(ABC News, October 24, 2009. The good part starts at 2:45 and really gets fun a minute later.)
At movieline this morning, a brave and scathing letter from Oscar-winner Paul Haggis to Scientology’s national spokesman, Tommy Davis (who you can meet in the clip above). Haggis denounces the controversial ‘church’ for “gay bashing” and other civil rights violations, including smear campaigns against ex-members using private information obtained during Scientology’s mandatory confessional “auditing.” New York Magazine sums up Haggis’ concerns:
It all started when a San Diego church publicly supported Prop 8. Haggis asked Davis to denounce its actions but Davis never went through with it. Then the already-pissed Haggis read an interview in which Davis denied Scientology’s practice of “disconnection” (forcing members to cut off communication with loved ones who oppose Scientology). But Haggis knew disconnection first-hand. His wife was forced to cut ties with her parents. The last straw came when Haggis read about the smear tactics Scientology used against its former members. That’s when he knew it was time to go.
Excerpts from the Haggis letter, which was first published in its entirety on the blog of an ex-Scientologist:
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. [‚Ä¶] 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 ‚Äúheads would roll.‚Äù 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‚Äôs human rights record and took no responsibility. Even that, you decided not to publish.
The church‚Äôs 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.
Another excerpt detailing the “disconnection” demanded by Scientology by his wife from her own parents, after the cut.
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 ‚Äì it was just you and the newscaster. And in it I saw you deny the church‚Äôs 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‚Äôt have to search for verification ‚Äì I didn‚Äôt 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 ‚Äì 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‚Äôve 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôt exist?
To see you lie so easily, I am afraid I had to ask myself: what else are you lying about?
And the final objections Haggis raises to Scientology’s repulsive record of revealing intimate details about lapsed members to discredit them in the press:
How dare you use private information in order to label someone an ‚Äúadulteress?‚Äù You took Amy Scobee‚Äôs 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 ‚Äì 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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.
I’d like to read somebody’s film school master’s thesis analyzing the Philosophy of Crash in light of Scientology’s core beliefs. One wonders how deeply 35 years of involvement with such a diabolically wacky organization would affect the creative outlook and output of one of it’s most prestigious members. For now, from me, all is forgiven. It’ll be fascinating to see where Paul Haggis goes from here, with his talent unchained from such nasty connections.
(Unless it gets taken down, all 5 parts of the ABC News special report on Scientology can be found here. Xenu willing.)