Paul Haggis on Scientology: 'I was in a cult for 34 years'

Paul-HaggisImage Credit: Neilson Barnard/Getty ImagesYou probably won’t find a copy of The New Yorker in the waiting room at L.A.’s Scientology Celebrity Centre this week. The latest issue includes a lengthy profile of Paul Haggis in which the 57-year-old Oscar-winning writer-director (Crash, Million Dollar Baby) discusses the religious organization of which he’d been a member for more than three decades. “I was in a cult for 34 years,” Haggis tells New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright. “Everyone could see it. I don’t know why I couldn’t.” 

Haggis broke with the Church of Scientology two years ago after he failed to convince church officials to publicly condemn Proposition 8 — the California ballot initiative outlawing gay marriage in the state — after a church member added the San Diego chapter to a list supporting the measure. (Two of Haggis’ daughters are gay.) A church official did ultimately remove the chapter from the list, but in his New Yorker interview, Haggis talks extensively about other problems he had with Scientology, including an episode several years ago in which his wife was ordered by the Church to “disconnect” from her parents “because of something absolutely trivial they supposedly did twenty-five years ago.” The article also delves into aspects of Scientology’s outreach to Hollywood figures in addition to Haggis.

As The New Yorker reports, the Church has denied that it forces members to disconnect from non-believing family members — as well as some of the story’s other, more serious charges. But today, in response to the article, the Church released a further statement: “The article is little more than a regurgitation of old allegations that have long been disproved,” the statement reads. “It is disappointing that a magazine with the reputation of The New Yorker chose to reprint these sensationalist claims from disaffected former members hardly worthy of a tabloid.”

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  • Rebecca

    It’s a fascinating article. I don’t think too highly of Scientology myself but for the curious, it’s an interesting insight on how it purportedly works.

    • The Lady Said No…

      I appreciate your sincerity but these allegations have been dis-proven time and again.

      “The subject of the alleged investigation was recently raised in a lawsuit by the same individuals who are the sources for the article and the complaint was resoundingly dismissed by a Federal District Court Judge.”

      • osa handlers

        Yeah, but you’re an Office of Scientology Special Affairs internet handler and that’s just some copy-paste from a Scientology-owned website.

      • Voodoo

        Quite the opposite, actually. But hey, dishonesty is part of Scientology.

      • Lance

        Louanne Lee (actually Gloria Idda, a Scientology employee) and The Lady Said No… are the most terrible trolls I have ever seen.

      • Tom Cruise

        Scientology has changed my life.

      • Raptoraddict

        Where or where, do you get your “facts”, from John Smith? OOps, that is the “other” one isn’t it?

      • Michael M

        Federal judges don’t “resoundingly” dismiss anything, as anyone who practices extensively before the Federal bench well knows.

        Further, nothing is “disproven” by any party in any case when a judge dismisses a civil matter – there’s no summary judgment involved and certainly no trial. Dismissal is not a judgment.

        Dismissal is a legal and procedural action which does not address ultimate facts of a case, except to the extent those facts pertain to purely legal issues – i.e. the identity of parties, standing, jurisdiction, statutes of limitations or repose, etc. Obtaining a dismissal on procedural grounds is good lawyering where possible, as it saves the client time and money in getting the desired result, but it does not “disprove” a plaintiff’s allegations in the least.

      • Xenu

        All these thetans just won’t leave me alone!

      • ChaCha

        Disproven by whom? Lying Scientologists?

    • CensiaSilo

      I don’t believe a single thing that this Paul Haggis says. He seems to be on mission to get publicity.

      • osa handlers

        How long have you been in Scientology and what OT Level are you?

      • bee

        U should really read the article, you’ll come to get to know him more and why he defected. Like any normal people would do, he started to asked questions. I mean what church is it when memebers disappear. I hope more scientologist should investigate and realize what sham this church really is..

      • TGW

        I bet you believe everything David Miscavige says, though, don’t you?

      • rob

        Why would he be on a mission for publicity? He’s an oscar winning writer producer, he can get publicity any time he wants.

