’s refusal to denounce the actions of these bigots, hypocrites and homophobes is cowardly. I can think of no other word.  Silence is consent, Tommy. I refuse to consent.

I joined the Church of Scientology thirty-five years ago. During my twenties and early thirties I studied and received a great deal of counseling. While I have not been an active member for many years, I found much of what I learned to be very helpful, and I still apply it in my daily life. I have never pretended to be the best Scientologist, but I openly and vigorously defended the church whenever it was criticized, as I railed against the kind of intolerance that I believed was directed against it. I had my disagreements, but I dealt with them internally. I saw the organization – with all its warts, growing pains and problems – as an underdog. And I have always had a thing for underdogs.

But I reached a point several weeks ago where I no longer knew what to think. You had allowed our name to be allied with the worst elements of the Christian Right. In order to contain a potential “PR flap” you allowed our sponsorship of Proposition 8 to stand. Despite all the church’s words about promoting freedom and human rights, its name is now in the public record alongside those who promote bigotry and intolerance, homophobia and fear.

The fact that the Mormon Church drew all the fire, that no one noticed, doesn’t matter. I noticed. And I felt sick. I wondered how the church could, in good conscience, through the action of a few and then the inaction of its leadership, support a bill that strips a group of its civil rights.

This was my state of mind when I was online doing research and chanced upon an interview clip with you on CNN. The interview lasted maybe ten minutes – it was just you and the newscaster. And in it I saw you deny the church’s policy of disconnection. You said straight-out there was no such policy, that it did not exist.

I was shocked. We all know this policy exists. I didn’t have to search for verification – I didn’t have to look any further than my own home.

You might recall that my wife was ordered to disconnect from her parents because of something absolutely trivial they supposedly did twenty-five years ago when they resigned from the church. This is a lovely retired couple, never said a negative word about Scientology to me or anyone else I know – hardly raving maniacs or enemies of the church. In fact it was they who introduced my wife to Scientology.

Although it caused her terrible personal pain, my wife broke off all contact with them. I refused to do so. I’ve never been good at following orders, especially when I find them morally reprehensible.

For a year and a half, despite her protestations, my wife did not speak to her parents and they had limited access to their grandchild. It was a terrible time.

That’s not ancient history, Tommy. It was a year ago.

And you could laugh at the question as if it was a joke? You could publicly state that it doesn’t exist?

To see you lie so easily, I am afraid I had to ask myself: what else are you lying about?

And that is when I read the recent articles in the St. Petersburg Times.  They left me dumbstruck and horrified.

These were not the claims made by “outsiders” looking to dig up dirt against us. These accusations were made by top international executives who had devoted most of their lives to the church. Say what you will about them now, these were staunch defenders of the church, including Mike Rinder, the church’s official spokesman for 20 years!

Tommy, if only a fraction of these accusations are true, we are talking about serious, indefensible human and civil rights violations. It is still hard for me to believe.  But given how many former top-level executives have said these things are true, it is hard to believe it is all lies.

And when I pictured you assuring me that it is all lies, that this is nothing but an unfounded and vicious attack by a group of disgruntled employees, I am afraid that I saw the same face that looked in the camera and denied the policy of disconnection. I heard the same voice that professed outrage at our support of Proposition 8, who promised to correct it, and did nothing.

I carefully read all of your rebuttals, I watched every video where you presented the church’s position, I listened to all your arguments – ever word. I wish I could tell you that they rang true. But they didn’t.

I was left feeling outraged, and frankly, more than a little stupid.

And though it may seem small by comparison, I was truly disturbed to see you provide private details from confessionals to the press in an attempt to embarrass and discredit the executives who spoke out. A priest would go to jail before revealing secrets from the confessional, no matter what the cost to himself or his church. That’s the kind of integrity I thought we had, but obviously the standard in this church is far lower – the public relations representative can reveal secrets to the press if the management feels justified. You even felt free to publish secrets from the confessional in Freedom Magazine – you just stopped short of labeling them as such, probably because you knew Scientologists would be horrified, knowing you so easily broke a sacred vow of trust with your parishioners.

How dare you use private information in order to label someone an “adulteress?” You took Amy Scobee’s most intimate admissions about her sexual life and passed them onto the press and then smeared them all over the pages your newsletter! I do not know the woman, but no matter what she said or did, this is the woman who joined the Sea Org at 16! She ran the entire celebrity center network, and was a loyal senior executive of the church for what, 20 years? You want to rebut her accusations, do it, and do it in the strongest terms possible – but that kind of character assassination is unconscionable.

