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
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
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.
[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: WENN.com