    • Devin Faraci

      Well this explains his career! Terrible screenwriter and director.

      • Liva

        I loved “Million Dollar Baby”. I thought it was extremely well written and wonderfully directed by Clint. But I get your point. Although, I believe all groups tend to support ‘their own’. Lone wolves are screwed.

      • B

        Yeah, Casino Royale sucked didn’t it, Theton Master?

    • LOL

      Religions are just cults with more members.

      • The Other Guy

        very good point

      • Ethel Mertz

        But you don’t have to pay up front to hear the message. By the way, I’m agnostic.

      • Raptoraddict

        I have thought that for years, but got tired of being shouted down by all of the “faithful”

      • ChaCha

        My karma ran over my dogma.

  • smart

    Wow. it only took him 34 years to realize it? Someone isn’t nearly as smart as I thought he was…

    • Maggie

      Well, “smart” – quite often a person has to step outside an all encompassing organization such as the church of scientology, to see it with fresh eyes and perspective to make such a life change.

      • SM

        “Smart” is one thing. “Conditioned” is something else.

    • Joe Blow

      Hardly stupid. Being in a cult and understanding how they indoctrinate and keep people there, even VERY smart people, can only be fully understood by people who have been in a cult.

      I agree, it seems that people are really dumb for falling for it. I felt the same about myself after leaving the cult I was in. But the truth is, anyone is susceptible to the indoctrination of a cult, especially if you are going through a rough time in your life and they promise you the things you feel you’re missing….happiness, companionship, unconditional love, spiritual righteousness, etc. You know, just like most other religions out there. They are all just different levels of “cult”, Scientology being a great example of a full on cult.

      • MJ

        Your honesty is appreciated and your comment is very well thought out.

  • LouanneLee

    The New Yorker article is another thinly veiled tabloid piece repeating old and new rumors from people with an axe to grind with the Church of Scientology. The New Yorker author Lawrence Wright could not come up with a single line that has not been discarded as the work of fanatic anti-religionists a long time ago. This piece actually sheds a new light on him as a researcher and writer. How much does his obvious hate against religion taint his judgment? This piece has been written by someone with a deep-set hatred against religion and spirituality. Just like the Hollywood dude Haggis, who openly confesses that he makes a living putting his personal life traumata in movie scripts, Lawrence Wright lives his anti-religious hatred in writing one-track minded articles and books. The New Yorker, putting on tabloid colors for a moment, has allowed him to air his therapy sessions and that is their choice but one really has to ask: I don’t really want to waste my time reading something like this.

    • Gil

      Hey Louanne,

      It seems you copied and pasted that same response all over the internet in response to this news release


      • ChaCha

        Maybe some Grand Poobah Thetan told her to.

    • Kevin

      There is nothing either religious or spiritual about scientology. And your diatribe offers zero proof of anything you say. Show me the LEGITIMATE sources that debunk anything Lawrence Wright wrote (“legitimate” meaning sources NOT receiving a salary from the “church” of scientology).

      • The Lady Said No…

        Does Lawrence Wright have legitimate sources?

      • Nick

        Lawrence has a great deal of sources, all of whom he names, unlike the Clam Trolls on here who just insist these stories have been “debunked” with nothing to back them up. What exactly do you think former members have to gain from speaking out other than trying to free their families and friends from a cult and warning others of the dangers? Unlike current members like yourself who can keep David Miscavaige living the highlife by ripping off innocent people.

    • Amanda Kiwinerd

      Scientology is a crock, just like all other religions!

      • LOL

        Scientology is similar to the GOP. They both reject facts.

      • B

        Yeah, but most members seem to be Democrats… hmmmmm

      • Raptoraddict

        @B, come on??? Can’t we all bag on this sudoreligion without stooping to politics? There is a place for everything, this is just the wrong place for you.

      • Kvivik

        @Raptoraddict – Ummm, LOL took the first shot with the politics. B was just following the thread.