So, I am now painfully aware that you might see this an attack and just as easily use things I have confessed over the years to smear my name. Well, luckily I have never held myself up to be anyone’s role model.

The great majority of Scientologists I know are good people who are genuinely interested in improving conditions on this planet and helping others. I have to believe that if they knew what I now know, they too would be horrified. But I know how easy it was for me to defend our organization and dismiss our critics, without ever truly looking at what was being said; I did it for thirty-five years. And so, after writing this letter, I am fully aware that some of my friends may choose to no longer associate with me, or in some cases work with me. I will always take their calls, as I always took yours. However, I have finally come to the conclusion that I can no longer be a part of this group. Frankly, I had to look no further than your refusal to denounce the church’s anti-gay stance, and the indefensible actions, and inactions, of those who condone this behavior within the organization. I am only ashamed that I waited this many months to act. I hereby resign my membership in the Church of Scientology.

Sincerely,

Paul Haggis

Ps. I’ve attached our email correspondence.  At some point it became evident that you did not value my concerns about the church’s tacit support of an amendment that violated the civil rights of so many of our citizens. Perhaps if you had done a little more research on me, the church’s senior management wouldn’t have dismissed those concerns quite so cavalierly. While I am no great believer in resumes and awards, this is what you would have discovered:

* Founder, Artists For Peace and Justice,
- sponsoring schools, an orphanage and a children’s hospital in the slums of Haiti
* Co-Founder, BrandAid Foundation and BrandAid Project
- marketing the work of artisans from the poorest countries in the world,
* Board Member, Office of The Americas
- supporting peace and justice initiatives around the world
* Board Member, Center For The Advancement of Non-Violence
* Member and active supporter, Amnesty International
* Member, President’s Council, Defenders of Wildlife
* Member and fundraiser, Environment California and CalPirg
* Member and Award Recipient, American Civil Liberties Union
* Member and supporter, Death Penalty Focus
* Member and supporter, Equality For All
* Fundraiser, NPH (Our Little Brothers) – for the children of the slums of Haiti
* Member, Citizens Commission on Human Rights
* Patron with Honors, IAS
And formerly:
* Trustee, Religious Freedom Trust
* Board Member and fundraiser, Hollywood Education and Literacy Project
* Board Member and fundraiser, For The Arts, For Every Child
– supporting art and music in public schools
* Board Member and fundraiser, The Christic Institute
- supporting Human Rights in Central America
* Founding Board Member, Earth Communication Office
* Working Board Member, Environmental Media Association
* Fundraiser, El Rescate – Human Rights for El Salvador
* Fundraiser, PAVA – Aid and Human Rights in Guatemala

Awards for outspoken support of Civil and Human Rights:

* Valentine Davies Award – Writers Guild of America
“for bringing honor and dignity to writers everywhere”
*Bill of Rights Award – American Civil Liberties Union
*Hubert H. Humphrey Civil Rights Award – Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
*Peace & Justice Award – Office of the Americas, presented by Daniel Ellsberg
*Signis Award, Venezia, World Catholic Association
*ALMA Award – National Council of Latino Civil Rights
*Ethel Levitt Award for Humanitarian Service – Levitt & Quinn
*Prism Award – Entertainment Industries Council
*Humanitas Prize (2) – Humanitas
*Legacy Award, for Artistic and Humanitarian Achievement
*Environmental Media Award – EMA
*EMA Green Seal Award – EMA
*Image Award – NAACP
*Creative Integrity Award – Multicultural Motion Picture Association
*EDGE Awards (2) – Entertainment Industries Council
*Artistic Freedom Award – City of West Hollywood
*Catholics in Media Award – Catholics in Media Associates

And many dozens of fundraisers and salons at our home on behalf of Human and Civil Rights, the Environment, the Peace Movement, Education, Justice and Equality.

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Comments

  1. He's been a Scientologist for 35 years, who the hell cares what he has to say.

    Posted by: Ian M. Walker | Oct 26, 2009 7:48:16 AM


  2. Tom Cruise is gonna be maaaad!!!

    Posted by: Antny | Oct 26, 2009 8:16:23 AM


  3. Great letter!!! Thanks Paul!

    Posted by: MarioFL | Oct 26, 2009 8:20:50 AM


  4. Thanks to Mr. Haggis.

    Given the history of Scientology for destroying the lives of its enemies, Haggis is both brave and late in coming to regard the Church's leadership with distrust.

