Paul Haggis Parts With Scientology in Scathing Letter

Oscar-winning "Crash" director leaves faith, admonishes Church of Scientology.

October 26, 2009, 11:08 AM

Oct. 26, 2009 — -- While many of Hollywood's elite have long adhered to Scientology, last week, Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis broke rank, resigning from the church in a scathing letter to Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis.

Haggis, famous for films that include "Crash," "Million Dollar Baby" and "Letters From Iwo Jima," cited ideological and personal reasons for breaking with Scientology.

Haggis wrote that he had for months tried without success to have the church publicly denounce its San Diego chapter for its support of Proposition 8, the legislation to ban gay marriage in California.

"The church's refusal to denounce the action of these bigots, hypocrites and homophobes is cowardly," Haggis wrote. "I can think of no other word. Silence is consent, Tommy. I refuse to consent."

Haggis also asserted that the church "ordered" his wife, actress Deborah Rennard, to "disconnect from her parents because of something absolutely trivial they supposedly did twenty-five years ago when they resigned from the church.

"Although it caused her terrible personal pain, my wife broke off all contact with them" for a year and a half, Haggis wrote. "I refused to do so. I've never been good at following orders, especially when I find them morally reprehensible."

Haggis' publicist, Ziggy Kozlowski, confirmed to today that the letter posted on Friday was indeed written by the director in August. Kozlowski added that it was "intended as a private correspondence between [Haggis] and Tom Davis" and that he has no idea how it was leaked.

Scientology spokesman Davis denied Haggis' claims that the church or its San Diego chapter had supported Proposition 8.

"Mr. Haggis had a disagreement with the church that went beyond having anything to do with the church," Davis told "He wanted the church to take an active stance on a political issue, which we don't do. We're prohibited from taking stances on political issues.

"The church of scientology in San Diego was put on a Web site supporting Proposition 8 falsely and I had our name taken off of it," Davis said. "That's how all this started. To the extent that anything prohibits or infringes on anyone's civil rights, we don't agree with it. We're a minority, we don't discriminate. We're for civil rights for all people."

Davis also denied Haggis' allegation that the church ordered Rennard to "disconnect from her parents."

"That's not true. The church doesn't do that," he said. "The church doesn't tell people who they should and shouldn't be connected with. It's the fundamental human right for someone to decide who they are and are not going to be in communication with."

Haggis' publicist said the director does not plan to comment further on the matter.

In his letter, Haggis said he is deeply disappointed with the church to which he has belonged for decades.

"I joined the Church of Scientology 35 years ago," Haggis writes. "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," he continues. "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."

"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," Haggis goes on later in his letter. "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."

Haggis isn't the first celebrity from the Church of Scientology to break with the faith. He's currently filming "The Next Three Days" with former Scientologist actor Jason Beghe, along with Russell Crowe and Liam Neeson.

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