    • Matt D

      @ LouanneLee or @ the lady said no… here is a legitimate question that maybe you can help me out with… in Scientology, You alone control your environment, your condition in life is no one else’s doing but your own but Scientology also holds that if you leave the church, something is wrong with you. Somewhere in your past is an “overt,” a transgression.

      So if you are unhappy with Scientology and want to leave, that is a way of controlling your environment, but if you leave, you are doing something wrong too. It is basically a catch 22. Please explain.

    • Fifi LeToit

      “Only attacks resolve threats. […] If attacked on some vulnerable point by anyone… always find or manufacture enough threat against them to cause them to sue for peace. […] Don’t ever defend. Always attack.” — LRH, HCO PL 15 August 1960, DEPT OF GOVT AFFAIRS

      Keep it coming Louanne! :P

    • Mddmouse

      Let’s try the Department of Defense for the actual records of Mr. Hubbard’s military records not the doctored/fake ones used by the cult.

    • leo44

      My ex was a member of Scientology. In an effort to go “clear”, he took a number of classes. I went to pick him up one day and surrounded by a circle of people, he was sitting in a chair with a girl in front of him sticking out her chest and saying “I think I am going to take all my clothes off”. The class ended and I asked what that was about. Evidently the point of that course was to learn to not react.

      He took me to a party at the center one weekend. One of the higher ups was talking to me, and when I walked away he said to my husband: “Don’t worry, we’ll get her”.

      Needless to say they didn’t. When we were moving, my husband stopped by the center to tell them he wouldn’t be making a class. Panic on board, high pressure: “You MUST come”.

      As we left, I said, “hmmmm if they REALLY wanted you to be there, they would have offered to help you move.”

      After this incident he quit. For months after we would receive mail trying to get him to sign up for more classes. I remember one in particular that had a class on a fleet of fishing boats where you paid THOUSANDS of dollars to work the fleet.

      If it quacks like a duck….it is a cult. The members are brainwashed and pressure is maintained to keep them compliant and coming back.

      Don’t forget: the late L. Ron Hubbard in his teachings tells everyone that he could stop a bullet fired at him with the power of his mind.

      There is a reason that Scientology is banned in Europe. It is too easy to start a “church” in the US. Think I will start my own, after all, that tax exempt thing looks appealing…..

      • MJ

        Thanks for sharing the information…and that’s great that your ex was able to get out. Sounds like some scary sh*t goes on!

    • Whaaa?

      You maam are a stark raving idiot.

    • YLdiver

      Scientology is not a true religion, it is a cult. A cult by definition takes away the participants will to question the cult. That is Scientology to a T. Remeber L. Ron said multiple times, ” If you want to make a lot of money, start a religion”. So he did. It was and is such a farsicle joke of either a religion or a life enriching technology that it is hard to beleive that so many people have lost their free will and fortunes to it. I’m glad that a celebrity has finally manged to see the light and get out. I’m on the far other side of the political and social spectrum from Paul Haggis but I ‘m am glad he found a reason to get away from the Clearwater nuts. L.Ron Hubbard spent his last days a paranoid sick shell of a man that rode laying down in the back seat of the car he was being driven in for fear being assainated by the CIA or some other clandestine arm of the US government. Guess he wasn’t so convinced he could stop those bullets. The standard practice for this group is to deny, spin, argue and sue anything that threatens their money making golden goose.

    • Jams57

      Jeez, LoanneLee, where haven’t you posted your diatribe against Wright?

      I know you’re just following orders with your posts, but did you actually read the article?

      Wright allowed a number of card-carrying Scientologists the opportunity to respond to Haggis and offer their side of the story.

      Of course, that only led to the near-hilarious babbling of Anne Archer and her husband as they apparently couldn’t stop talking over one another about the wonders of Scientology. I can’t remember if it was her or her husband — maybe both– but their idea that Scientologists are the only people who can save the world? Pu-lease.

      I have only met one Scientologist in my life– that I’m aware of anyway. He was divorcing his wife because he had recently converted to Scientology and she refused to do the same.

