Director Paul Haggis’ scathing letter resigning from Scientology (update)

Oscar winning screenwriter and director Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby) has penned a long letter to a Scientology official in which he outlines the reasons why he’s breaking ties with the cult. This is very significant, because Haggis is the most high profile person to break ties with Scientology after actor Jason Beghe denounced the cult last year.* At issue for Haggis is Scientology’s public support of Prop 8, which denies same sex couples the right to marry, their spokesperson’s denial of their policy of “disconnection” from non-believes, which Haggis has experienced personally in his family, and their gross human and civil rights violations as detailed in a series of articles in the St. Petersburg Times this summer.

Radar Online has good coverage of this issue along with part of the letter from Haggis to Tommy Davis, the head of the Scientology Celebrity Centre. Radar claims it’s the full letter, though, and part is missing. You can read the full letter on former Scientologist Mark Rathburn’s site.

Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Jenna Elfman can count one less Hollywood A-Lister as a fellow Scientologist. In a shock heard-round-the-Scientology world, Paul Haggis has very publicly quit the organization. Among the acclaimed Haggis’ many credits: he wrote Million Dollar Baby and Flags of Our Fathers for Clint Eastwood; and he produced/directed and wrote Crash for which he won an Oscar. He has an all-around stellar reputation in Hollywood as one of the good guys who made good.

It was his conscience that made him quit the religion he’s been part of for 35 years, Haggis said in a letter to Tommy Davis. Davis, the son of actress Anne Archer, is the face of Scientology, appearing on numerous TV interviews every year.

Roger Friedman, in his Hollywood Reporter column, Showbiz 411, broke the story Sunday, and published a copy of Haggis’ letter to Davis.

Haggis first became disenchanted with Scientology last year when it backed Prop 8, the ban on gay marriage in California.

The director personally spoke to Davis about it. He claimed he was horrified at the news, Haggis wrote, and he’d get to the bottom of it. Nothing changed.

Then Haggis learned that in a CNN interview, Davis had laughed off the idea that Scientology has a policy of “disconnection.” Haggis couldn’t believe he was watching Davis “lying.” His own family had suffered from disconnection when 18 months ago, his wife, actress-turned-producer Deborah Rennard was ordered to “disconnet” from her parents because of something Scientology officials claimed occured when they resigned from the church 25 year ago.

Perhaps coincidental to Haggis releasing his letter, Davis literally walked off the air during an ABC Nightline interview wth Martin Bashir Saturday night.

Here’s Haggis’ letter to Davis:

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

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?

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.


Paul Haggis

[From Radar Online]

It takes a huge amount of courage for Haggis to denounce Scientology like this. Scientologists have a policy of “fair game” in which they’ll go to any lengths to discredit their detractors, including exposing personal information gained during the indoctrination or auditing process. Haggis realizes this, and wrote to Davis that “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.”

(*Thanks to Scientology expert Dr. Dave Touretsky for some of the insight in this post.)

Update: PopEater has this video of Scientology spokesperson Tommy Davis freaking out and walking out of an interview with Martin Bashir on Nightline. It happens at 3:40 in the video below when Bashir asks him about Xenu. “You are intentionally asking me things which you know I find offensive.” I guess Xenu-speak is verboten to Scientologists. You have to pay good money and go through a lot of abuse to get that information.

Paul Haggis is shown on 7/18/09 at Outfest with his daughter, Katie. Credit:


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42 Responses to “Director Paul Haggis’ scathing letter resigning from Scientology (update)”

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  1. Tess says:

    Better late than never.

    But Jeeze Louise, he must be a wack-a-doodle because nobody who is both sane and smart could possibly remain a member of this group well into their adult years.

  2. Firestarter says:

    Scientology is nutty, that’s all I have to say.

  3. M says:

    What I don’t understand is why members stay so loyal to the CoS, when they know how crazy/effed up/manipulating of an organization it is.

    Any “religion” that forces a member to dissociate from a family member for trivial reasons should make everyone RUN FOR THE HILLS.

