Academy Award Winning Director Paul Haggis Resigns from Scientology Over Treatment of Gays

Sunday, October 25, 2009

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Phew! I didn’t see this coming. Paul Haggis, who won two Best Film Oscars, one for “Million Dollar Baby” (2004) directed by Clint Eastwood, and “Crash” (2005) which he himself directed, has resigned from the Church of Scientologist after 35 years. Haggis, who is straight, could no longer tolerate Scientology’s homophobic policies.

Here is Haggis’ letter of resignation to “Tommy,” the leader of the cult 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.

“…the same face that denied the policy of disconnection”

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

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21 Responses to Academy Award Winning Director Paul Haggis Resigns from Scientology Over Treatment of Gays

  1. Rock says:

    Good for Paul Haggis. I’m curious to see if more celebrities will bail on this cult in the coming days.

  2. Pretty strong words, good for him.

  3. libhomo says:

    Haggis is better off without the Xenu haters.

    I’m so sick of sci fi cults like the Scientologists and the Mormons.

  4. Joe in Colorado says:

    This is the first I heard that Scientology had a hand in the Prop 8 debacle in California. Just another example of the misdeeds that happen when the Federal government gives tax exemption to a church.

  5. TOM339 says:

    Is everyone in Hollywood a Scientologist?

    Had I known Paul Haggis was one, I probably would have not seen Crash, which is one of my all time favorite movies of the past decade.

    Haggis’ letter is very powerful. I’ve read how deep the roots of homophobia are in the church and smearing members like Tom Cruise and John Travolta with scurrilous rumors of being gay are used to keep them in-line and paying 10% of their earnings.

    My wife so hates Scientology over their treatment of women that she will no longer watch a Tom Cruise movie and she was once his biggest fan.

  6. bradfrmphnx says:

    While I commend Paul Haggis for his letter, I have to wonder what the hell he was thinking by following this cult for 35 years. So now he just all of a sudden gets fed up by their homophobia? Any church that believes a big bad alien put evil big bad aliens in the volcanoes of earth a billion years ago is out to lunch and not coming back. They are forever linked with the Mormon Church in their homophobia and past histories of shunning other minorities. I nominate them for the stupidest religion ever award. And that’s beating out those wacky Jehova’s Witnesses.

  7. Brigadoon says:

    The Scientologists hold tremendous sway in the film industry. In fact, I’ve read that Tom Cruise demands a Scientology information tent be erected on all of his film locations. It’s staffed with Scientology greets, free food and fun T-shirts are distributed. If the studio refuses to this demand, he refuses to sign a contract to make the film.

  8. Geno says:

    you go Paul… I didn’t know scientology was this primitive in their thinking. I agree with Paul, if they can lie about their involvment in prop8 then what else do they lie about. no wonder Tom Cruise is in the Closet, this “religion” makes it hard for him to come out… BE A MAN TOM! WE KNOW WHO YOU IS!

  9. Scott Dancer says:

    You have a choice whether you wish to support the cult of Scientology by supporting the famous people who are members. Here’s a list of members I found and some of the names may surprise you.