      The guy took all of their savings, even though she had put more into their savings account than he had, and gave it to the Scientology Church to pay for the courses he was taking. He also attempted to sell their house without telling her so he could pay for all the courses necessary to get clear or something like that.

      Luckily, he couldn’t sell the house without her agreement. Too bad the savings was in a joint account. Otherwise she might have been able to hang onto her money.

      Okay, all religions ask for money from their followers. Someone’s got to pay the bills and keep the lights on. But no true religion would insist that you have to buy your way to paradise or pay money for courses to reach some superior state of being, which is essentially what Scientology does.

  • AK

    Well, if The New Yorker gave the Church of Scientology equal opportunity to deny Haggis’ allegations in that very same profile of him, then what do they have to be disappointed about?

    • osa handlers

      Scinetology is unhappy because the “merchants of chaos”,Scientology’s term for journalists, didn’t just copypaste Scientology press-releases which is what Scientology expects from all journalists.

  • Robert Smith

    All religions seem false to me but Scientology and Mormon faiths sound extra goofy.

    • Kevin

      One was created by a hack sci-fi writer. The other was founded by a guy who went from town to town pretending he could tell the future by putting a stone into a hat. So yes, I think you’re correct… the followers of both are all crackpots.

      • Alan

        Wow Kevin, even the writers of South Park are more informed than you. Way to pull that BS out of YOUR hat!

      • Amanda Kiwinerd

        Where’s your imaginary friend in the sky now???

      • pitt

        Actually Kevin summed it up quite succinctly

      • Natty

        I completely agree!

      • Raptoraddict

        BINGO!! I am right there with you Kevin. Way to tell it like it is. Now just hope that the crackpots aren’t right!

      • pete

        Kevin is right. Scientology was a bet by a sci fi writer to create a religion, it was a wager between him and some other writers.

      • YLdiver

        Kevin is correct Alan. You don’t know history if you think Kevin is pulling from his butt. Joe Smith came from a long line of con men and charlatans. L. Ron was an oppurtunist with delusions of grandeur.

      • sherrp

        As a card carrying, active Mormon, Alan is the only one with even a clue Joseph Smith isn’t/wasn’t anything close to a con man and if you ever sincerely investigated the religion you would know that.

      • sherrp

        And for the record I think the scientologists are nuts as well

    • jmcg

      You just wrote what I’ve thought for years. Those two “religions” origins are very bizarre.

    • A_Watcher

      Name ONE religion that views children as ‘tiny adults’, encourages it’s adherents to lie and has been convicted of organized fraud in France.

      • Raptoraddict

        Ah, I believe that would be a majority of Catholic PRIESTS!

      • A_Watcher

        @Raptoraddict, you not reading or even thinking… NO WHERE in Catholic doctrine would it even SUGGEST that what those priests did is okay.

        Scientology, however is another story.

      • Kvivik

        @Raptoraddict – The Catholic church has never been convicted of fraud in France. Other than that, you are right on the money.

    • e4ia

      Agree! I actually get those two mixed up sometimes. All religions are based on beliefs that may sound a little weird when explained out loud. But those two sound down-right ridiculous when you hear what they actually believe.

  • Mike

    Wow LouanneLee – Scientology plant much or what? Did you ever stop to consider that the same stories keep circulating about this “religion” because they have some merit? Did you bother to read the Rolling Stone piece on this topic that came about earlier in the 2000’s? Whatever the occupation or orientation of the former Scientology member, the fact that these stories affirm one another, confirming the fraud and pain visited on people by their fellow Scientologists, is what the reader should note. Pseudoscience and brainwashing should not be the basis for one’s spirituality.

    • well

      That Rolling Stone piece was phenomenal. A total eye-opener to this “religion” I always found to be suspect. Every time the dinner discussion turns to Scientology and how strange it makes people behave, I refer to it. I read Dianetics in the 80s when it was considered a sort of self-help book. I thought it was a total joke then. Any research you do on Hubbard confirms he was an unsuccessful Bradbury wannabe, a pervert, and a total crack-pot.