    I’m glad he (and presumably his wife and child) left, and I hope it inspires more people within the group to question and leave, or prevents someone else from joining.

    I think Scientology is a cult, but I do believe Haggis when he said the majority of people are good, wonderful people and aren’t crazy insane like Tom Cruise or that Miscavige guy.

  4. sarah says:

    I think it’s really clear what happened between Tom and Nicole 10 years ago.I don’t think she ever accepted Scientology or maybe did for a while and decided against it. All he ever said is “Nic knows why.” Just gross.

  5. Jazz says:

    Good for him! Can you imagine what would happen if Tom Cruise left? The whole cult would collapse.

    • Hakura says:

      It’s so strange to think that anyone’s entire church/reputation… would be dependent on Tom Cruise

  6. stacy says:

    Scientology is not a religion, it is a cult. Any religion that is more self involved, than it is doctrinal or God- serving is something to be questioned. There are many different religions, many different gods/ Gods, but at least it all comes down to a basic principal- God loving, God serving, God fearing. It doesnt seem to me that Scientology has any one of those three. I give this guy alot of props for doing what he did. Great, CoS is worried about the planet, etc. Go Green, Not Postal!

  7. Anna says:

    That’s a really courageous, but long overdue, thing Paul did there. I am so happy for him and that now, his family will finally get to be a family again.

    Hopefully this will inspire other Scientologists, who may have been doubting in silence, to also leave the Madhouse. And maybe, just maybe, this will give the Travoltas the courage to leave as well. I have a feeling they’ve been doubting Scientology a lot ever since Jett’s death.

    • Hakura says:

      It was incredibly brave to do this, & even more so to make it public. He spoke his piece without losing his temper or even coming across unpleasant. Admirable.

      I hope so too.. Someone else mentioned that if Tom left, the entire cult would crumble. Sort of like entrusting a fragile, prized possession at the edge of a table, above the leg that *just so happens* to be infected with termites.

      Who knows, maybe John Travolta was experiencing some serious guilt, (continuing to be part of a group that has now started supporting Prop 8.) when he got himself in trouble recently.

  8. UrbanRube says:

    M, they stay so loyal at least in part because of that “fair game” policy. There is literally NOTHING they won’t do to punish/terrorize people who try to leave.

  9. Kaye says:

    I was part of a cult and they make you feel like you have special knowledge by being part of the group and if you leave your life will fall apart.

    @sarah – I think you are absolutely right that this sheds light on what happened between Tom and Nicole.

  10. Film2TV says:

    Indeed, this guy should get ready for a world of hurt and a career crash. Unless he has some big guns that are not Scientologists he’s going to have a hard time getting work in Hollywood for a quite a while if ever again. I feel sorry for him that he was duped for so long and now has to go through the gauntlet of pain before he is free.

  11. lucy says:

    Agreed better late than never.
    Definitely a cult – no other religion I know REQUIRES you to pay a lot of money for their “knowledge” or counseling. They ask, but don’t require, and don’t withhold help until they get a check.
    I don’t understand how anyone could stay in it when told to disconnect from family they had no problems with.
    I think he was probably wise to make this public – now if CoS tries to attack him back or ruin his career, it’ll be pretty obvious. They have to let it go or risk exposing (even more so) their terrible methods.

  12. Bill Hicks is God says:

    Well, well, isn’t this an early Christmas present!

    Finally, somebody with clout and credibility with Hollywood and social justice causes has left a flaming cow pie on $cientology’s doorstep.

    What will make Co$ go especially batshit is Haggis’s validation of what Mark Rinder is/has been saying all along. You know there’s a bunch of lawyers and publicists over in Clearwater absolutely spazing around a conference table right now.

  13. Play-Doh says:

    Mr. Haggis had better look both ways before crossing the street for the rest of his life…literally and figuratively…

  14. Celebitchy says:

    @Sarah and Kaye – for more on what happened to Tom and Nicole, see this post – Tom’s former auditor says that Scientology arranged for their divorce.