    Something tells me that Mr. Haggis is going to become "disconnected" from his Scientologist colleagues in the film/TV industry.

    Posted by: Oscar | Oct 26, 2009 8:31:08 AM


  5. Bravo for Mr. Haggis! Hopefully this will lead other artists and citizens to stand up to their homophobic churches.

    One correction: Haggis wasn't the director of Million Dollar Baby (he only wrote the screenplay). Clint Eastwood was the director.

    Posted by: PJ | Oct 26, 2009 8:59:15 AM


  6. Really cool of Haggis. Seems like a stand-up guy.

    Posted by: Aaron Rowland | Oct 26, 2009 9:04:35 AM


  7. Interesting.

    "Crash" still sucks.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Oct 26, 2009 9:06:54 AM


  8. As ever, Mr. Ehrenstein sums it all up.

    Posted by: Roscoe | Oct 26, 2009 9:19:39 AM


  9. While it is good to see him call them out on the gay bashing, I have to agree with the others above. What took him that long? How could he take all the other crap, including the shunning of his family? And Crash did suck too.

    Posted by: patrick nyc | Oct 26, 2009 9:47:54 AM


  10. Glad to see people standing against bigotry and intolerance.

    Posted by: KFLO | Oct 26, 2009 10:06:01 AM


  11. I appreciate Haggis's passion, clearly something that compels him toward his many admirable endeavors and achievements, but does he really think that Tommy Davis or David Miscavige or the cult of Scientology really give a shit about a what he thinks? He writes as if his reader actually cares -- I think not.

    Cults thrive to a certain extent on being demonized, so that they can prove to their followers how corrupt and misguided the "others" are. The ONLY thing they care about w/r/t public opinion is their tax-exempt status.

    Posted by: Rascal | Oct 26, 2009 10:06:57 AM


  12. Tommy Davis looks like an actor in one of those "suit-fetish" porn flicks

    Posted by: Christopher | Oct 26, 2009 10:23:36 AM


  13. @PATRICK NYC and IAN M. WALKER:
    How dare you comment on how long it took him to realize? By that standard you would shun any gay man who came out after living as straight for 35 years! People see the truth when they see the truth, there's no schedule. The only thing you sourpusses should be saying is:

    THANK YOU MR. HAGGIS - for standing up to authority in the name of equality.

    Bravo.

    Posted by: Strepsi | Oct 26, 2009 10:33:14 AM


  14. His reasons for denouncing Scientology is pretty similar to why abandoned Catholicism. Although I believe most Catholics are good people with good intentions, I stopped being a Catholic when i became old enough to ask questions.

    Also, judging by the letter, the rumors about John Travolta is now easier to believe. I recall Time magazine writing an article way back about Travolta wanting to quit the church but Scientology threatened to expose his gay past.

    Posted by: scar2 | Oct 26, 2009 10:35:32 AM


  15. STREPSI

    I have every right for calling him on 35 years of denial, a time when he sat silent while his 'church' ruined the lives of those around him. Sorry but Silence=Death. Which is why I left the Catholic Church 36 years ago, at the age of 14, when I started asking questions and saying no to hatred in the name of God.

    Posted by: patrick nyc | Oct 26, 2009 10:48:09 AM


  16. While this letter represents an admirable and undoubtedly (given the "church's" policy of retaliation against "supressives") brave stand against Scientology, the fact that he was involved for THIRTY-FIVE years without noticing that this stuff--and worse--has been going on since the very start of the cult means that he is either incredibly naive or until now he was just too happy with the industry benefits of belonging to the "celebrity" wing of Scientology that he looked the other way.

    Posted by: Thomasina | Oct 26, 2009 11:01:13 AM


  17. I have to agree with many other comments: anyone who followed Scientology for so long is crazy. It was only in the past 10 months that he realized it's a useless cult that sees some people as better than others?

    Though I find it odd that he closes his letter with a recap of his career and achievements. Seems self-aggrandizing and unnecessary.

    As to the, Would you be accusatory to someone who acted straight for 35 years? My answer is, Yeah, probably. But Haggis wasn't born a Scientologist. He's been following it since his 20s, into his 50s. That capacity for self-deception is pathetic, and frankly I don't get men who don't come out until massive chunks of their lives are over. Dishonesty in such a major area of your life bleeds over in other areas, poisoning you and hurting others.