  • Chris P. Bacon

    LouanneLee <- "could not come up with a single line that has not been"…copy'pasted on EVERY comment section inside this galaxy running the New Yorker story. go ahead. google it.

    • The Lady Said No…

      And you’re the loser following it.

      • osa handlers

        You OSA guys are getting a little testing today, eh? Where is hostility on the tone scale?

      • pitt

        @the lady said no–and you are apparently LouanneLee’s “wingwoman”…

  • LouanneLee

    Chris, what’s your point? I can make a point that most “media” just stupidly repeats what other papers write. Many of the same hate-filled allegations are repeated all over “this galaxy”. Do you expect me to change my opinion from one to the other?

    • Maitre

      Did you honestly just say “what’s your point”? My god, the point is that you are a card-carrying scientology shill.

      • The Lady Said No…

        At least ‘Louanne’ has some kind of conviction…whether you understand it or not. On second thought, you might understand, your convictions lie in sitting in your mothers basement all day spreading hatred.

      • MCS

        The irony of your statement just made my head explode. You are also spreading hatred from your computer i.e your comment below calling someone an “unstable hack”. You are just as bad as everyone else here, maybe even worse, at least they are not pretending to have good intentions!

      • Joe Blow

        “At least ‘Louanne’ has some kind of conviction”

        Yeah, Manson’s minions had conviction too. What does conviction have to do with anything, other than proving that you’re completely bought in to a cult and you tow their party line?

      • Dean Koontz

        David Koresh’s followers had “conviction.” Timothy McVeigh had “conviction.” Hitler had “conviction,” too – perhaps that’s why Tom Cruise gives the “Seig Heil” salute to a giant portrait of L. Ron Hubbard in one of those Scientology Awards ceremonies.

    • osa handlers

      louanne=The Lady Said No, Scientology OSA and sock-puppet.

  • P.Q. Teegeeack

    The article was full of substance, excellent research, and very revealing. I, like so many, didn’t understand how someone with a mind like Haggis, could get caught up in this. Now I think I do. He’s still a rarity among celebrity scientology cult members though, but at least journalists will now have a fresh source in Wright’s work, so hopefully they will start challenging some of these celebrity cult members, on Xenu, Habbard’s past, slave wages and treatment for kids who grow up in this.

    • The Lady Said No…

      ‘Excellent research’ in unstable hacks looking for attention and some income.

      “The subject of the alleged investigation was recently raised in a lawsuit by the same individuals who are the sources for the article and the complaint was resoundingly dismissed by a Federal District Court Judge.”

      • Jayne

        The New Yorker has the best reputation in the media business for phenomenal research and fact checking on their articles. They are 180′ away from People Magazine.

        However, if you live in the Scientology bubble, without critical thinking skills, you probably would not know this, and probably rely on People Magazine for “news” about the most famous members of your “religion”.

      • B

        Did you just repeat what you said word for word from an earlier post?

      • TGW

        Okay, look, seriously, I know you people have a lot of work to do attempting to shore up the reputation of Scientology, but you need to stop using such blatant copy-pasted responses.

  • The Lady Said No…

    This is some sh!t–A cheap marketing ploy on behalf of Mr. Wright to boost his book sales. Its like a good trailer for a terrible film…a teaser yet ultimately full of crap.

    • L.T.

      @TheLadySaidNo shouldn’t you be reading something else other than Entertainment Posts? Or are you being paid to do so and churn out propaganda for your Religion – SCIENTOLOGY?

      • osa handlers

        She’s blocked from editing wikipedia since she’s posting from a Scientology-owned ip and her department, the OSA, only spam the new with those press-releases where no comments are allowed.

    • Voodoo

      How many times do you have to repeat this crap. Say it once and move along.

    • MJ

      Please bleach your brain and get out of that cult quick!
      And funny that you use the words “terrible film”…hmmm Battlefield Earth anyone? Based on the an idea by whom? Oh yeah, L Ron Hubbard!

