Below is a letter I wrote to David Remnick, Editor of The New Yorker magazine, in response to their recent profile on Paul Haggis. Although Remnick devoted 28 pages to smearing my religion, he did not have the decency to print the one page I wrote to refute it, perhaps because the points I raise below entirely undermine Paul’s allegations about Scientology and prove him to be simply not credible.
Sent: Wednesday, February 16, 2011 5:35 PM
To: David Remnick
Subject: Paul Haggis/The Apostate, Feb. 14
Dear Mr. Remnick,
Regarding your profile of Paul Haggis (The Apostate, Feb. 14), as you know, I am Paul’s sister and I maintained close personal and professional relationships with him during the first 18 years of his career. While Mr. Wright’s article is rife with inaccurate and untruthful statements about Scientology, the allegations leveled by Paul Haggis in particular unravel on three main points:
1. When Paul announced his “resignation” in 2009 I found it hard to take seriously since, to my knowledge, he had not had any significant involvement in Scientology for over 20 years and hadn’t made any meaningful progress in the study of the religion since 1977.
From my direct observation (and I usually saw Paul every week if not every day from 1978 until 1995) the church never did anything but good for Paul. He came to Los Angeles with the intention to be a professional writer but with no experience and no connections – just another wannabe. Scientology’s Celebrity Centre provided the contacts that launched his career. Those relationships led to his first freelance assignments and later secured him his first job as a story editor on a prime time sitcom. After that, Paul was in the door and moved easily from show to show. Paul was extremely well treated by the church, before he found success and afterward. Prior to his resignation, he never mentioned any of the issues he raises now.
2. Paul’s daughter (whom he claims was discriminated against, but who makes no such charge herself) was received with open arms by the Church of Scientology. Her sexual orientation was never an issue and I verified with her personally that she was very happy with the services she received and looked forward to doing more. The only reason she stopped was because Paul discouraged her from attending and sent her out of town to go to college. If some misguided young person later made disparaging remarks about my niece being gay, that is a shame but only reflects badly on that individual. Membership in the church is open and reflects the society of which it is a part. Few gay people have not had the experience of being badly received by an ersatz “friend” when they came out. However, all of my nieces are strong, educated, privileged young women who are quite capable of deflecting what appears to be no more than a case of a few rumors.
Paul holds a serious double standard on this issue. He claims he resigned from Scientology because the church did not take a stand on a related political measure in California and instead remained open on the subject. Yet Paul remains closely connected to and supportive of the Roman Catholic Church, in which he was raised and educated for 10 years. The RCC is vocally anti-gay; possibly one of the largest, most publicly anti-gay institutions on earth. So why did Paul not also resign from the Catholic church on this issue? Why instead redouble his efforts to bring press attention to the Catholic charity he supports in Haiti? While the work Father Frechette does is tremendous, and certainly worthy of support, if Paul feels so strongly about discrimination against gays, why is he raising millions of dollars to support a mission established by the RCC? Are there not worthy secular charities involved in helping Haitians?
Curiously, Paul also promotes the recognitions he has received from multiple Catholic associations. Why would he not return the awards they gave him, with a firm, public disavowal for their discriminatory practices?
I suppose Paul can, and will, claim that he did not resign from the RCC simply because he hasn’t been a practicing Catholic for years. But, as demonstrated here, he wasn’t a practicing Scientologist either—so why single us out?
3. Paul goes to great lengths to convince your readers that he did thorough research on what he perceives to be the church’s shortcomings. He even told one of our ministers, “research is something I pride myself on.”
In all the years I worked with Paul, he never did a lick of research. I know this because, you see, I did all the research. And even when I put it under his nose with circles and arrows pointed at it, he didn’t read it. (And when I didn’t do the research for you, Paul, it was your wife, or your father, or your daughter, or your assistant, or the intern, but never, ever you. And you never looked at their research either, if you could avoid it, did you? For the record, Google searches to the websites of extremists who would post any number of lies in an attempt to smear their former religion, does not qualify as legitimate “research”.)
The hard truth is – and even Paul will admit this – that he did not actually experience or observe any of the supposed shortcomings that he claims exist in our church. None. So when you weed out the copious amounts of internet trash that he read and regurgitated, what, if any, of Paul’s complaints have legitimacy?
Paul admits in your article that he came to Scientology a very flawed individual. He halfheartedly confesses to a murky, if not criminal past, calling himself “a bad kid.” At this point in Mr. Wright’s mind-numbingly protracted article I was surprised to see an unexpected kernel of truth appear. Paul’s admission of a long term inability to stop himself from committing harmful acts against others is the most honest comment I have ever heard him make, and while I commend any effort to come clean to any extent, just the fact that he worked so hard to excuse and obscure what more there is to tell suggests a Titanic-size iceberg still remains below the surface.
Paul failed to understand one very simple but powerful principle of Scientology: Clean hands make a happy life. If an individual cannot keep himself in check and adhere to an ethical code long enough to be helped, then there is no chance of redemption. And Paul admitted that, when it got right down to it, he would not do the programs he was given that would help him to make stable gains.
Instead, Paul left to join a group with whom he has more in common: other apostates who could not live up to the church’s ethical standards either. In your article he uses their carefully-honed lies to drag the reputations of church executives through the mud, then adds his own clever touch: he makes a lot of noise about how in a couple of years the church will be back for revenge. I suppose he hopes this attempt at smoke and mirrors will cast doubt on whatever more he has done, should it ever come to light.
Paul has always loved a high-profile crusade, but to build one on specious hearsay, for whatever purpose, is unconscionable.