    Posted by: Paul R | Oct 26, 2009 11:35:07 AM


  18. Ooooooo Tommy Girl is throwing a shit fit as we speak.

    Posted by: Tralfaz | Oct 26, 2009 12:26:33 PM


  19. quick note- Haggis did not direct Million Dollar Baby. Clint Eastwood directed the film from Paul Haggis' script.

    Posted by: Andrew | Oct 26, 2009 12:57:43 PM


  20. Never heard of this guy.

    Posted by: Yeek | Oct 26, 2009 1:27:07 PM


  21. A scientologist discovers 35 years too late that his 'religion' is a pack of lies. Welcome back to reality Haggis.

    Posted by: Andrew K | Oct 26, 2009 2:02:28 PM


  22. It took him this long to figure that stuff out? I guess it was a matter of dedication or loyalty or "brainwashing". I suppose that makes sense. I'm glad he's broken free (and so honorably with this letter) and I'm sure that after a while out from under their influence, he'll look back upon his membership as very obviously foolish.

    In the meantime, I hope he knows that he is vulnerable to their various methods of retribution. Among those is his file of "confessions", which (by church contract) is only private so long as he is a church member. Hopefully there's not too much in there.

    But they have tendrils that are known to reach into many sectors, and he is now what they call, "free game" (look it up). He may find himself, or his business interests, suddenly audited, or for business ventures (films, for example) to be strangely beset with legal scrutiny and unconventional challenges. These are only some of the tools that have been used (and well documented) against ex-scientologists. What other methods have never been found out?

    I respect his history of "defending the under-dog". I too have often found myself "defending" the more bizarre doctrines of the CoS (since I find their weirder notions to be only slightly stranger than the stories of even mainstream religions). But the reality of the way that the church functions in society, and their twisted views of morality, and their insidious, duplicitous manner of evangelizing, are beyond reprehensible.

    I wish him luck. It may prove to be more difficult than he expected. The letter is a testament to his character.

    Posted by: Michael of the Green | Oct 26, 2009 8:23:55 PM


  23. translation: stop asking me for money!

    Posted by: anon | Oct 26, 2009 9:19:22 PM


  24. Hats off to Mr. Higgis. Better late than never.

    Posted by: Eva a | Oct 27, 2009 1:22:19 AM


  25. Wow, this is unfortunate. Interesting story. Paul received a LOT of wonderful Scientology counseling early on. Scientology counseling increases one's ability. This is most evident in the transparent world of the arts. Paul joined the ranks of Chick Corea, John Travolta and Tom Cruise as celebrities whose careers skyrocketed after a developing a foundation in Scientology concepts. Just looking at all of the remarkable accomplishments and humanitarian measures in Paul's life... leads one to wonder if his basis in Scientology was THE major contributor. L. Ron Hubbard said that Scientology was to make the able more able. I happen to agree with Paul's side beefs though. Disconnection is too often 'suggested' and sometimes the wrong people are 'declared' (meaning declared suppressive to the Church).

    In the early days, Hubbard placed homosexuality at the level of 'covert hostility' on his emotional scale. At the time it was accurate. Homosexuality was best hidden. Now, as any homosexual could tell you, the ability to come out of the closet today frees them of this over-arching covertness that has been necessary in times past. Nothing in the Church's Creeds or Codes prohibits any sexual orientation. It would be nice to hear them express a more liberal viewpoint publicly.
    As far as the recent Rinder's and Rathbun's comments that were alluded to... They were both high-ranking Scientologists. They claimed that every now and then that Miscavaige (the Chairman of the Board) would give someone a smack. The Church denies this, but who knows. What is most interesting is what they didn't say. They DID have problems with Miscavaige. But they didn't have problems with the technology of Scientology as developed by L. Ron Hubbard. They didn't disparage the Technology at all. They just hoped for better management. What rings true here is that Scientology is definitely experiencing some growing pains along the way and has some problems, but that the concepts of Scientology work. Scientology makes the able more able. You can discover this for yourself in one weekend. Just buy a used copy of Self Analysis (by L. Ron Hubbard) and use it for a couple days. You will notice your mood improving, the world looking brighter, and your thinking will also be clearer. It is a fun process to increase ability that you can run on yourself or your friends.

    I am guessing that Paul would basically agree with this letter and appreciate having it in his comments section.

    Posted by: R. Peter | Oct 27, 2009 1:51:16 AM


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