    John Travolta – actor
    Chick Corea – American jazz pianist
    Brandy (Norwood) – R&B singer, actress
    Tom Cruise – actor, movie star
    Nancy Cartwright – voiceover artist
    Xavier Deluc – actor
    Jason Dohring – actor
    Michael Fairman – actor
    Geoffrey Lewis – actor
    Christopher Masterson – actor
    Danny Masterson – actor
    Haywood Nelson – actor
    Eduardo Palomo – actor
    Jeff Pomerantz – actor
    Giovanni Ribisi – (a.k.a. Vonni Ribisi) actor
    Michael D. Roberts – actor
    Bodhi Elfman – actor
    Jason Lee – actor and professional skateboarder
    Kirstie Alley – actress
    Mimi Rogers – actress (2nd generation)
    Anne Archer – actress
    Jennifer Aspen – actress
    Catherine Bell – actress
    Erika Christensen – actress
    Jenna Elfman – actress
    Katie Holmes – actress
    Kimberley Kates – actress
    Juliette Lewis – actress
    Priscilla Presley – actress
    Leah Remini – actress
    Marissa Ribisi – actress
    Michelle Stafford – actress
    Karen Black – actress
    Kelly Preston – actress
    Kate Ceberano – actress and musician
    Judy Norton-Taylor – actress and musician
    Lisa Marie Presley – daughter of Elvis Presley
    Billy Sheehan – rock and fusion bass player
    David Campbell – musician
    Dave Davies – musician
    Isaac Hayes – musician
    Nicky Hopkins – musician
    Mark Isham – musician
    David Pomeranz – musician
    Rob Thomas – musician
    Patrick Warren – musician
    Edgar Winter – musician
    Beck – singer (a.k.a. Beck Hansen)
    Carina Ricco – singer, actress, composer
    Gloria Rusch-Novello – singer, writer, composer
    Karen Nelson Bell – director and musician
    Robert Zoller – author
    Floyd Mutrux – screenwriter, director, producer
    Terry Jastrow – TV producer and director
    Peter Medak – film director
    Carl W. Rohrig – (a.k.a. Pablo Roehrig) painter
    Franca Cerveni – radio and television announcer
    James T. Sorensen – photographer
    Keith Code – motorcycle racing instructor
    Megan Shields – physician and author
    Chaka Khan – singer
    Sonny Bono – singer, U.S. Representative
    Mary Bono – U.S. Representative
    Heber Jentzsch – President of Scientology
    Ernest Lehman – screenwriter of The Sound of Music
    Greta Van Susteren – FOX TV host
    Werner Erhard – founded est
    David Miscavige – Church of Scientology chairman
    Jim Johnson – owner and founder of Mr. Jim’s Pizza chain
    Lee Purcell – actress, Big Wednesday, etc.
    Michael Wiserman – Predator 2, etc.
    Gary Imhoff – actor; Thumbelina, etc.
    Manu Tupou – actor and acting teacher; Hawaii
    Dror Soref – director; The Seventh Coin, etc.
    Amanda Ambrose – singer, vocal teacher
    Milton Ketselas – acting teacher
    Jim Rogers – celebrity producer
    Linda Blair – actress best known for The Exorcist
    Arnaud Boetsch – tennis player
    Darius Brubeck – musician
    Sharon Case – actress
    Glenn Zottola – trumpeter
    Andrew Loog Oldham – writer
    Dick Zimmerman – celebrity photographer
    Jeffrey Tambor – actor
    Eddie Deezen – actor
    Corin Nemec – actor
    Anita Mally – actress, screenwriter
    Julia Migenes – opera singer
    Lightfield Lewis – actor, director
    Charles Lakes – Olympic gymnast
    Laura Prepon – actress
    Helga Wagner – jewelry designer
    Deborah Rennard – actress
    Sofia Milos – actress
    Placido Domingo, Jr. – singer
    Robert F. Lyons – actor and drama teacher
    Carolyn Judd – ad writer and producer
    Paul Haggis – director (now former member)
    Josele Garza – racing car driver from Mexico
    Lenny Macaluso – musician, songwriter, producer
    Phillipe de Henning – racing drive
    Milton Katselas – acting teacher, director
    Maxine Nightingale – singer
    Mario Feninger – composer and concert pianist
    Jeffrey Scott – script writer
    Pamela Roberts – actress, clothes designer
    Elena Roggero – Italian singer, songwriter
    Karen Nelson-Bell – producer
    Lamia Khashoggi – wife of arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi
    Noelle North – dancer, voice-over actress
    Misha Segal – composer
    Andrik Schapers – singer from Netherlands
    Cass Warner – writer
    Jason Lee – actor (“Chasing Amy”)
    Michelle Stafford – actress (“The Young and the Restless”)
    Denice Duff – actress (“The Young and the Restless”)
    Lynsey Bartilson – actress (“Grounded for Life”)
    Tom Fair – musician
    Moon Martin – rock star; “Bad Case of Lovin’ You”
    Clive Clerk – actor, singer
    Jim McMullin – actor
    Michael Wiseman – child actor (“Predator 2”)
    Ludwig Fisher – actor and artist
    Ryan Paris – singer, musician
    Michael Schnitzler – violinist
    Peter Winsnes – actor
    Eric Sherman – director
    Peter Schless – composer, synthetisist and producer
    Diana Venegas – Miss Venezuela
    Jackson Sousa – Hollywood celebrity trainer
    Michael Sellers – concert pianist
    Susie Coelho – actress
    Hans Gunter Arenz – race car driver
    Fermin Sanchez – race car driver
    Kit Carson – motorcycle racer
    Al DiMeola – jazz musician
    Janet Greeson – owner of Diet Centers
    Willie B. Wilson – oil billionaire
    Tony Morales – drummer with the Rippingtons
    Amanda Rice – stripper

  10. JollyRoger says:

    It is my opinion that any religion that pushes persecution of people is a shit religion, and I want no part of it. I’m glad to see Paul Haggis making the right move.

  11. emcee says:

    Chaka Khan is Xenu?

    Damn girl, now I can’t be listening to your music now.

  12. Big Hank says:

    Haggis is a good and decent man. I applaud him kicking the cult to the curb.

    Scott – That is one amazing list. Where did you obtain it from? The Scientologists are usually so secretive. Just curious.

  13. libhomo says:

    Scott: Yeah, I stopped buying Beck’s stuff when I found out that he was a Xenu hater.

  14. Scott Dancer says:

    Here’s my source:

    http://www.adherents.com/largecom/fam_scientologist.html

    There are actually many more but I stuck to people in the arts and entertainment.

    I was blown away by their number. No wonder the Church of Scientology is wealthy. They take 10% of these people’s earnings.

  15. Prairiedog says:

    Paul Haggis was a Scientologist for 35 years?

    How long has this cult been around? I thought they were a fairly new cult? If I had know he directed Crash I might have avoided seeing it. Love that movie.

  16. Bill Hussein O'Reilly says:

    Karen Black? Xenu? Dayum! The things I learn.

    I used to wonder if I could get that wall eye to straighten out if I fucked her hard enough?

  17. DMason says:

    35 years in Scientology? Just think how much money the church made from him? It had to be millions of dollars. Well, at least Haggis is walking in the light now and not under Scientology’s control.

  18. anon says:

    The “Tommy” Mr. Haggis is referring is Tommy Davis, the spokesman for the Church of Scientology.

    I am sorry to make an anonymous comment on your blog but I am fearful about Scientology finding out who I am and of retribution from them.

    I hope you understand.

  19. celeb gsp says:

    really interesting article…didn’t knew I could find out so much with a simple click… blogging rules….nice job

  20. Guest says:

    Pfft! Many of these people are no longer in the CoS. And several are dead.

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