Paul Haggis, the Oscar-winning writer-director whose credits include “Crash,” “Million Dollar Baby” and “Letters From Iwo Jima,” has left the Church of Scientology.

We were the first to report this on Sunday afternoon, after which many news sites helped themselves to the story.

In a stunning move, Haggis has written a letter explaining his exit to Tommy Davis, the celebrity wrangler for Scientology and the son of Scientologist actress Anne Archer. The veracity of the letter has been confirmed by a friend of Haggis.

Two things seem to have pushed the popular, amiable Haggis over the edge. One was Scientology’s backing of Proposition 8 in California banning gay marriage.

The other is more personal. It turns out that Haggis and his wife, actress Deborah Rennard, came into Scientology through her parents, of all things. But at some point, Rennard was ordered to break off from her parents and have nothing more to do with them because they’d violated some code of the sect. This heartbreaking situation has finally taken its toll.

(I always had a crush on Deborah Rennard when she played J. R. Ewing’s loyal secretary, Sly, on “Dallas.”)

Haggis is currently filming “The Next Three Days” with Russell Crowe, Liam Neeson, and another former Scientologist, Jason Beghe.

Haggis has taken an enormous step here, and one that should resonate among all celebrity Scientologists. Here’s his letter.

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?

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

Ps. I’ve attached our email correspondence. At some point it became
evident that you did not value my concerns about the church’s tacit
support of an amendment that violated the civil rights of so many of our
citizens. Perhaps if you had done a little more research on me, the
church’s senior management wouldn’t have dismissed those concerns quite
so cavalierly. While I am no great believer in resumes and awards, this
is what you would have discovered:

[Haggis lists his numerous awards]

The full text of the letter can be found here.

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