  15. GatsbyGal says:

    Hopefully his wife will follow suit and be able to speak with her parents again. I can’t believe anyone would actually belong to a “church” that tells its members they have to cut loved ones out of their lives. Nothing is worth belonging to THAT badly.

  16. RAMONA says:

    What I would like to know is where did L.Ron Hubbard, the author of “Dianetics”, and where Scientology originated, get his divine inspiration from? He was a science fiction writer for goodness sakes, and now he has millions of people following his “Teachings”, if that is what you can call it. Who in their right mind would “worship” a man and his theories as though he were a god? Calling this a Religion is laughable…..I don’t get it….I think I will go worship Steven King now….

  17. daniel says:

    It’s not that their “followers” are loyal but that the church gets them to “confess” and documents those things then threatens to use their own confessions against them if they quit or speak out. This is probably why Travolta, Cruise, etc don’t leave because if they did they have too much to loose if their private indiscretions came out into the public light. It is PURELY a religion for the people in Hollywood to use as their own private tax shelter, gossip bin, and playground. The religion is a total sham and anyone with half a brain knows it. These people that are current followers are either mentally kept prisoner by their confessions or money bound or they are just see the church as a way to further their own ambitions in the fame game.

    I really wish that the US government would investigate the finacial dealings with the church, rule it as an organization, not a church and remove their tax exempt status.

  18. mollyb says:

    I wonder if this is why you so rarely see Nicole Kidman with her children from her marriage to Tom Cruise. Perhaps they have already been taught to “disconnect” with her after she left the church and went back to Catholicism.

  19. california angel says:

    Stacy – I agree that Scientology isn’t a religion, but really a cult and you present a great point. I would like to point out, however, that spirituality is much more than God, and that an organization does not need to notate God or acknowledge God to be a religion. Nor does the failure to acknowledge God automatically disqualify a belief system from being a religion. God is a man-made concept, not a certainty. Not every religion necessarily boils all of their beliefs down to God or the service/fear/love of that certainty deity.

  20. Juice In LA says:

    Looks like the Scientology walls are crumbling! When they report the history my guess is Tommy Boy leaping on the couch is gonna be the first snag in the armour.

    Bravo to anyone like Haggis brave enough to leave this frightening group in the face of the forthcoming smear campaign. Someone above waxed philosophical on the idea of Tom Cruise leaving, but I was actually pulling for the Travolta’s to make the big break. Still am.

  21. buenavissta says:

    Well considered, well said and very brave.

  22. Firestarter says:

    Make no mistake, Cruise is not staying in the Church because he is too scared to leave. He stays because he is a nutty man who acutally believes in the drivel they spew. Tom Cruse is not the Mr.Nice guy that he portrays himself on tv,interviews and movies. He is just like Miscaviage.

  23. coucou says:

    Hopefully this is just the beginning and more will follow, like Travolta for one, to think his son Jet wasn’t getting treated medically, he’s got to be having doubts, too. And I always wonder about Katie Holmes…I mean, it’s got to get old after a while, I can just see them asking her to “disconnect” from her parents, if they haven’t already! I live in Nice, France, and a young Norwegian tourist jumped out of a window and killed herself while studying here. She had done one of their “inventories” and the results were so shocking and invasive, she could not handle it. I really don’t understand how the hell this cult has any clout, unless it’s all just about money and power – DUH. It’s really sick. But as for Mr. Haggis, I must say that I am hopeful, hopeful that this is a sign of more to come, it shows that we as a species are possibly evolving on a more equal and hence more spiritual level…we are all connected, which CoS obviously does not want to accept. I choose to “disconnect” from the the CoS. I wouldn’t join their cult/club if they paid me to.

  24. I choose me says:

    @ California angel. Ditto to everything you said.

  25. Sass a Frass says:

    Does anyone else think it’s weird that he’s choosing to leave now b/c of Prop 8 and lying on CNN, but he DIDN’T leave when they asked his wife to stop speaking to her FAMILY?!?! While I think he has vaild points and I’m glad he’s out of the “cult” I find it strange that he put up with the “Disaconnection” in his own family and is only leaving now. Hmm….

