Acclaimed film director Paul Haggis parted ways with the Church of Scientology in mid August by sending a letter that was rather critical of the Church, its practices and in particular Tommy Davis, the head of Scientology’s Celebrity Centre. The letter was posted on a blog about Scientology and has since found its way all around the Internet, really hitting the mainstream news circuit over the weekend.
The award winning director, who wrote the screenplay for the James Bond franchise reboot Casino Royale, whose screenplays for Million Dollar Baby and Letters From Iwo Jima were nominated for Academy Awards and whose film Crash won the Academy Award for Best Picture (he personally won an Academy Award for his original screenplay for this film), wrote in the letter that he “could not, in good conscience, be a member of an organization where gay-bashing was tolerated,” referring to the Church of Scientology’s official backing of California Proposition 8, which in November 2008 amended the California Constitution with a new section that states “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
What surprises me is that Mr. Haggis seems genuinely shocked that the Church of Scientology would support such legislation.
L. Ron Hubbard, the science fiction novelist who founded the Church of Scientology in 1953 in order to make money, according to noted science fiction author Harlan Ellison in an interview in Issue 332 of the U.K. edition of Time Out, even wrote in his 1951 book Science of Survival, still referenced today as a core text by the Church of Scientology, that “perverts,” as he classified homosexual, bisexual and transgender individuals, were “intensely dangerous in the society since aberration is contagious.”
This is not to say that I think all or even most Scientologists support this belief any more than I think all or most Christians hate homosexuals, but to say that when one of the books written by the founder of your “religion” as an early foundation for what would eventually become Scientology espouses this kind of hateful ideology, you really shouldn’t be surprised when the Church gets behind legislation that would support those ideals.
Mr. Haggis goes on to chastise Mr. Davis for claiming in an interview that the Church does not follow a policy of “disconnection,” by which members are instructed to sever all ties with a friend or family member who is against Scientology, citing that his own wife was ordered to “(break) off all contact with” her parents simply because they resigned from the Church (they did not criticize the Church and were actually the people who introduced her in the first place). Davis and the Church obviously deny this and state that it is always a personal choice by the member to engage in this behavior.
I’m personally elated that a more high-profile celebrity member of the Church has finally recognized the serious flaws in the Church of Scientology and actually took action to distance themselves from it. I remain hopeful that more celebrities will realize what they got themselves into and do the right thing by denouncing the Church even if it means risking friendships.
On the other hand, I feel bad for the majority of Scientologists who I believe, like Mr. Haggis, are actually good people for whom the beneficial teachings of Scientology have actually helped and who simply want to make the world a better place. I believe that Scientology, like any other religion (I am wary of classifying it as a “true” religion although for simplicity’s sake I refer to it as such here), at its core can really help people but is too often warped and twisted by “the organized” into a tool for control, fear-mongering and money-making and is too often misrepresented by the more “entertaining,” for lack of a better word, individuals in the group.
There’s no doubt in my mind that many Scientologists will unfairly come under fire for being like Mr. Davis, Mr. Hubbard or any of the other more extreme members of the religion. To those people who would subject them to this kind of treatment, I can only caution that you don’t want to become the type of people you accuse Scientologists of being.