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Academy Award-winning film director Paul Haggis declared toScientology spokesman Tommy Davis that he had decided to leave theChurch of Scientology after being a member for 35 years. His letterto Davis was posted Saturday on the blog of former high-rankingScientology official Marty Rathbun. Haggis received Academy Awardsfor writing and producing the 2004 film Crash.

Paul Haggis in 2007

Image: David Shankbone.

Rathbun confirmed the authenticity of the letter by Haggis, andThe Hollywood Reporter also confirmed it with a friend of thedirector. At his blog, Rathbun has been critical of Scientology’scurrent leader David Miscavige. In the June article “FormerScientology executives say leader David Miscavige abused staff”,Wikinews reported on criticism by Rathbun and other high-rankingofficials that was published in a series of investigative articlesin the St. Petersburg Times. In his letter to Davis, Haggis wrotethat he read the series in the St. Petersburg Times, where theseformer Scientology officials accused David Miscavige of physicallyabusing Scientologists. He criticized the manner in which theChurch of Scientology attempted to smear the former officials afterthey spoke out against the organization.

Haggis expressed his disappointment to Davis, son of actressAnne Archer, that the San Diego, California branch of the Church ofScientology supported Proposition 8. Proposition 8 removed therights of same-sex couples to marry in California. The San DiegoChurch of Scientology was listed along with other groups on aProposition 8 supporters website, but it was later removed. Haggissaid that Davis initially told him he would do something about theSan Diego Church of Scientology’s support for Proposition 8, but inthe end Davis did not take action about this. Haggis called theinaction by Davis with regard to the San Diego Church ofScientology’s stance on homosexuality “cowardly”. Scientology viewsof homosexuality are controversial, and the introductory work tothe topic Dianetics by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard describeshomosexuality as a form of sexual perversion. Haggis wrote to Davisthat he did not wish to stay a member “of an organization wheregay-bashing was tolerated”, and called such behavior”indefensible”.

Actress Deborah Rennard, wife of Haggis, was introduced toScientology by her parents. According to Haggis, the Scientologypractice of “disconnection” was imposed on Rennard and her husband,and they were ordered to disconnect from her parents becauseRennard’s parents had violated a rule of the organization. Due tohaving undergone a personal experience with regard to Scientology’spractice of disconnection, Haggis was surprised to hear Davis denythe policy existed in an interview with CNN journalist JohnRoberts.

He concluded his letter to Davis by noting that hisScientologist friends might disassociate from him due to his words,writing, “…I am fully aware that some of my friends may choose tono longer associate with me, or in some cases work with me. I willalways take their calls, as I always took yours. However, I havefinally come to the conclusion that I can no longer be a part ofthis group. Frankly, I had to look no further than your refusal todenounce the church’s anti-gay stance, and the indefensibleactions, and inactions, of those who condone this behavior withinthe organization. I am only ashamed that I waited this many monthsto act. I hereby resign my membership in the Church ofScientology.”

Roger Friedman of The Hollywood Reporter described the filmdirector’s decision to leave the Church of Scientology as “astunning move”. Friedman wrote that “Haggis has taken an enormousstep here, and one that should resonate among all celebrityScientologists.” Tony Ortega of The Village Voice called Haggis’sdeclaration to Davis “a remarkable letter”, and Gina Serpe of E!Online wrote “True, he was nowhere near the religion’s most famouscelebrity practitioner, but he will no doubt now go down as one ofits most infamous, thanks to the inevitably viral publication ofhis resignation letter”. Writing for Movieline, Kyle Buchanancharacterized the letter by Haggis as “a candid, confrontationalletter to Scientology top brass”, and said “It’s a must-read.”Radar Online observed “In a shock heard-round-the-Scientologyworld, Paul Haggis has very publicly quit the organization.” FosterKamer wrote for Gawker that the letter by Haggis was “incrediblydamning” to Scientology, and Adam McDowell of National Post calledit “a scathing letter about church policy”. Vicki Hyman of TheStar-Ledger called Haggis “the most famous name (if not face) torenounce the Church of Scientology”.

Haggis has multiple credits in film, including work aswriter-director for Crash, and writer for Million Dollar Baby,Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Letters From Iwo Jima. BothMillion Dollar Baby (2004) and Crash (2005) won Academy Awards forBest Picture, making Haggis the first film writer since 1950 to penmovies which won Best Picture Oscars in consecutive years. He ishighly-regarded for his work as a humanitarian and for his civilliberties work, and his letter includes a list of awards he hasreceived related to his dedication to civil rights. He is currentlyworking on the film The Next Three Days, which includes actors LiamNeeson, Russell Crowe, and former Scientologist Jason Beghe. Beghepreviously went public with his own criticism after leaving theChurch of Scientology, and described how members must pay largeamounts of money to advance in Scientology levels.

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