  26. crash2GO2 says:

    “Does anyone else think it’s weird that he’s choosing to leave now b/c of Prop 8 and lying on CNN, but he DIDN’T leave when they asked his wife to stop speaking to her FAMILY?!?!”

    Naw, like his letter said, he kept really hoping that this Davis character was going to pull his ass out and do something about it. When he didn’t, it was probably like the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

  27. stacy says:

    @California angel- I agree, but if you take most religions down to bare bones, that is what the majority of them are all about. Each has a different approach. I dont think that not believing in God makes you a disbeliever, everybody believes in something, even if it isnt God. Not believing in God makes you a believer of a concept- atheism, agnostic, etc. I appreciate the nice tone in your reply. Most people are quick to tear down w/ words if you dont agree with their opinion.

  28. Hurricane says:

    I have been with the Church for 2 years and this Haggis guy doesn’t know what he is talking about! What authority does he have to question the higher ups in the Church? None.

    He clearly is an unstable person with an axe to grind.

    (just writing the comments actual church members wish they could if the church allowed them to use computers that aren’t blocked by the programs they devised and sent out on CD-Roms to members to block sites critical of the church)

  29. Kris says:

    Why is it that in a “religion” that does not recognize psychiatric conditions does it seem like they are all NUTS!!! Seriously they look like they need some crazy meds…lol

  30. Nony says:

    mollyb: it’s quite likely that they came to the age where they’re taught to avoid ‘suppressive persons’ (ie those who don’t support Scientology Corporation) and therefore stopped seeing their mother. Very sad.

    And I am so glad to see this news. I don’t think it’s weird that it took so long. A lot of Sc Corp members get in because it all sounds so good, and it draws you in, promises wonders after the next turn. It takes over your social life. People are nice, and very persuasive. You confess all sorts of intimacies which are written down in your file. You hush any self doubt with “when I reach the next level it will all suddenly happen” and then when you finally scrape the money together you still don’t feel the magical difference, but the people on the next level all act so much more enlightened! Some probably believe they have magical space powers and some are faking it because they don’t want to let others see that it’s not working for them (because if it’s not working for you, it’s your own fault!). The vast majority of Sc Corp members are ‘faking it until they make it’ and they are not ever allowed to talk to each other about the teachings so nobody realises it of one another.

    It’s basically one big sunk cost fallacy. Someone has invested a lot in Scientology Corporation – money, energy, social life, standing etc. They don’t want to believe that they were wrong to do so, so they’ll stifle any glimmer of doubt about it. They just keep investing more and more in the hope that they’ll recover their investment at some point.

    Plus Scientology Corporation members are told explicitly that anything good that happens to them is due to Scientology, and anything bad is due to their own faults. They are taught over and over that they are nothing without Scientology Corporation, that if they leave, they will end up on the street begging for change. Any value they have is because of Scientology.

    That, and often having invested so much, makes it extremely hard to leave. Paul Haggis is very brave to leave, and to do it so publically. I hope that Hollywood will be kind to him and that he will thrive – Scientologists need to see examples of ex-scieno’s doing well for themselves.

    Not that any hardcore scieno’s will see or hear about him. He is now a Supressive Person and therefore dead to them, and they may not listen or read to anything about him.

  31. Nony says:

    Hurricane: don’t worry, they will turn up soon enough! Scientology Corporation has an entire office full of people who surf the internet for any negative press, and are then supposed to counter it. It’s sad really, they have to do it to keep their stats up.

    A lot of them will be so strongly in the grasp of Sc Corp that they can read this entire thread and just see it as lies by SPs (probably organised by the global psychiatrist conspiracy. If you think this sounds crazy, go read up on wiki – I’m not making it up!).
    But you never know, maybe some of them have their doubts, just don’t know how to extract themselves. Maybe some of them will be heartened by reading about Paul Haggis. Maybe some will be a tiny step closer to finding the resolve to just leave. One can hope.

