'Crash' Director Paul Haggis Ditches Scientology
"I am only ashamed that I waited this many months to act. I hereby resign my membership in the Church of Scientology."
Over the past few days, a remarkable letter was published in four parts at the blog of Marty Rathbun, a former high-level Scientology official who has left the church and now criticizes Scientology's leader, David Miscavige.
In the letter, written to Scientology's current national spokesman, Tommy Davis, 'Crash' director Paul Haggis explains why he is leaving Scientology after 35 years.
Long known for his humanitarian efforts and strong support for civil liberties, Haggis says he was stunned when the San Diego branch of Scientology publicly supported Proposition 8, the state amendment that took away marriage rights for California gay couples.
Haggis goes on to list other factors -- he was shocked when Davis claimed in an interview with John Roberts on CNN that Scientology did not support the practice of "disconnection." Haggis knew that Davis was lying. He himself was asked to "disconnect" from the parents of his wife, Deborah Rennard, who had left Scientology.
Haggis also says he read the recent St. Petersburg Times series, quoting recent high-level Scientology defectors like Rathbun, who claimed that Miscavige physically abuses church members. In response, Davis attacked the people who spoke to the Times by using material that was obviously gathered in confidential church services -- a form of retaliation called "fair game" that Scientology has long been known for, but that the church publicly claims it doesn't do.
Haggis seems most upset that Davis had at first said he would do something about the San Diego support for Proposition 8, but ultimately did nothing.
The letter was published in four parts on Rathbun's blog, but here is the thing in its entirety, including the list of honors that Haggis achieved in his career supporting civil rights...
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.