  • JeanneBa

    My my my aren’t we clever Benji. Your first line is actually the only thing new in this “story,” Do you actually get paid for cutting and pasting someone else’s half-baked story into your website? Between the lousy investigation by Lawrence Wright and your simply reposting it, I think we have learned a great lesson on how NOT to maintain any journalistic integrity.

    • A_Watcher

      I wouldn’t talk abotu intergrity. And if the claims of abuse are as false as you claim, then WHY hasn’t David Miscavige spoken publicly on the matter? I would think that the leader of such an organization would confront such heavy allegations levied against himself and the organization he leads.

  • Leesa

    I give Haggis props for coming out so publically against this group. So many who leave it are too scared to speak out against Co$; I commend him for getting the word out there.

    • Lori

      I have a close friend that is one, and it’s so sad to see such a talented individual live in poverty because he feels obligated to support the church. Scientologists are some of the nicest people that you will ever meet, but they are brain washed to give their earnings to the church before they take care of their basic needs such as rent, health insurance, etc. It’s sad to see so many lovely people, especially those in the industry that are barely surviving be taken advantaged of for the benefit of the higher ups. I’m glad Haggis figured this out. God Bless him, and pray for those nice people that are victims.

  • Reade

    My brother, a former physics genius who has been in Scientology for almost 40 years, was ordered to disconnect from me, his sister, because I have consulted a psychiatrist over the years and am on anti-depression meds. He works at the Scientology center almost 24/7 and can take a vacation only if he can find someone to replace him in his position while he is gone. It’s the only “religion” I know of where you have to fork over your entire life savings in order to reach salvation, or “clear” as the Scientologists call it.

    • The Lady Said No…

      Your ‘sock puppet’ sob story isnt fooling anyone.

      • OT

        You’re not fooling anyone either… you and @LouanneLee are Scientologists in cahoots. Do you think the people on here are so stupid that we wouldn’t recognize you both as plants? Spread your propaganda somewhere else.

      • edina

        speaking of socks … seriously, do these Scientologists not understand that they make their cult look worse and worse — even more paranoid, hostile, deceitful and creepy — with their reactions to every single article on Scientology? (Which are all critical: Anybody who looks at Scientology while still in possession of their free will is critical.) Like, do they REALLY NOT GET that they’re just proving the point, over and over again? Then again, they’re probably stuck in some LA center at cubicles, told that if they post however many times that means the Thetans blah blah blah.

      • B

        Actually, i believe the “sock puppet sob story” (whatever the hell that means) over anyone who believes that we are all possessed by ancient evil alien ghosts.

      • Reade

        “Sock puppet sob story”? Well, I certainly wept many tears over losing my brother. If that makes it a sob story, literally, then, yes, I guess so. However, no socks or puppets were involved.

  • KikiZhou

    There’s just something about this guy that I don’t trust. He’s with Scientology for 34 years, and because they don’t bow down to his request, he sends a letter to all the admnistrative people, leaves and then is now whining about it to the news publications? Sounds a bit juvenile and agenda-laden to me. I feel bad for him.

    • osa handlers

      Have you ever taken any Scientology courses on the FreeWinds? You should get tested for asbestos exposure if you have.

    • May

      “Bow down to his request”? He had legitimate concerns about moral issues (prop 8, and telling people to “disconnect” from their families, being some of them). Questioning Scientology and its shady practices is more like informing the public rather than whining.

    • B

      If the agenda is to expose Scientology for the bulls#$% scam that it is, I’m in.

  • Woody

    An article about a disgruntled former member of a religious organization? Is that de ja vu or or perhaps I’ve seen stories like this multiple times. This is just the rehashing of an old story, rewritten to perhaps promote and publicize.

    • osa handlers

      What OT Level are you and is true that David Miscavige drinks a fifth of scotch a day?

    • Fifi LeToit

      @Woody, your first 2 sentences were so promising, you were SO CLOSE to getting it! But then it appears that your mind shut down and you fell into the hole. I agree that it’s an old story, but not that old, remember, Scientology is still a new religion, right? And this story, perhaps, promotes and publicizes the ONGOING ABUSES of this religion *cough*.

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