  32. Dr Tom Cruise, MD, PhD, OmniscientGodKing says:

    you all need to stop being so glib!

  33. Trillion says:

    If Scientology sticks around long enough, it will graduate from cult status to “religion”, just like Seventh Day Adventists (followers of Ellen G. White), Mormons (followers of Joseph Smith) , Christian Scientists (followers of Mary Baker Eddy), etc. etc. Christianity was a cult (followers of Christ, a hardcore ascetic and anti-materialist pacifist who claimed to be the son of God) until it got really big. Then it became a “religion”.
    Oh, and paying 10% of your income to the church is right out of the bible. (Lev. 27:32 is just one ex.)

  34. Mest says:

    Scientology will never be a religion because it doesn’t worship a deity. There is no God in Scientology. As the internet continues to expose the Scientologists, they will eventually have their tax status revoked and be regulated like any business. Scientology uses mind-control techniques such as lie-detectors, interrogation, blackmail and “disconnection” (shunning of loved ones) to control its members. Scientology strips people of money and autonomy. Ruthlessly attacking all perceived enemies with its Fair Game Policy (enemies can be “tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed), Scientology intimidates witnesses into silence. Scientology is psychologically and physically abusive, as exemplified by their Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF) where Prison camps are run for “Sea Org” members in Los Angeles, Clearwater FL, Copenhagen and other sites. Scientology front groups like Narconon prey on people who have fallen through the cracks of society. Now we can add gay bashing to their crazy agenda.

  35. Shay says:

    Why is it that in a “religion” that does not recognize psychiatric conditions does it seem like they are all NUTS!!! Seriously they look like they need some crazy meds…lol


    Because they’re all in denial about whatever drew them to $cientology. Which is why so many of them are homophobic and anti-psychiatry. They’re either gay and trying to hide from it or crazy and don’t want to take their meds. Not saying all of them but the loudest segment seems to be.

  36. Firestarter says:

    HAHAHA!OMG Tom Cruise, brilliant post!

  37. Bambi says:

    I thought scientologists rejected homosexuality on principle. So I’m not understanding why Haggis got so bent out of shape for their support of Prop 8. Yes to gay marriage but no to gay people does not compute.

    Not that logic abounds within the scientological mind. . .

  38. So let me get this straight… the DC-10’s in space and exploding volcano evil space alien shtick is no reason not to be a Scientologist, but backing or not backing some political issue in California is an intolerable outrage that requires breaking free from these wackos?

    Well fine, better late than never I suppose, but forgive me if this does not make me adjust my opinions of Paul Haggis upwards more than 1 small notch on my idiotometer.

  39. Nony says:

    Which is why so many of them are homophobic and anti-psychiatry. They’re either gay and trying to hide from it or crazy and don’t want to take their meds.

    They are anti psychiatry because good ole LRonHub had a breakdown and got told by a shrink he was unstable and delusional. He hated psychiatry because they told him stuff he didn’t want to hear, and the entire psychiatry hatred/conspiracy complex is based on that. Pretty wry really, considering that most sufferers/followers really really need some counselling to get their heads straight, but will never get mental health care.

  40. gg says:

    I’m going to be a really picky person and say this, please forgive me.

    @ Firestarter – THANK YOU SO MUCH for not saying “dribble” instead of drivel.
    I get so tired of the widespread misuse of the English language, which is worsening very quickly (probably because of the internet). I was watching a movie last night, Almost Famous, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman actually said “dribble” for “drivel”; I was under the impression he was smarter than that.

    Anyhoo – L. Ron Hubbard’s estranged children sure have a lot to say about their disgusting father, who more than one of which disowned him for abuse (he fed his kids barb-laced bubblegum, among other things) and his anti-gay homophobia, here is just one report:

    And most damning in light of the homophobia, is the story of Hubbard’s son, Geoffrey Quentin McCaully Hubbard.

    Does a man’s seven children disowning him because of abuse and lying count for anything to the crazy CoS? Nope. Listen to the children people, and their stories, they have EXTREMELY damning testimonies of their severly mentally ill, philandering father.